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The Folly of Generals: How Eisenhower’s Broad Front Strateg Lengthened World  War II. By David P. Colley. Havertown, PA: Casemate

Review of Folly of Generals in Parameters

Quarterly of the U.S. Army War College


FOLLY OF GENERALS Examines Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) military actions and missed opportunities during the war. An award-winning author, journalist, and former US Army ordnance branch officer, Colley believes the SHAEF could have achieved victory seven or eight months ahead of May 1945. He contends the " 'broad front' strategy" planned and executed in Europe denied the Allies the ability to concentrate forces in a decisive point and exploit success over the course of World War II (xi). Much of the historical review on World War II describes the Allied forces as heroic figures who defeated the forces of evil in Germany. With the discovery of the concentration camps and systemic genocide of millions of people in Germany and Poland, it is hard to argue World War II was a war the Allies had to win. The Folly of Generals does not erase that image, but does shine a light on the tactical opportunities that could have been exploited if senior Allied commanders were more aggressive and willing to take additional risk. Colley cites interviews with several German generals after the war who admitted to weaknesses in the German Siegfried Line of defenses the Allies could have exploited. He specifically examines operations at Arnhem in the Netherlands, Falaise in France, and Valmontone in Italy, as well as Operation Husky and campaigns to cross the Rhine and liberate Paris. According to Colley, these operations are examples of tactical opportunities that— had the Allies been willing to abandon their rigid commitment to a broad front strategy moving from west to east into Germany—could have led them to greater success against the Germans. Much of his criticism is placed upon both the SHAEF and General Dwight D. Eisenhower the SHAEF commander. Colley refers to the refusal to change strategies "as the US Army's (or Eisenhower's) tactical ignorance" which prevented them from reinforcing success or "concentrate[ing] forces on a single objective" (x). He also notes political considerations, rather than tactical strategy, played a part in the decision making at SHAEF which rippled down through the organization. Much has been written about the impact Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin had on the strategic conduct of the war. The Folly of Generals instead focuses on tactical opportunities. For example, Army group commander Jacob Devers and his forces reached Strasbourg, France, in November 1944 and had the opportunity to cross the Rhine. He intended to drive north on the east side of the river to relieve pressure from other Allied forces in the north. Eisenhower, however, wanted a breakthrough to occur in the north after he consolidated all forces on the west side of the Rhine and refused to let Devers cross the river. Colley argues Eisenhower was too cautious. He cites an intelligence debrief report from the German chief of staff to SS General Vatterodt, the commander in Strasbourg, which confirmed a penetration across the Rhine at Strasbourg would have seriously upset the German forces lightly guarding this sector. CONTINUED ON ON BIOGRAPHY PAGE



Other Reviews of Folly:



Journal of Military History Review 


  The Journal of America's

Military Past





The faces in photographs of World War II - both the famous pictures from Life magazine and the seldom-seen snapshots of individual soldiers, sailors, and correspondents - have a unique capacity to induce awe, respect, and wonder. Who were these men and women? Did they survive the war? And, if so, what were their lives like? I have been researching the subjects of World War II photographs for more than twenty years and find the stories of those soldiers in the photographs illuminating. We never stop and ask about the toll of war or what happened to the men afterward. Many were killed or wounded or suffered deep psychological scars. The year 2015 marked the seventieth anniversary of the end of that war and will undoubtedly be one of the last times this nation honors its living World War II veterans. Soon they will be no more and the war will be mostly forgotten. It already is ancient history to the majority of Americans. But the images of those veterans, depicted in photographs, bring alive those momentous years and enshrine the soldiers in our history and our imaginations."" In Seeing the War, I revisit more than a hundred of the most revealing photographs of the ""last good war.”

See link on margin right, my talk at the Naval War College on Seeing The War:
8 Bells Lecture | David Colley: The Stories behind the Famous Photographs of World War II


 Imagine how many lives would have been saved had the war in Europe finished in December 1944 instead of five months later... David Colley analyzes critical mistakes made by the Allied supreme commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, in the last nine months of the war. He argues that had Eisenhower been more adept at taking advantage of several potential breakthroughs in the Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944 the war in the European Theater of Operations might have ended sooner.

