Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II

Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II

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by David Rigby

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Awarded NASOH's 2012 "John Lyman Book Award for Best U.S. Naval History," Allied Master Strategists describes the unique and vital contribution to Allied victory in World War II made by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Based on a combination of primary and secondary source material, this book proves that the Combined Chiefs of Staff organization was the glue


Awarded NASOH's 2012 "John Lyman Book Award for Best U.S. Naval History," Allied Master Strategists describes the unique and vital contribution to Allied victory in World War II made by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Based on a combination of primary and secondary source material, this book proves that the Combined Chiefs of Staff organization was the glue holding the British-American wartime alliance together. As such, the Combined Chiefs of Staff was probably the most important international organization of the Twentieth Century. Readers will get a good view of the personalities of the principals, such as Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King. The book provides insight into the relationships between the Combined Chiefs of Staff and Allied theater commanders, the role of the Combined Chiefs regarding economic mobilization, and the bitter inter-Allied strategic debates in regard to OVERLORD and the war in the Pacific. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the British American alliance in World War II.

Careful attention is paid in the book to the three organizations that contributed the principal membership of the Combined Chiefs of Staff; i.e., the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the British Chiefs of Staff Committee, and (in the case of Sir John Dill) the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington. After providing a biographical background of the principal member so the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Rigby provides information on wartime Washington, D.C. as the home base for the Combined Chiefs of Staff organization.

Detailed information is given regarding the Casablanca Conference, but the author is careful to distinguish between the formal nature of the big Allied wartime summit meetings and the much less formal day-to-day give and take which characterized British-American strategic debates between the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Indeed, it is a major contention of the book that it is critical to remember that more than half of the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff took place in Washington, D.C. in a regularly scheduled weekly pattern and not at the big Allied conferences such as Yalta.

The role of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in directing the war in the Pacific and in planning the OVERLORD cross-channel invasion of western Europe, respectively, is covered in detail. These were the two most contentious issues with which the Combined Chiefs of Staff had to deal. Rigby attempts to answer the question of why two combative, fearless, warriors like Churchill and Brooke would be so unwilling to go back across the Channel, and to explain the tug-of-war the British Chiefs of Staff had to conduct with Churchill before a British battle fleet could join the American Central Pacific Drive late in the war.

The book also provides a wealth of information on the role played by members of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in the spheres of economic mobilization and wartime diplomacy. Most of all, what Allied Master Strategists does is to give the Combined Chiefs of Staff what they have long deserved—a book of their own; a book that is not weighted towards the U.S. Joint Chiefs on the one hand or the British Chiefs of Staff on the other; a book that is not strictly a “naval” book, an “army” book, or an “air” book, but a book that like the western alliance during World War II, is truly “combined” in an international as well as an interservice manner.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Rigby provides one of the first and most comprehensive histories of the Combined Chiefs of Staff aside from the individual biographies of several of the participants. Additionally, his careful study of the board of directors of the Allied victory in World War II provides ample opportunity to examine an untold story of the war and allows strategists and military histories an example of strategic lessons learned from World War I were applied to World War II and enabled victory.”—The Strategy

“Because multinational partnerships will mark future operations more and more, the observations and insights provided by Rigby can only gain in significance. Accessible, well researched, and including extensive notes and a detailed bibliography, the book is highly recommended to students of World War II, coalition warfare, strategy and policymaking, and civil-military relations.”— H-War, H-Net Reviews

"This is an important study that provides insights into leadership, logistics, and administration of war at the highest level."—Warships International Fleet Review

“…offer[s] the generalist reader a sound treatment of the conclusions reached by the biographers of the major personages covered and shows some of the strengths and limitations each brought to the committee. Thus, this work will be of more value to the casual reader of history, than to those more fully attuned to the subject, but all will appreciate afterwards that the war at the top made the war at the front more effective still.”— Naval Historical Foundation

“This is an excellent book and highly recommended for those interested in World War II, combined planning, the logistics and economics of large scale warfare, and inter-allied operations.”—

"The author does an excellent job providing an introductory look at a complex subject. The book is easy to digest, logically organized, and supported by extensive research balancing primary and secondary sources. It is a great first reference and foundational work for military officers, students of history, and those interested in furthering their knowledge of the Combined Chiefs of Staff or the Anglo-American Alliance during World War II."—Military Review

“David Rigby has written a path-breaking book that helps us understand how World War II was won. He sheds new light on the reasons for success of the Anglo-American alliance. Rigby shows how, in an unprecedented pooling of resources and strategic policy making, the Combined Chiefs of Staff managed to resolve disputes and to frame a cohesive and effective war-making machine. Rigby’s meticulous research, shrewd judgment, and literary skill shine forth on every page. This book is not only a major contribution to scholarship on World War II, but also a pleasure to read.”

