Marching Orders

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Historians interested in the conduct of World War II remain interested in the influence exerted by the decrypted material gleaned from messages exchanged by Japanese diplomats. The United States Army refused to acknowledge that strategic or decisive decisions were based solely, or to any appreciable degree, on such intercepts. Indeed, some wartime commanders refrained from acknowledging that information furnished by signals intelligence played any role in the decisions in the course of the war.

MARCHING ORDERS gives the lie to statements regarding the impact on the war from reading the enemy’s mail. Not only was the information crucial, but when it was not available Allied forces frequently suffered heavy losses. Indeed, many believe that Thomas Dewey’s decision to remain silent about such intercepts cost him the presidency in 1944. It was also an ironic turn of events, in that Dwight Eisenhower’s military reputation was an important factor in placing him in the White House. Yet, when Eisenhower’s orders are compared with information from signals intelligence, it is difficult to ignore the connection. General Eisenhower could see his opponent’s tactical and strategic cards, thus he was frequently able to deliver a measured riposte. Lee does not deny that the various Allied generals were capable commanders. Nevertheless, to a man, they received valuable assistance from signals intelligence that made their jobs much easier than they ever publicly admitted.

MARCHING ORDERS is a surprising book for the several revelations that surface herein. It is also unexpectedly poorly contrived and verbose for an editor of such distinction as Lee. The index, essential to a work of this kind, is clearly inadequate. Nevertheless, the patient reader will find just and revealing rewards.