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The European Campaign: Its Origins and Conduct

The European Campaign: Its Origins and Conduct published on

Authored by Strategic Studies Institute

As the world is moving rapidly into the 21st century, some might ask, why another history and analysis of World War II’s European Campaign? After all, historians have continuously studied the war and the European Campaign since it ended in 1945. Why should one look back to a time and conflict from the industrial age when terrorism and insurgency are so prevalent today? These questions become increasingly relevant if contemporary military challenges are considered. In particular, during the last 2 decades, America’s wars have been limited to short wars against second-rate powers, failed states and, most recently, insurgencies. Since 1945, there has not been another World War II type conflict. U.S. military forces developed war plans, trained, and designed equipment for such a situation for decades during the Cold War and continuing up to today, but we have never used them. The only wars this nation has waged since 1945 have been conflicts against regional powers that had global implications, but are nowhere near the magnitude of the events of 1941 to 1945. These recent conflicts are hardly comparable to World War II in terms of the scope, stakes, and demands placed on the U.S. military, the economy, and the population. Thus, does yet another study on World War II have any relevance, or is it merely an interesting “fun” read for history buffs or students of past military operations?

The authors contend that despite the passage of time and the absence of major worldwide conflicts comparable to World War II, additional studies of this momentous war still have relevance, particularly to a student of military affairs and strategy. For example, World War II is a classic example of nations developing well-formulated goals, objectives, and strategies to achieve those objectives. More importantly, World War II illustrated how great powers adapted to a changing strategic environment. Formulating America’s objectives and developing strategies to achieve them was a formidable task for a nation that had spent the interwar period wrapped in a shroud of isolation and economic desolation. Faced by multiple major power adversaries, the nation’s leadership had a difficult task in preparing for war. The primary concern for American politicians was domestic politics. In this regard, World War II offers many significant insights not only for today’s leaders, but for those in the future.

Even evaluating World War II military strategy is a formidable task, at least without some type of analytical framework. One framework to analyze the strategy of that period is to use a simple model formulated by Colonel (Ret) Arthur F. Lykke, Jr. Lykke is a former U.S. Army War College faculty member who believed that military strategy should include three main elements: ends, ways, and means. Each element of this model affected the other two. Lykke illustrated his approach by using a three-legged stool with each leg representing an element, either the ends, ways, or means. The challenge for a strategist is to keep these three legs in equilibrium so that the stool will sit upright. The three-legged stool, like a strategy, should be balanced. Two factors influence the end or strategic objectives for a nation: ways, or courses of action; and the means or the resources like people, funds, and materials. For example, a dearth of means could alter the ways a nation could use its military and may cause the ends of the strategy to be at risk. Without the necessary balance between the elements (or legs), military strategy, like the stool in Lykke’s illustration, could become unbalanced and possibly fail.

Publication Date:
Dec 08 2014
150540925X / 9781505409253
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6″ x 9″
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Military / World War II


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