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Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945

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Overview

An epic joint biography, Masters and Commanders explores the degree to which the course of the Second World War turned on the relationships and temperaments of four of the strongest personalities of the twentieth century: political masters Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the commanders of their armed forces, General Sir Alan Brooke and General George C. Marshall. Each was exceptionally tough-willed and strong-minded, and each was certain that only he knew best how to win the war. Andrew Roberts, ...

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Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945

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Overview

An epic joint biography, Masters and Commanders explores the degree to which the course of the Second World War turned on the relationships and temperaments of four of the strongest personalities of the twentieth century: political masters Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt and the commanders of their armed forces, General Sir Alan Brooke and General George C. Marshall. Each was exceptionally tough-willed and strong-minded, and each was certain that only he knew best how to win the war. Andrew Roberts, "Britain's finest contemporary military historian" (The Economist), traces the mutual suspicion and admiration, the rebuffs and the charm, the often-explosive disagreements and wary reconciliations, and he helps us to appreciate the motives and imperatives of these key leaders as they worked tirelessly in the monumental struggle to destroy Nazism.

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Editorial Reviews

Mark Mazower
“Fascinating. . . . By mining previously unavailable diaries and oral histories . . . this book brings vividly to life the personal interactions and impressions of those involved. Roberts has a keen eye for the telling anecdote.”
Sir - Martin Gilbert
"Andrew Roberts, a tenacious archival historian and gifted writer, looks behind the façade of the familiar photographs and published accounts to see how these war leaders actually operated."
Richard Overy
“The strength of Masters and Commanders lies in the power of the narrative and the fascinating detail used to construct it. Roberts has exploited a rich mine of private papers to fill in missing parts of the story.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“Roberts’s account of the war and its intrigues is fresh-filled with new revelations and new analysis. . . . It is both high scholarship and superb writing by a masterful analyst of power and war.”
Max Hastings
“Masterly. . . . A triumph of vivid description, telling anecdotes, and informed analysis. Roberts’s book reinforces his claim to stand among the foremost British historians of the period.”
Sir Martin Gilbert
“Andrew Roberts, a tenacious archival historian and gifted writer, looks behind the façade of the familiar photographs and published accounts to see how these war leaders actually operated.”
The Economist
“This is an important book which, in its layered references to Waterloo, the Crimea and the Somme, sees Mr. Roberts lay claim to the title of Britain’s finest contemporary military historian.”
The New York Post
Masters and Commanders is a magnificently researched, superbly written account of how the US and UK’s top civilian and military leaders overcame mutual suspicions and conflicting priorities to win the war in Europe.”
Lynne Olson
In Masters and Commanders, British historian Andrew Roberts skillfully dissects the complex, contentious relationships among Brooke, Marshall and the other two key strategists of World War II's Western Alliance, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt…As Roberts makes clear throughout the book, hammering out Allied strategy was an untidy, exhausting, sometimes debilitating process, replete with fist-shaking arguments and emotional tantrums. But the debates, ill-tempered as they often were, produced the searching questions and unsparing analysis needed to come up with a plan for victory, which, in the end, was the only thing that mattered. Feelings might have been bruised, but the alliance itself never fractured.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Roberts offers an outstanding example of a joint biography in this study of the actions and interactions of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, George Marshall and Alan Brooke. The president, the prime minister and their respective army chiefs of staff were the vital nexus of the Anglo-American alliance in WWII. The path was anything but smooth. London-based historian Roberts (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900) demonstrates his usual mastery of archival and printed sources to show how the tensions and differences among these four strong-willed men shaped policy within a general context of consensus. The politicians had to master strategy; the soldiers had to become political. The result was "a complicated minuet." The increasing shift of power in America's direction coincided with the achievement of the central war aims agreed on for the Mediterranean and with the viability of a cross-channel attack. Last-minute compromises continued to shape grand strategy, a good example being the choice of Dwight Eisenhower over Brooke to command Operation Overlord. Flexibility and honesty, Roberts concludes, enabled focus on a common purpose and established the matrix of the postwar Atlantic world. 16 pages of b&w photos, 7 maps. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

One might well ask why the world needs yet another rehash on the leaders of the great crusades of World War II in Europe, but much-published historian Roberts (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900) has identified a previously untapped source of inside information on how the four controlling personalities of the Anglo-British Alliance managed a vast and disparate campaign: Lawrence Burgis. Burgis was present at War Cabinet meetings in both World Wars and kept voluminous notes and a diary. To do so was strictly illegal, but the results are a mother lode for historians today. Burgis and a couple of other clandestine diarists provide much of the texture in Roberts's narrative of the relationships among the four principals: Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall, and Alanbrooke. Although not a book calculated to change anyone's mind about the course or outcome of the war, this is a well-told story, with fresh insights into the decision-making processes and the influence of personality upon great events. For all readers of military history.
—Edwin B. Burgess