The book details the American penetration of the Siegfried Line in mid-September and their advance into Germany at Wallendorf before the troops were called back. It also examines in detail operations in the Stolberg Corridor and the actions of General Lucian Truscott. It compares the battles at Wallendorf and Stolberg with Operation Market Garden, and assesses the effectiveness of these operations and the use of the troops. Eisenhower later called off another operation in November 1944, already in progress, to cross the Rhine and destroy the German 1st Army north of Strasbourg. American and German generals believe this operation would have shortened the war.

The Folly of Generals explores these potential breakthroughs—along with other strategic and tactical mistakes in the ETO and in Italy, some never before revealed—that might have shortened the war by a considerable margin.


NATHAN M. GREENWOOD in the London Times Literary Supplement writes of Decision At Strasbourg: In late November 1944, General Jacob Devers proposed to Dwight D. Eisenhower that the 6th Army Group should advance across the Rhine. In Decision at Strasbourg, David Colley stops short of endorsing Devers's argument that he would have rolled up the German defenders on the east side of the river, but agrees that Devers would have "unhinged" the German defences. Had Devers succeeded, the last months of the war in the West would surely have looked very different. To counter Devers, Hitler would have had to move thousands of the troops then massing behind the Ardennes: so no Battle of the Bulge. We would probably never have heard of the Bridge at Ramagen or of operations Blockbuster and Plunder, which brought Montgomery's British and Canadian armies to and across the Rhine.


Why did Eisenhower veto Devers's plan? It wasn't because the Supreme Head of the Allied Expeditionary Force feared that Devers would be thrown back across the river. The German defences were not only thin - some were unmanned. Nor did Devers suffer from the same kind of logistical problems that plagued Monty and Patton; Devers was an expert logistician, who was blessed with an excellent supply line to Marseilles. Ike and Patton may have thought that Devers had a second-class military mind, but the 6th Army Group's record spoke for itself: since landing in southern France it had fought its way further than any Allied army.


Ike baulked for several reasons. First, he disliked Devers, who preferred tea to strong drink, eschewed cursing and, worse, was the protégé of the boss back in Washington, General George C. Marshall. Second, coalition politics - read Monty's ego and American public opinion - meant that (at least as far as planning went) the glory of crossing the Rhine had to be shared. Finally, Eisenhower wanted to cross the Rhine close to the Ruhr in order to seize the industries that fed the Wehrmacht.


Devers, by contrast, wanted to destroy German armies. One quibble with Colley's excellent book: Eisenhower's broad front strategy did hark back to General Grant's, as Colley notes somewhat disparagingly. But, so did Devers's. Grant went after Lee, not Richmond.

DECISION AT STRASBOURG relates the remarkable story of Lt. Gen. Jacob Devers' planned operation during World War II in Europe to cross the Rhine in November 1944 and unhinge the German southern front. The Rhine was the main allied objective in late 1944 and the Germans knew that if a sizable American combat force could establish itself over this fabled river the allies might quickly envelope and destroy the depleted and increasingly demoralized German Army fighting in Alsace and Lorraine. The entire German front west of the Rhine, from the North Sea to Switzerland, might collapse and the road to Berlin, the symbol of Nazi power, would be open. Devers ordered his engineers to begin preparations to launch a crossing on or before the first week in December 1944 and amphibious trucks (DUKWs) and army bridging equipment, long readied for this event, began moving up from the rear. Had Devers crossed with his 7th Army the advance might have ended the war in Europe in early 1945 and prevented the Battle of the Bulge. History tells us, however, that the attack was aborted and the Rhine crossing in 1944 was never made. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the allied supreme commander, stopped the advance a day before it was to proceed. Why? Ike's decision is one of the more puzzling of the war.
Decision at Strasbourg explores Devers' plans in detail from the river crossing schools established to train troops to negotiate the swift moving Rhine, to the order to begin transporting DUKWs and boats to the river in late November 1944. It also examines the reasons why Eisenhower suddenly ordered Devers not to cross and studies the consequences. The book reveals the interplay between the allied commanders. Devers' bold plan, supported by many of his commanders and even General Patton, has been nearly lost to history. Decision at Strasbourg relates this remarkable and unknown story.


