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Of David P. Colley

David P. Colley is a full time author and freelance writer based in Easton, Pa. specializing in military history and military affairs. He is the author of five books relating to World War II and has written numerous articles on military matters ranging from a Popular Mechanics Magazine cover article on rebuilding aircraft carriers, and a piece on the proximity fuse for American Heritage, to a review on World War II history for the New York Times Book Review.
Colley’s books have won recognition and acclaim. Blood For Dignity, published in 2003 by St. Martin’s, was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review and the paperback edition was listed in the Book Review's New & Noteworthy Column in 2004. Movie rights for the book were sold to Village Roadshow Pictures. Colley has appeared on various History Channel programs on WWII and has been interviewed on Eye On Books.
In 2001 Colley’s book, The Road To Victory, received the Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Writing Award. The book relates the history of the famed Red Ball Express in World War II.
Colley has written hundreds of articles on a variety of subjects that have appeared in such publications as the New York Times Travel Section, Historic Preservation, Army, World War II, Nation's Business and Sport. He was a contributing editor at Mechanical Engineering magazine and is the author or co-author of several other books.
Colley was born in San Francisco and raised in the U.S. and in Europe. He is a graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and served in the Ordnance branch of the U.S. Army. After military service he became a journalist, first as a reporter and assistant city editor with the Trenton, N.J. Trentonian and later as a reporter with the Baltimore Evening Sun. During his journalism career he won numerous national and regional awards for excellence.
Colley has lived in France, and speaks French fluently, and has traveled widely through, Asia, Africa, South America as well as Europe and the United States. He lives with his wife Elizabeth Keegin Colley, a photographer, on College Hill in Easton. They have two sons, Padraic and Christopher.






 Colley contends if Eisenhower had authorized Devers to cross the Rhine in November 1944, then the Battle of the Bulge would not have occurred in December. While Colley's claim that Eisenhower was too cautious may have some merit, the SHAEF commander had many challenges to balance beyond tactical advances and opportunities. Coalition maintenance, wartime production limits, mobilization and training timelines, sustainment challenges, displaced personnel, humanitarian support, and political considerations may override the tactical opportunities division and Army commanders encounter. Eisenhower had to win the war with the army he had. The broad front strategy might have been designed to win by attrition rather than by annihilation. Opportunities for tactical victories and exploitation did exist, but they appear to have conflicted with the Allied strategy based on attrition on two fronts. Tactics must be nested into higher level strategy or they are considered a waste of resources. The Folly of Generals raises, but does not answer, many of the timeless challenges for a commander in large-scale combat operations at echelons well above the brigade combat team level. When is a strategy of annihilation better than one of attrition? Can a theater strategy change between the two? Command decisions require a commander to make decisions with imperfect information. Personalities and relationships between commanders may be more important than command relationships at the senior levels, and sustainment still determines the feasibility of strategic options. If we are contested in all domains in the projected future, an expeditionary army can expect sustainment challenges with long lines of communications. Book Reviews: Military History 165 Colley's book provides historical examples, and he supports his argument at the tactical level. It is difficult, however, to prove a conclusion to the war would have been achieved sooner at the strategic level based on a tactical victory. The actions of a committed adversary fighting an existential threat should not be underestimated. Bold tactical actions could have ended the war; they also could have deteriorated Allied cooperation and, in one extreme, made postwar conditions in Europe worse at the start of the Cold War. Historians can talk past each other when considering the strategic, operational, or tactical level operations and decisions, and both can be correct. In any war, mistakes that could have saved lives become clear only in hindsight. As war is a human endeavor, perhaps we should not judge too harshly the sacrifices of the few who bore the burden of supreme command and succeeded in winning the war. I recommend The Folly of Generals for readers interested in the European campaign who will enjoy the division-level tactical opportunities explored in the book. It clearly highlights the major challenges of coalition warfare in large-scale combat operations and demonstrates the differences of perspectives between tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war and associated priorities and risk at each level  

------ Havertown, PA: Casemate, 2021 264 pages $34.95 ----





Journal of Military History Review 


  Historians are, by definition, Monday morning quarterbacks with 20/20 hindsight. Military historians in particular may, with the benefit of that hindsight, judge a commander's decisions as faulty or unsound. In The Folly of Generals, David P. Colley, award-winning author of several World War II history books and articles, revisits the controversy over General Dwight Eisenhower's strategy in Europe in the final year of the war. Colley argues that Eisenhower's decision to pursue a broad front strategy while overlooking potential breakthroughs prolonged the war in Europe. With the broad front strategy as a backdrop, his book "sheds light on the Allies' lost opportunities in the ETO [European Theater of Operations] in 1944 and exposes similar possibilities in the Italian campaign" (p. xiii). Colley asks why the Allies failed to take advantage of the opportunities he highlights in this book. Colley examines several "missed opportunities," running through them more topically than chronologically. These include Operation Market Garden, V Corps (U.S.) operations near Wallendorf and the Schnee Eifel, operations of the 6th Army Group in the Vosges, the landings and breakout at Anzio, Valmontone, and Sicily, among others.
     In each of these operations, Colley believes the Allies failed to use reserves (and manpower in general), transportation, and supplies to get the best results. Most importantly, he roundly criticizes the Allies' general lack of aggression in pushing and following up attacks that might have borne the fruit of an earlier victory in Europe. He also criticizes the Allies for devoting supplies and troops to the liberation of Paris in August when, he claims, resources should have been devoted to advancing against the German army. Colley also argues that the Allied effort to contain the German troops in Brittany was a waste of resources.

