Book Review: Chief of Staff: The Principal Officers Behind History's Great Commanders


by David T. Zabecki, editor

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. . Two volumes. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $39.95 & $37.95. ISBN:1591149908

After retiring from the U.S. Army, General Zabecki has gone on to establish himself as a distinguished military historian.  In this work he takes on that most neglected, and yet most important figure, the operational chief of staff, the man often behind the success of so many of the great captains. 

Vol. I, Napoleonic Wars to World War I. Pp. xii, 241. $39.95. ISBN: 978-1-59114-990-3.

Vol. II, World War II to Korea and Vietnam. Pp.  xi, 243. $37.95. ISBN: 978-1-59114-991-0.

Each volume opens with an introduction that outlines the different styles of staff organization and function, and the relationship between the chief-of-staff and the actual commander that was adopted by the various armies in the period.

Both volumes have 14 chapters, each was written by a specialist (e.g., Steven E. Wooworth on John A. Rawlings, Antulio J. Echevarria on the Elder Moltke, Zabecki on von Mellenthin, etc.).  The 28 chapters cover a total of 30 officers who served one or more notable field commanders. 

The treatment is formulaic. The chapters, of 10-20 pages each, summarize the background and career of each officer, then provide a look at his relationship with his commander, then go on to discusses his performance and influence on operations.  Naturally this approach cannot do more than provide an overview of how each of these men affected operations, but the notes and bibliographic references give the read leads for further inquiry.

Chief of Staff is an important contribution to the development of our understanding of the history and influence of the staff and staff officers, a much neglected topic.       

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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