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Best decision of WW2

LAURENCE REES: And the best decision?

DAVID CESARANI: I think the best decision was made by the Allied leadership not to invade France in 1943, which would have been a disaster and a massacre. It probably wouldn’t have lost the war for the Allies but it would have prolonged it by two, three, four years. Now, why was that decision not taken? It was not taken because Whitehall and Washington were democratic decision making machines, because Roosevelt and Churchill were democratically elected and accountable leaders and because they had military advisors of the highest calibre. They were not perfect, Marshall wasn’t perfect, Alanbooke wasn’t perfect, but there was a productive and, in the end, vital dialogue between the political leadership and the military leadership. In Russia, certainly in 1940-41 Stalin overruled the advice he was getting from the diplomats and from the military and therefore made disastrous mistakes about the disposition of forces.

He refused to believe that Hitler would attack. Catastrophic error. He was lucky. And he started listening to his Generals and they pulled the irons out of the fire for him. And the political leadership in Russia played its part, Stalin was a brave man, he stayed in Moscow, he gave leadership and he recovered from that initial nervous collapse. Hitler stopped listening, stopped consulting, and believed only in himself. There were a couple of moments when he does listen to advice and acts responsibly and accountably, but those are increasingly rare, and that dooms the Third Reich.