An Excellent General Military History
“The Mighty Endeavor: American Armed Forces in the European Theater in World War II” by Charles B. MacDonald is an excellent general military history of the US forces in Europe in WWII. Mr. MacDonald served as a Company Commander in the 2nd Infantry Division during World War II. He also was one of the US Army’s official historians of World War II.
This lengthy book tells what the forces did and how they did it while not being pedantic. He includes many of the needed details that are necessary for understanding how the US Army was composed and armed. The details are foundational to understand how command decisions were made. This background really helps with an understanding of the political and personal rivalries that were an important part of World War Two’s history.
Written With a VIew of the Operational Level
Most of the book is written with a view of the operational level. MacDonald does this skillfully keeping it in the context of what was happening at the corps, army, and army group level, as well as in the realm of the overall strategy.
The author includes many descriptions of small battles, down to the company level. They serve to make readers understand, just what was happening on the ground once higher-level decisions were made.
The book’s scope is the American effort in the European Theater in World War II. Beginning in North Africa and ending on the Elbe River, Charles MacDonald describes the development and growth of the American soldiers, sailors, and airmen as they became essential players in the destruction of Nazi Germany. Included are the famous battles and campaigns like the landing in North Africa, Kasserine Pass, Salerno and Anzio, D-Day, the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge, the crossing of the Rhine, and the race across Germany. The subject matter of the book is very comprehensive. I like that he included the conflicts between American and other Allied leaders over strategy, the important Battle of the Atlantic, the air war, and the major land campaigns.
He does a great job starting with the delicate balance involved in the build-up to war, and the decision to concentrate on victory in Europe first. The famous personalities are described, including, Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, Mark W. Clark, Hitler, Mussolini, as well as other British and German military leaders which is informative and enlightening.
Stories of the Individual Soldiers
He does not neglect the stories of individual soldiers. They are included throughout the narrative.
The prose is solid and the text readable, having just the right amount of detail. The book is balanced, thought-provoking, very comprehensive, and provides context and perspective of these historic events.
If you only read one book on World War Two, this is the book you should read.