26 Nov 21

COSSAC was the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, in the person of General Morgan, and this is all about the planning in 1942-44 of the operation (OVERLORD) to reconquer Europe. For most of the period, there was no Supreme Allied Commander (General Eisenhower was not appointed until 6 December 1943, and Morgan reported to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (UK and USA).

The operation became the largest combined operations landing ever achieved, and members of The Naval Review will find precious little of purely naval interest (the naval operation which delivered the troops and stores to Normandy and supported the initial lodgment with Naval Gunfire Support was Operation NEPTUNE).  The reader will meet many codenames whose significance is now lost in the mists . . ., but there is a good glossary which provides a decode and there is also a list of the multiplicity of conferences at which the political heads set out the policy for the conduct of the war against Germany, and, one assumes, Japan, though there is no mention of the war in the Pacific – COSSAC was solely a European operation, and a northern European operation at that.  Italy had surrendered on 3 September 1943 and a bare five weeks later had become a member of the Allies against Germany, which continued to occupy the northern half of the country, requiring a continuation of the fighting, and use of resources which might otherwise have been used for OVERLORD.

Ever since the Army had been bundled out of Europe at Dunkirk, we had been determined to return, though Churchill was equivocal about attacking Germany through northern France, preferring to build on the North African campaign, to attack via the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’.  However, logistics and the USA made northern France the preferred option, though all the early planning was made, as it were, in a vacuum.  Where was a landing to be made?  In what force?  What were to be the short-term aims? And, most importantly, who was to command?

The answers to these questions and how they were reached are all set out here. It is not a detailed account of what division trained where, but a broader description of the planning process, and reveals that it was truly an Allied affair between the British and Americans (not forgetting the Canadians, and to a lesser extent the French, whose Free French Army was in North Africa, and so was designated to be a part of Operation DRAGOON, the nearly simultaneous landing in the south of France (it took place in August 1944, and was spearheaded by the US 7th Army).

As a book, it is readable, and has all the necessary references for deeper study of this important achievement of Allied planning, though there is little about the air power and sea resources necessary to make that achievement possible, but the inter-allied politics are well-covered.  Recommended.