This review has been submitted to the Journal of the Society forArmy Historical Research
Title: COSSAC: Lt.Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan and the Genesis of Operation Overlord
Author: Stephen C Kepher
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
The development of the plan for the Allied invasion of the European mainland (Op Overlord) remains as one of the most complex military operations in history. Much has been written and studied relating to the actual invasion itself; however, the effort that went into the conceptualization and development of the plan itself has been generally overlooked in the discussion. Kepher’s book sheds light not only on the method by which the plan unfolded but also the myriad of other factors that had to be taken into account that were unique to this operation: the amphibious element, the multinational C2 issues, the integration of naval, air and land elements, the political facets and, central throughout, the role of LGen Morgan to the success of the project.
This is the authors first book and he does an admirable job of recreating the environment within which Morgan was to operate. The author undertakes a noteworthy discussion and analysis of perhaps the greatest obstacle facing Morgan, in explaining to his readership, who have grown up in the era of multinational operations and NATO, what it was like for the Allies to create, from scratch and with little to no precedence, a planning team for the invasion. Exacerbating this challenge was that while Morgan as COSSAC (Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Commander) was expected to develop and plan the operation, there was no Supreme Allied Commander appointed. Thus he had no ‘top cover; for the decisions that he was making, nor guidance on the myriad of questions to be answered. Kepher’s liberal use of Morgan’s diaries of the period add additional depth and resonance to the narrative.
This work serves as an excellent reference for anyone (military or civilian) undertaking a role in which they are working with a consortium of different nationalities, industries or political affiliations. Morgan’s experiences and those of his staff, highlight the benefits and pitfalls associated with these kinds of interactions. What serves as the best means of interaction, how does one undertake conflict resolution, what is the method to best address accusations of external favoritism by ones own government and military? All these examples, and more, are discussed at length through Morgan, and his staffs, own words and experiences.
The author has included significant additional data in the annexes, thus providing the reader with tangible references covering command structures and relationships, force structures, actual documentation from Morgan providing synopsis of his planning as well as selected abbreviations and acronyms. Kepher deliberately refrains from excessive use of military acronyms and slang in an effort to keep the narrative accessible to the average reader. Additionally, he provides comprehensive endnotes and bibliography that serve to suggest additional avenues of inquiry for the reader.
The Naval Institute Press have published a high quality book that is both an outstanding rendition of the staff and planning work behind one of the most complex military operations in recent times as well as an excellent professional development tool. Highly recommended for the casual and professional historian alike.