      While Colley devotes a chapter to Eisenhower's considerations, the complexities of coalition warfare with its political, strategic, and logistical difficulties requires a more thorough treatment to understand Eisenhower's decisions. The actions and potential missed opportunities Colley cites, however, deserve to beconsidered in any fair evaluation of the Allies' strategy in Europe in 1943–45.Along the way, Colley profiles key Allied leaders, including Omar Bradley, Jacob Devers, Leonard Gerow, Jacques LeClerc, John Lucas, Bernard Montgomery, George Patton, and Lucian Truscott, Jr. He rates Devers and Truscott highly, while the rest receive mixed marks. In many cases, Colley asserts that this or that German general would have done a better job than the applicable Allied general. This, of course, might be true, but it is also speculation and possibly irrelevant. In conclusion, the author believes that Eisenhower "lacked the insight, flexibility, and boldness of a superior commander" (p. 221). On the other hand, Colley feels that it might be unfair to harshly criticize the Allies for the mistakes he outlines in the book, but it is also "important to acknowledge the mistakes that were made not only for the sake of honest and accurate history but to acquaint modern military and political leaders with the past so that there is less chance of their being repeated in future wars" (p. 222). Of course, the reality of the fog of war all but guarantees that such "mistakes" will be repeated. The book is free of jargon, and readers will easily understand the issues Colley discusses. The chapter arrangement, deviating as it does from a strictly chronological order, might not be to everyone's taste, but it poses no obstacle to his argument. Of interest are opinions voiced by various German generals in postwar interviews. While these may smack of sour grapes, they, too, should be understood and evaluated. The Folly of Generals is more than a critique of Eisenhower (as the subtitle implies); rather, it is a general catalog of failures and missed opportunities by
Eisenhower and the Allies in the ETO from 1943 through 1945. Colley's research shows that one or another of the options open to Eisenhower and the Allies might have resulted in an earlier end to the war. Nothing more can be expected. The issues cited by Colley have been addressed elsewhere; nothing here allows us to confidently affirm the book's subtitle. Of course, any book consisting of educated guesses and speculation can at best be considered as thought-provoking and not settled history. As Colley writes: "In no way does [this book] advocate that any one of these potential breakthroughs would have succeeded" (p. xiii). That said, Colley presents a well-written, easy to read, and concise summary of the options available to Eisenhower and the Allies. His book will appeal to those who want to learn about those options and potential missed opportunities.
Peter L. Belmonte O'Fallon, Illinois.




 Journal of America's Military Past

FALL 2021 

Eisenhower placed all his chips on British Field Marshal Bernard MontgoIn Decision at Strasbourg: Ike's Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944 (reviewed in JAMP 112, Winter 2010), authorDavid P. Colley presented his thesis that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Allied commander in Europe in World War II, erred in preventing American forces in the southern sector of the western front (Gen. Jacob Devers's Sixth Army Group) from crossing the Rhine River into Germany in November 1944. In this latest volume, Colley further develops his theme, enlarging his scope to include other Allied hesitancy in France in 1944, and even to perceived strategic fumbles elsewhere in the European theater made by Eisenhower and his subordinates. Colley's conclusion is that such hesitancy lengthened the war by six months and cost thousands of needless casualties. The strategic plan for the Allied invasion on the western front called for a broad advance across France and Germany with the destruction of the German industrial bases in the Ruhr and the Saar being the major argets. Under Eisenhower, who functioned more as a chairman of the board than a military ommander, satisfying inter Allied politics as well as military goals, his forces never wavered from that plan. Colley and other historians lay the blame for this lack of innovation on "inflexibility and rigid adherence to previous planning."

 Other lost opportunities cited by Colley include the failure to closethe Falaise Gap to corral German forces attempting to escape from France in August 1944; the failure to exploit the swift advance of Allied forces from the French Mediterranean coast in August 1944,
thereby enabling a German stronghold to be developed in the Colmar Pocket; the failure to cut off German forces at Valmonte in Italy in June 1944, due to Lt. Gen. Mark Clark's vainglorious desire to be first in Rome; and the failure to prevent the escape of German and Italian forces from Sicily in August 1943. Colley also examines the wasteful deployment of American divisions in containing German garrisons in Brittany in 1944, when those troops could have been deployed at the front, and the misuse of material resources in moving large headquarters to Paris, France, when frontline units were starved for transportation and fuel. Unfortunately, Colley also repeats the canard that American planners organized too few divisions for the war effort. As this reviewer has pointed out before, it was not the number of divisions but the number of riflemen that was in short supply. Colley writes that German commanders were amazed and delighted at the timidity and caution exhibited by Eisenhower and his subordinates. In a postwar interview, one German general reported, "We seldom noticed exploitation of favorable opportunities [or] swift pursuit of the  Retreating enemy ... The disadvantage for [our] enemy was that he never surprised us." (p. 86) Even Gen. George Patton, famed as Eisenhower's hardest charging commander, came in for German criticism, "General Patton is helping us: he failed to exploit another success," said another German general. (p. 208) In Command Culture (reviewed in JAMP 119, Spring 2012), author Jörg Muth compared German and American military command in World War II and concluded that U.S. forces suffered from poor leadership. Perhaps with-out intending to do so, Colley has reinforced Muth's theory. World War II historians will enjoy this book. Although it is not of the same caliber in quality as Decision at Strasburg, it contains much valuable information and draws together a body of analysis and criticism useful to students of the war.