I recently read David Colley’s The Folly of Generals: How Eisenhower's Broad Front Strategy Lengthened World War II.David has analysed some of the missed opportunities the allies had in 1944-45 in Europe. He argues that had Eisenhower been more adept at taking advantage of several potential breakthroughs in the Siegfried Line in the autmun of 1944 the war in the European Theatre of Operations might have ended sooner.
It was such a fascinating read, so I thought I’d get David onto the podcast to examine Eisenhower’s broad front policy.
David P. Colley is an award-winning journalist and author who has written for many national publications, including Army, World War II, American Heritage, and The New York Times. Among his books on military history are The Road to Victory, which received the Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Book Award in 2000, Blood for Dignity, and Safely Rest. He has appeared on the History Channel and Eye on Books. Colley served in the ordnance branch of the U.S. Army.
Since starting the podcast, I’ve looked at the aspects of the war from the point of view of various countries. But, one glaring omission has been any Australian narrative of the war.
The Australians fought across the world on the land, sea and in the air air; notably in the Pacific and the Middle East, which is what we’ll be discussing in this episode.
With the fall of France, her overseas territories predominantly remained loyal to the French Vichy regime. This was true for Syria and Lebanon. To the south were the British in Egypt.
With Rommel in the Western Desert and Germans fostering an uprising in Iraq, the British feared Germany might take control over of Syria and Lebanon. From there, the Nazis could supply the rebels in Iraq and threaten Egypt from two sides. Churchill ordered General Wavell to go on the offensive and take the French territories. The British didn’t envisage the French putting up much of a fight.
The Australian 7th Division would make up the bulk of the allied attacking force.
Joining me is Richard James. Richard is the author of Australia’s War with France: The Campaign in Syria and Lebanon 1941.
I'd like to thank David Phillipson, president of the Australian-based History Guild, charity which promotes historical literacy for all. David reached out to suggest I have a chat with James. If you’re interested in finding out more about the History Guild, go to historyguild.org.