Publication Date

Spring 2020

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Selena Doss (Director), Alexander Olson, and Jeffrey Miner

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In the years following World War II, official military records along with news reports and personal accounts of senior military leaders formed a narrative that emphasized American exceptionalism and focused on the success of the United States military. That original narrative became a foundation for foreign policy and military doctrine, and its characterization of the tactical and operational decisions made by American military leaders has remained almost entirely unchallenged. This thesis seeks to reverse that trend by carefully analyzing the tactical and operational aspects of one specific event, the crossing of the Rhine Gorge by the 89th Infantry Division.

The original narrative of World War II minimizes the Rhine Gorge crossing, while first-hand accounts from soldiers reveal that significant mistakes were made in the planning and execution of that operation. The discrepancies require reconciliation through a careful examination of all available sources. Layering a variety of primary sources including media outlets, army reports, senior leader accounts, and the statements of participating soldiers demonstrates the fallibility of the accepted World War II narrative. The process of layering primary sources also reveals the need for further analysis of the tactical decisions made by American leaders during World War II. Furthermore, it necessitates further investigation into the impact of the original narrative on subsequent policy decisions in the United States.


European History | History | Other History | Political History | United States History