Kirkus Reviews
A richly detailed examination of the military and civilian leaders of Britain and America during World War II. Just before Franklin Roosevelt's death in April 1945, when Nazi Germany had all but collapsed, U.S. military commander George C. Marshall wrote, "Our greatest triumph really lies in the fact that we achieved the impossible, Allied military unity of action." Schooled in the wars of the 19th century and the trenches of WWI, Marshall shared military background but little else with his British counterpart, Alan Brooke. In 1942, the American newcomers to the European theater found that, even after defeats nearly every time British forces met German ones on the ground, the British general staff was not inclined to have former colonials in command. Fantastic rows ensued as both the British and the American armies aligned command structures closely enough to cooperate in battle. It cost the British leadership considerable effort to convince American counterparts that the war in North Africa was not a sideshow, while the Americans believed that the British were "viscerally opposed to any cross-Channel operation ever taking place," all the way up to D-Day and the Normandy landings. Even very late in the war, Roberts (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, 2007, etc.) notes, those leaders sharply disagreed on matters of both strategy and tactics. Yet amazingly, Marshall, Churchill, Roosevelt and Brooke developed an effective partnership in the West. Historians disinclined to the Great Man school of historical writing may object to the notion, but clearly powerful personalities and no small degree of luck were involved. Roberts's narrative sometimes reads like an exercise ingame theory, with each player trying to secure maximum advantage without ending the game or, worse, losing all. His book will be of value to students not just of military history, but also diplomacy, business and other endeavors requiring negotiation. Excellent and essential. Agent: Georgina Capel/Capel & Land
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061228582
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 674
  • Sales rank: 209,738
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Roberts is the author of Masters and Commanders and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. His other books include Napoleon and Wellington, Eminent Churchillians, and Salisbury, which won the Wolfson History Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a PhD in history from Cambridge University and writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Maps xiii

Acknowledgements xxix

Preface xxxiii

Introduction 1

Part I Enchantment

1 First Encounters: 1880-June 1940 9

2 Collecting Allies: June 1940-December 1941 41

3 Egos in Arcadia: December 1941-February 1942 66

4 Brooke and Marshall Establish Dominance: February-March 1942 102

5 Gymnast Falls, Bolero Retuned: February-April 1942 116

Part II Engagement

6 Marshall's Mission to London: April 1942 137

7 The Commanders at Argonaut: April-June 1942 167

8 The Masters at Argonaut: June 1942 197

9 Torch Reignited: July 1942 219

10 The Most Perilous Moment of the War: July-November 1942 260

11 The Mediterranean Garden Path: November 1942-January 1943 295

12 The Casablanca Conference: January 1943 316

13 The Hard Underbelly of Europe: January-June 1943 346

14 The Overlordship of Overlord: June-August 1943 381

Part III Estrangement

15 From the St Lawrence to the Pyramids: August-November 1943 401

16 Eureka! at Teheran: November-December 1943 429

17 Anzio, Anvil and Culverin: December 1943-May 1944 455

18 D-Day and Dragoon: May-August 1944 485

19 Octagon and Tolstoy: August-December 1944 509

20 Autumn Mist: December 1944-February 1945 533

21 Yalta Requiem: February-May 1945 548

Conclusion: The Riddles of the War 573

Appendix A The Major Wartime Conferences 585

Appendix B Glossary of Codenames 586

Appendix C The Selection of Codenames 588

Notes 589

Bibliography 615

Index 625

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    If you want to know about who directed the American and British alliance during WWII and how and why, this is a great place to start.

    The author tells well the interplay between the two heads of state of America and Britain, Roosevelt and Churchill. Many books have told of their war time relationship. In this book the author adds the interplay of both Roosevelt's and Churchill's right hand military man. General George Marshall was the American second and General Sir Alan Brooke the British second in this powerful foursome.
    As you read the story, many times you wonder how the Allies won the war. Was there ever a time when all four agreed on anything? But here is where democracy's tendency to develop the council of many in tackling problems can prove the concept "Two heads are better than one." Whereas dictators, unless they are truly gifted in taking wise council, usually get out smarted.
    The true draw of the story of the relationship between these four men is the historical significance of their decisions. This is not the story of some company board room. Millions of lives were effected like at no other time in world history. Many men, women and children died as a result of their actions. However, I think most people would agree that although they were responsible for many deaths, their actions were meant to save as many as possible and many they did save which, is why they deserve to be written and read about. These are the men who stepped up when we needed leadership. They were not perfect, as the story shows over and over, but they certainly fought the good fight. Democracies will hopefully continue to be blessed with great men such as these.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant study of the wartime cooperation between the UK and the USA

    This is a brilliant study of the wartime cooperation between Prime Minister Churchill, President Roosevelt, and their military commanders, General George C. Marshall and General Sir Alan Brooke. Roberts makes good use of the previously unused verbatim notes of War Cabinet meetings taken by Lawrence Burgis (assistant secretary to the Cabinet office) and the reports of Cabinet meetings made by deputy Cabinet secretary Norman Brooke, released in 2007. Roberts also uses the diaries of 27 senior figures and the unpublished papers of another 60.

    After the battle of Britain, the USA and Britain had the luxuries of time and space. With Britain no longer under threat of imminent invasion, they could choose when and where to deploy their forces. The Soviet Union had no such freedom. The US and British governments were relying on the Soviets to win the war for them, or at least to weaken the German army enough to make D-Day possible.

