Review: Crusade in Europe



Crusade in Europe
by Dwight D. Eisenhower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crusade in Europe is General Dwight Eisenhower’s memoir of his experiences during World War II. This is not a retelling of individual battles, nor does it offer detail about life on the front lines. Eisenhower, as the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, was responsible for the strategy, planning and leadership of all Allied operations in the European Theatre. The bulk of the book focuses then, on how Eisenhower and his staff (the Supreme HQ, Allied Expeditionary Force or SHAEF) led the Allied effort against Nazi Germany.

This is an excellent book, and very much worth your time. Some have found Eisenhower’s writing style dry, but I found it straightforward and practical, even as it is also more businesslike than personable. At some points he does assume the reader has an understanding of things that, given the passage of over 70 years, you may not be familiar with. So if you’re like me you’ll find yourself googling to find out more about people, war equipment, or locations that he discusses. I recommend you do this if you read the book - I found that giving myself this added context really helped me understand more of what Ike had to say.

Eisenhower’s purpose in writing the book seems to be to leave the reader with a better understanding of what it took him to be successful, and what future leaders called to similar tasks may want to learn from his experience. He goes into some detail to explain why certain decisions were made, what support he had (both military and political) that helped him keep the Allied forces focused on the overall strategy, how methodical the planning was, how things changed on the ground but yet the overall goals were never lost sight of (despite disagreement at times among his staff and from his civilian Allied bosses). You’ll also get a full accounting of the progress of the war in North Africa and Europe complete with over 40 maps showing key battles and Allied advances, and you'll get some flavor for the personalities around Eisenhower in Allied leadership.

Most of all, you'll get a really good sense of Eisenhower and who he was as a leader from reading this book. I was impressed with his focus on his soldiers - his desire to understand the experience of the soldiers on the front line, his need to gather their input, and the importance he placed on morale and transparent communication (to the extent possible in war) up and down the hierarchy. There are many passages where Eisenhower speaks on leadership that are really good, but these passages are so much a part of his overall narrative of events that I found myself having to pause and reflect every once and awhile to let them sink in.

This book was published in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. The edition I read was put out in 1952. It has Appendices that list the different Army Groups and Divisions of the final offensive. It also has the maps I mentioned above sprinkled throughout the text. But, at the very end of the book is a note admitting that it’s missing the footnotes of the original Doubleday edition! So I don’t know how much context I missed by not having those footnotes, but this strikes me as the kind of book where they would have been beneficial. Regardless I found this a very worthwhile read. If you have an interest in World War II, and in Ike’s take on leadership by all means read it.

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