Closing with the Enemy
How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945
Modern War Studies
Sales Date: December 22, 1994
368 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: December 1994
- Published: May 2018
Winner: Forrest C. Pogue Prize
Winner: New York Military Affairs Symposium Best Book Award
Closing with the Enemy picks up where D-Day leaves off. From Normandy through the “breakout” in France to the German army’s last gasp in the Battle of the Bulge, Doubler deals with the deadly business of war—closing with the enemy, fighting and winning battles, taking and holding territory. His study provides a provocative reassessment of how American GIs accomplished these dangerous and costly tasks.
Doubler portrays a far more capable and successful American fighting force than previous historians—notably Russell Weigley, Martin Van Creveld, and S.L.A. Marshall—have depicted. True, the GIs weren’t fully prepared or organized for a war in Europe and have often been viewed as inferior to their German opponent. But, Doubler argues, they more than compensated for this by their ability to learn quickly from mistakes, to adapt in the face of unforeseen obstacles, and to innovate new tactics on the battlefield. This adaptability, Doubler contends, was far more crucial to the American effort than we’ve been led to believe.
Fueled by a fiercely democratic and entrepreneurial spirit, GI innovations emerged from every level within the ranks-from the novel employment of conventional weapons and small units to the rapid retraining of troops on the battlefield. Their most dramatic success, however, was with combined arms warfare—the coordinated use of infantry, tanks, artillery, air power, and engineers—in which they perfected the use of air support for ground operations and tank-infantry teams for breaking through enemy strongholds.
Doubler argues that, without such ingenuity and imaginative leadership, it would have been impossible to defeat an enemy as well trained and heavily fortified as the German army the GIs confronted in the tortuous hedgerow country of northern France, the narrow cobble-stoned streets of Aachen and Brest, the dark recesses of the Huertgen Forest, and the frigid snow-covered hills of the Ardennes.
Doubler offers a timely reminder that “the tremendous effects of firepower and technology will still not relieve ground troops of the burden of closing with the enemy.” As even Desert Storm suggests, that will likely prove true for future high-tech battlefields, where an army's adaptability will continue to be prized.
"In Doubler’s view, the most important element in overcoming the German opponent was the intelligence of America’s front-line officers and troops and their ability to make sound decisions on the spot. This book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of World War II and warfare in general. It will, no doubt, become required reading among U.S. Army professionals."—Washington Post Book World
"This important book is a watershed in critical thinking that will be cited for years to come. Fluently written and beautifully detailed, it is essential for a complete understanding of American operations in World War II. Highly recommended."—Library Journal
"Doubler has produced a masterful monograph that is an important contribution to comprehending how men and organizations react to—and help shape the outcome of—combat."—Army History
"Doubler’s work is not only a superb story of the American army’s tactical adaptation to the variegated demands of European warfare, it is also a model case study of the dynamics of combat innovation."—War in History
"This book is simply marvelous, in terms of structure, substance and style. With countless fascinating examples, Doubler builds his case meticulously and presents it clearly and coherently. Numerous maps and photographs help to keep the reader in the picture, In the process, Doubler tells an epic story which is both gripping and revealing."—Journal of Strategic Studies
"This is a superb book about warfighting and everyone in the business of training soldiers ought to read it."—Armor
"This is an uncommon book that will expand what you already know about the war, and will help you understand other books with a more narrow focus. It undoubtedly is a must for World War II historians."—Richmond Times-Dispatch
"The best single book I have ever read on the GI and his officers. Destined to become a military classic."—Stephen E. Ambrose, author of D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
"Doubler demands persuasively that we show renewed respect for the prowess of the American Army of 1944–1945. All students of the war should read this book."—Russell F. Weigley, author of Eisenhower’s Lieutenants
"A unique analysis of how American combat troops improvised battle techniques in unexpected and extremely difficult battlefield situations. Doubler’s operational coverage is excellent, his writing flows, and his argument is significant not only for the 1944–45 campaigns in northwest Europe, but also for the entire war and even for warfare in general."—Martin Blumenson, author of The Patton Papers
"An important contribution to our understanding of innovation in the U.S. Army under the deadly pressure of combat. It provides new and important insights about the importance of having talented, creative soldiers who can solve problems and adjust to unexpected demands in battle."—Robert A. Doughty, author of The Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940
List of Illustrations and Tables
1. Lessons Learned in the North African and Mediterranean Campaigns
2. Busting the Bocage
3. The Air-Ground Battle Team
4. Battles of Buildings and Cobblestones
5. Struggles against Steel and Concrete
6. In Spite of Hell and High Water
7. Confusion and Slaughter among the Firs
8. Defense in the Ardennes
9. The American Soldier
10. The Schoolhouse of War
Appendix A: U.S. Army Organization and Weaponry
Appendix B: U.S. Army Doctrine and Tactics
A Note on Sources