Advance Praise for
Decision At Strasbourg


A provocative, fresh interpretation of Eisenhower's controversial decision to halt Lieutenant General Jacob Devers's VI Army Group short of the Rhine River. Decision at Strasbourg is sure to lead to a reevaluation of the battle within the Allied High Command and how the war on the Western Front might have ended in 1944. This is contingency history at its best.


Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, USA-Ret.
Co-author of NY Times best seller Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters



It is difficult to still make original discoveries on the military course of the Second World War today, which is why the counter-factual view is gaining in importance. Thus, historians have raised the question of what would have happened if Marshal Zhukov had not stopped his offensive after crossing the Oder in early February but instead had continued to advance on Berlin, which was undefended. David P. Colley constructs the theory that in November 1944 there had also been an unexpected opportunity for Lieutenant General Devers to cross the Rhine and to thrust into Germany, but that it had been prevented from being seized by General Eisenhower. This theory will provoke a lot of discussion. (Translation from German)


Military History Research Institute, Potsdam
Author of The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West


the first comprehensive history of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, traces the story of this fabled park from its inception in 1866 to the present with the construction of the outstanding Lakeside Center. Prospect Park has long lived in the shadow of its companion, Central Park, in Manhattan, but emerges with this book to be what its architects intended it to be, the more magnificent of New York’s great parks. Designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were constrained in the design of Central Park by geography, politics and financing, but were given free reign to create Prospect Park. The great Brooklyn industrialist James S. T. Stranahan, as chairman of the Brooklyn Park Commission, gave his two creators an open checkbook and no limits to their imagination to produce a park renowned for its beauty and mystery that incredibly meets the needs of New Yorkers in the 21st century as it did in the mid-19th century. The text of “Prospect Park” describes the early planning and construction and the triumphs and struggles of the park through the years. Elizabeth Keegin Colley’s photographs beautifully display the wonders of the park, its woods, waters and wide meadows along with the remarably diverse plant and wildlife. (Published by Princeton Architectural Press, New York)


New York magazine – “a lusciously photographed volume…”

New York Times - “Summer is a fine time to revel in Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece by David P. Colley and illustrated with lush photographs by Elizabeth Keegin Colley”

Brooklyn Magazine, “The Most Beautiful Photographs of Prospect Park you’ve ever Seen… The pictures by the author’s wife Elizabeth Keegin Colley are as equal a draw as Mr. Colley’s in-depth research and easy prose helping to make the book ‘destined to become the Brooklyn house gift of the year…We picked our 10 favorite photos and present them here for you”

Metro US - “Beautiful photographs capture every season and accompanying text describes the artwork that went into what Sen. Charles Schumer calls ‘Brooklyn’s Backyard…”

Jay-Z’s Blog – Life + Times - “A look at the New Tome on Brooklyn’s Prospect Park….the first monograph of this exquisite public space, presents a wealth of archival and newly commissioned photography and insightful text…”

Ny.Curbed.com - “Prospect Park, the 526 (sic) heart of Brooklyn is arguably the best park in New York City…and a new book reveals all the secret and hidden histories of this man made gem,,,it is sure to teach even the most frequent park users something new,,,,We chose 25 of the most interesting facts here…”

LongHeartedBoy music blog - “If you are a fan of Brooklyn and Prospect Park this is the perfect book for you. It is full of gorgeous photos and compelling history…”

VIEW THE TRAILER FOR THE BOOK: https://vimeo.com/71116168

Interview - WNYC, NEW YORK, NY JULY 29, 2013

Power point presentations:
Lafayette College, Skillman Library, Easton Pa., 4:15 PM September 12, 2013

Brooklyn Central Library, Grand Army Plaza, September 21, 2013 2PM. Part of the Brooklyn Book Festival