—Bernard Wasserstein, Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Professor of History, University of Chicago

“Allied Master Strategists is an important new study of the central organization of the Western Allied effort in the Second World War. Not only is this very well researched and clearly written book an excellent and lucid starting point for serious newcomers approaching the history of the war, its new material and interesting and original perspectives, even if one may not agree with all of them, will stimulate even the best informed.”

—Dr. Eric Grove, professor of naval history, University of Salford

“Anyone wishing to know how and why the British and American allies cooperated so much more effectively during the Second World War than their Axis enemies, and how in spite of profound differences of personality and principle they forged such a complex yet purposeful coalition, should turn to this deeply researched and sorely needed work of historical scholarship. It is a fascinating read.”

—Paul Jankowski, Ray Ginger Professor of History at Brandeis University

“Allied Master Strategists is the first authoritative account of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, the key agency of U.S.-British military collaboration in World War II. Especially noteworthy are the personalities of the admirals and generals--reserved or flamboyant, cooperative or obstinate--who wrangled to shape the Allied path to victory.”

—Edward S. Miller, author War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945

Product Details

Naval Institute Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

David Rigby holds a PhD in comparative history from Brandeis University. He has worked as a K–12 textbook editor. He teaches history as an adjunct instructor at Boston-area colleges and universities and lives in Belmont, MA.

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Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
NavyTim More than 1 year ago
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of WWII is a very good read. The chapters dealing with Overlord and the biographical sketches of the members of the CCS make the book worth the read. I think the book gets into uncertain territory when it makes comparisons with the Axis. He forgives the USSR for not coordinating their operations with the British and Americans due to the front being far distant and takes Japan to task for not coordinating their operations with Germany and Italy. Japan seemed to be in the same situation as the USSR. He also criticizes Japan for not attacking the USSR so as to help the Germans. The Japanese at the time were deeply involved in the bottomless pit of China and fighting the U.S., Britain and the Commonwealth. In a couple of border skirmishes with the USSR the Japanese suffered severe defeats. A better criticism is why didn’t the USSR attack Japan sooner? It is almost certain that it was better for the Japanese today that that did not happen. I am not quite sure why the author went off topic in discussing the three volume work of Lee’s Lieutenants. I realize that Marshall and King read the volumes but it seemed out of place to discuss the work in detail. In his criticism of Vice Admiral Ghormley he notes that hewas operating his HQ afloat. The author makes it appear that it was Ghormley’s choice alone. I find that hard to believe. From what I have read the French were extremely difficult to work with and very prickly about their sovereignty. I am guessing there was diplomacy above Ghormley’s level involved. Also there was the age old tradition of admirals commanding from ships that would have made him think that being on a ship even if at anchor or pierside was where he belonged. It takes courage and thinking outside the box to break old traditions. I would love for someone to research why and how the command was eventually moved from ship to shore. I am sure it is far more complex than how it has been portrayed by authors. In regards to the buildup of improperly loaded ships at Noumea, the author suggests that Ghormley should have sent the ships to Guadalcanal to be unloaded. The author seems to forget that the ships unloading at Guadalcanal were under attack and extra time unloading put them at greater risk. Later on he describes the proper solution taken by Halsey of unloading them at Noumea and then reloading them in a manner called a combat load. A combat load is loaded in manner where the offloading is sped up and the sequence is most logical for troops in combat. I am willing to bet the problems in shifting HQ ashore were also involved in authority to unload the ships at Noumea. A great person to have offered insight would have been Ghormley but to my knowledge he never wrote his account of Guadalcanal. My guess he understood that the winners write the history so that if he wrote an account that ended up challenging the account of Halsey it would have been discounted. It is a loss to history. Ghormley is also criticized for not visiting Guadalcanal. I also think the importance of visiting the front is overrated. What information could he have gained form going to the front that he not get by message? How much time would it take to go the front and for what period would he difficult to reach for command decisions? Isoroku Yamamoto was killed trying to show his face to his troops. Was Douglas MacArthur less effective for hunkering down on Corregidor? Was his effectiveness diminished by bugging out on his troops in the Philippines? Overall very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A paintball smashes into the back of your head. Laighter is heard.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hay anyone want to talk
Anonymous More than 1 year ago