Overlord, Over-ruled and Over There

David Nicholas suggests that America’s involvement in northern Europe was unwittingly shaped by a British War Office official, against the wishes of the President.

I have always been fascinated by seemingly minor decisions, thought not to be particularly significant at the time, which then turn out to have massive consequences. Such an event occurred in January 1942. A decision, probably made by a comparatively minor official in the then British War Office (forerunner of the present Ministry of Defence) may well have altered a whole strategy for Europe in a manner never intended by the Allied leaders at the time. It heralded a political pattern for Northern Europe, contrary to President Roosevelt’s wishes – a pattern which lasted for half a century.

On December 7th, 1941, ‘a date,’ as Roosevelt said, ‘that will live in infamy,’ the Japanese Air Force attacked Pearl Harbor without warning, killing 2,400 Americans. Japan and America were at war.

Four days later, Hitler and Mussolini declared war on America. World War was truly engaged. On January 26th, 1942, the first GIs set foot in Britain and in the next two years millions more US soldiers, sailors and airmen were to flood into these islands in readiness for the invasion of the Continent.

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