This map really is a beauty.
It makes it easier to envision how it could be that some very senior U.S. generals favored an offensive against Nazi Germany not from Northern France (or Northern France exclusively) but from Southern Europe -- famously described by Winston Churchill, who agreed with them, as Europe's "soft underbelly."
As noted in American Betrayal, among them were Gen. Ira Eaker, commander of Allied air forces in the Mediterranean theater; Gen. Carl Spaatz, U.S. commander of strategic bombing in Europe; Gen. Mark W. Clark, commander of the U.S. 5th Army in Italy, and, not least, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, soon to become Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
"Italy was the correct place in which to deploy our main forces and the objective should be the Valley of the Po," Ike said on November 26, 1943. "In no other area could we so well threaten the whole German structure including France, the Balkans, and the Reich itself. Here also our air would be closer to vital objectives in Germany." (He said more than that, as you can see in the book.)
Other experts in agreement included diplomat William C. Bullitt and diplomat/OSS John C. Wiley, politically astute men who recognized that the vaccuum the British and Americans would leave in Central and Eastern Europe would soon enough be filled by the Red Army.
And so it was. Thus, the "Eastern Bloc" of the "Evil Empire" was born.
In his memoir Calculated Risk, Gen. Clark writes that the Allied decision to draw men and materiel from the Italian front for France seemed incomprehensible to another professional military man, Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, top commander of German forces in Italy.
From American Betrayal,
Clark writes that Kesselring's intelligence section "was completely mystified in coming weeks when our great forward drive failed to take full advantage of its chance to destroy the beaten and disorganized German Army in Italy."
Clark continued: "It was some time before the Germans understood what had happened to the American troops in Italy; for weeks the Counterintelligence Corps ... was catching enemy agents who had orders to find our `where in hell' were various Allied divisions that were being set to France." Historian Dennis J. Dunn offers a crystallizing description of the seemingly incomprehensible Great Switcheroo in progress. "It is paradoxical that the Americans were insisting on withdrawal from the Continent in order to reinvade the Continent from another angle."
Not the way we "normally" think about D-Day, to say the least.
American Betrayal, of course, minutely examines whether the decision was merely "paradoxical," or whether maybe we were pushed; that is, influenced into this strategic decision (and others) by assets of the Kremlin (the actions of FDR advisor Harry Hopkins, among others, come under the light), seeking advantage, seeking empire for Stalin in Europe through the cataclysmic mechanism of war.
Not long ago, Jeff Nyquist kindly brought to my attention the observations of another German expert, Walter Schellenberg, the head of the Nazi Secret Service (AMT 6). Schellenberg also saw the Allied road to success (and German doom) through the Balkans -- and fast.
In his memoirs, at the Kindle edition, Loc 7419, Schellenberg writes:
"Had Churchill been able to carry through his plan for an invasion of the Balkans at the end of 1943, then, according to my calculations at the time, the war would have been over in the spring of 1944. The Balkans were like an overripe plum, ready to fall at the slightest touch, and this would have torn open the German South-eastern flank."
An overripe plum. Maybe that's what Churchill saw when looked at the map.