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In World War II, the United States mounted a military effort of unprecedented magnitude and complexity. With more than 11 million soldiers to be armed, fed, clothed, and transported, logistics — including the design, procurement, distribution, and movements of supplies and the transportation of troops — became big business. General Brehon B. Somervell, a brilliant military-industrial manager, led the army’s wartime logistical operation. Sometimes criticized as a big spender, he understood well the decisive role of superior material and mobility. As America’s chief wartime logistician, he demanded ample supplies for the troops, at the right place at the right time. A graduate of West Point, Somervell served his country in both the military and civilian arenas. As head of the Works Progress Administration in New York City, he won recognition for his effective management; later, he helped prepare the nation for war by building training camps and munitions plants. At the height of his career, as head of the War Department Services of Supply — known later as the Army Service Forces — Somervell was responsible for the supply and administration of the army within the United States and the support of troops overseas. He also was the War Department’s principal logistical advisor and troubleshooter. In these ways, Somervell played a vital role in the mobilization of forces and powerfully influenced the United States’ conduct of the war.
“Ohl has provided a signal contribution to our knowledge of the war and those who led it. He takes great pains to analyze frankly Somervell’s techniques and style, especially his political sure-footedness and his callous handling of subordinates... [a] generally superb study.” — Leslie Anders, The American Historical Review
“Ohl’s lucid biography of General Brehon Burke (Bill) Somervell is a valuable corrective to frequent emphases upon strategy and tactics at the expense of logistics... Ohl splendidly depicts Somervell’s acquisition of managerial techniques in the inter-war army and his ruthless demeanour in War Department turf battles before and during the Second World War... Ohl has performed a tremendous service to Second World War historians by reminding us of the importance of logistics and reintroducing us to this complex and fiery general.” — Kevin Smith, The International History Review
“Ohl convincingly demonstrates Somervell’s grasp of the impact of logistics on strategy... Ohl is not afraid to paint his subject ‘warts and all...’ Ohl contends that his faults pale in light of Somervell’s contributions to victory and convincingly details these achievements.” — Phyllis A. Zimmerman, The Journal of Military History