Decision has always exerted a powerful attraction for the student of military affairs. In the study of decisions in war, whether on the field of battle or in the councils of state, lie the great lessons of the conflicts that have shaped the course of history. These lessons the professional soldier seeks in order to fit himself for the ultimate responsibilities of command; the student of human affairs seeks them to explain past events.
The historians writing the history of the United States Army in World War II have had a unique opportunity to study the decisions of that conflict. The response of the Army's schools and colleges, as well as the public, to this aspect of their work emphasized for them the interest of soldier and scholar alike in decision-making in war at various levels of government and command. As research progressed and material with which to illustrate this theme accumulated, it appeared that a book on the subject based on the work already accomplished would be of interest to a variety of readers. This volume an outgrowth of that idea.
It is not designed to be a systematic or comprehensive treatise on decision-making. Nor could it be. Because of the limitation of time selection had to be based more on readily available material than on
such criteria as balance between levels of command, areas of operation, or the relative importance of the decision. Chosen therefore almost entirely from work already done, and arranged in chronological order, these studies are complete in themselves. Each can be read independently of the others. Only in the Introductory Essay has an effort been made to relate the decisions to each other and to the general problems of decision-making.
All of the studies included in this volume deal with World War II. This restriction was agreed upon, not in order to make this a book about World War II, but because that is the field of study in which research and thought of the Army's historians is at present furthest advanced in depth and maturity. In publishing this volume the Office of the Chief of Military History has, in short, declared an extra dividend on its series, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. At a later date, when work on the postwar series now in
progress has advanced far enough, it may be possible to do the same for the UNITED STATES ARMY IN THE CONFLICT WITH THE COMMUNIST POWERS.
Only one of these studies, the fist, has been written specifically for this collection. The others have been derived from lectures, articles, and chapters of books in print or still on their way to publication. All have been recast to meet the requirements of the present volume. And in every case, they are studied reflections on events to which for a number of years the authors have been devoting their research and writing.
The form of the present volume and the final selection of the studies to be included in it are the responsibility of a Panel composed of Col. Seneca Foote, Charles B. MacDonald, Maurice Matloff, Leo J. Meyer, Louis Morton, and Lt. Col. Ernest E. Steck, under the chairmanship of the Chief Historian, K. R. Greenfield. The task of assembling the studies originally was performed by Lt. Col. Clifton P. Semmens. Colonel Steck has looked after the cartographic illustrations. Preparation of the chronology, inserted as an aid to recollection, was supervised by Colonel Foote. Miss Ruth Stout did the final editing and, with the assistance of Mrs. Loretto Stevens, prepared the volume for the printer. Virginia C. Leighton compiled the index. To all these the authors wish to acknowledge their appreciation; responsibility for the contents is theirs alone.
10 October 1958