    Marshall and the US Chiefs of Staff wanted to concentrate the entire US-British war effort on the key point of the battlefield, Northwest Europe, as soon as possible, that is, in 1942 or 1943. But Churchill and Brooke saw a premature landing in France as the greatest danger.

    So Churchill said that he agreed, writing to Roosevelt in April 1942 of a Second Front in September 1942 or even 'before then'. Instead though, he continually proposed other operations, in North Africa, Italy, the Balkans, Norway .

    Marshall said that Torch, the North African campaign of 1942-43, 'represented an abandonment of the strategy agreed in April'. Roberts adds, "and of course he was right." Roberts writes, "Churchill and Brooke had deliberately misled Roosevelt and Marshall into thinking that if the United States poured troops into the United Kingdom in 1942 they might be used to attack France that year, when in fact they had no intention of allowing that to happen."

    In June 1942, Churchill and Roosevelt promised Molotov, in writing, the Second Front: "we expect the formation of a Second Front this year." After his meeting with Molotov, Roosevelt issued a communiqué: "Full understanding was reached with regard to the urgent task of creating a Second Front in Europe in 1942." On 3 February 1943, Churchill said to Stalin, "We are aiming at August [1943] for a heavy operation across the Channel."

    Yet there was no D-Day until 6 June 1944. But there were plenty of diversions. As Roberts points out, the Italian campaign of 1943-44 was 'largely a waste of effort after Rome'. Operation Anvil, the invasion in the south of France in June 1944 was also a waste of time - the Allies should have focused on freeing Antwerp, not Marseilles.

    Roberts sums up the Soviet Union's decisive role, "it was the Eastern Front that annihilated the Nazi dream of Lebensraum ('living space') for the 'master race'. Four in every five German soldiers killed in the Second World War died on the Eastern Front, an inconvenient fact for any historian who wishes to make too much of the Western Allies' contribution to the victory."

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Masters and Commanders

    It is commonly asserted that about two-thirds of business mergers ultimately fail, usually because of an inability to mesh the cultures of the new partners. True in business, that seems also true in politics, especially when several nations, each with its own interests, attempt to work together in war to defeat a common enemy. Thus it was no easy task for the British and Americans to merge their forces in order to defeat their deadly foes in the Second World War. In this meticulously documented, but engagingly written book, Andrew Roberts explains how the two heads of state, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and their two senior military advisers, Generals George Marshall and Alan Brooke, charmed and debated and disparaged each other, but ultimately arrived at a consensus that allowed them to set out consistent policies and, ultimately, to win the war.

    Roberts is British, and his account has a British perspective perhaps, but that is understandable since the two democracies began their alliance before America had been attacked, and when the immediate threat came from Nazi Germany, which had almost effortlessly gobbled up western Europe and was preparing to swallow the "sceptred isle" as well. Much emphasis is given to the development of the "Germany first" policy, which was a tough sell to America after the assault on Pearl Harbor.

    Roberts does a good job of describing the character and traits of his four protagonists, none of them a shrinking violet. They emerge from his pages as powerful personalities who did not submerge their own ideas readily, but could eventually put the broad interests of their military enterprise ahead of personal pride. Their German opponent, Adolf Hitler, considered himself omniscient and never had to defend his ideas against the differing opinion of a subordinate. He ruled supreme, commanded without regard for his generals' apprehensions and concerns, and.lost.

    The author has recently published (in Britain, not yet in the United States) The Storm of War, a one-volume account of the Second World War. Masters and Commanders makes an excellent prelude to his new book. For those who enjoy the first book as much as this reviewer, it will be pleasing to know there will be another, for dessert.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2012

    Masters and Commanders is Insightful

    Well reserarched and insightful, on often overlooked aspect of the Second World War. Details how allies and those in the high command came together to meet a common enemy but often did not agree. Author provided nice insights to how strategies we take for granted as inevitable were not necessarily so at the time. Well researched. Use of post war letters, biographies and interviews provided important overviews of thought process at the time.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    Andrew Roberts' Masters & Commanders is about the best books on WW II.

    Brillantly analyzed and well-written, this well-conceived book displays the personalities and Anglo-American differences between the four principals. Masters & Commanders is critical towards Churchill and his miliary chief Alan Brooke for their shortsightedness as opposed to Roosevelt's and George Marshall's straightforward and decisive strategic thinking. Of the four, Brooke comes off as especially narrow-minded, especially in his favortism towards his close friend, the egotistical Montgovery.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2009

    No Mention of Operation Market Garden

    For the most part I agree with the other reviews. However, I was a little confused when I didn't read anything about Operation Market Garden. Montgomery's failed invasion of Holland was a pretty big strategic decision, which must of had serious political and military consequences among the masters and their commanders.

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    Posted March 18, 2012

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    Posted October 8, 2011

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    Posted October 18, 2011

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    Posted August 4, 2011

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    Posted July 30, 2011

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    Posted February 5, 2010

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    Posted October 11, 2009

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