GI Ingenuity
Improvisation, Technology, and Winning World War II
by James Jay Carafano
July 2006, 288pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98698-8
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-05029-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

This vivid account of the Normandy campaign combines military history and the history of science and technology with social, economic, cultural, and intellectual history to tell the tale of the World War II GI’s technological genius and innovation and the process by which GI ingenuity became an enduring feature of the citizen-soldier.

World War II saw the first generation of young men that had grown up comfortable with modern industrial technology go into combat. As kids, the GIs had built jalopies in their garage and poured over glossy, full-color issues of Popular Mechanics; they had read Buck Rogers in the Twenty Fifth Century comic books, listened to his adventures on the radio, and watched him pilot rocket ships in the Saturday morning serials at the Bijou. Tinkerers, problem-solvers, risk-takers, and day-dreamers, they were curious and outspoken—a generation well prepared to improvise, innovate, and adapt technology on the battlefield. Since they were also a generation which had unprecedented technology available to them, their ability to innovate with technology proved an immeasurable edge on the field of combat. This book tells their story through the experience of the battle of Normandy, bringing together three disparate brands of history: (1) military history; (2) the history of science and technology; and (3) social, economic, cultural, and intellectual history. All three historical narratives combine to tell the tale of GI genius and the process by which GI ingenuity became an enduring feature of the American citizen-soldier.

GI Ingenuity is in large part an old-fashioned combat history, with mayhem and mass slaughter at center stage. It tells the story of death and destruction on the killing fields of Normandy, as well as the battlegrounds that provide the prologue and postscript to the transformation of war that occurred in France in 1944. This story of GI ingenuity, moreover, puts the battles in the context of the immense social, economic, scientific, and technological changes that accompanied the evolution of combat in the twentieth century. GI Ingenuity illustrates the great transition of the American genius in battle from an industrial-age army to a postmodern military. And it does it by looking at the place where the transition happened—on the battlefield.


"Carafano investigates the battles that followed D-Day in Normandy through the prism of improvisation that came, in his opinion, to characterize the American GI. Nine chapters blend together military, technological, and social histories as a means to prove that the U.S. soldier had a unique genius to adjust to new combat conditions.... Carafano's knowledge shines when he recounts the battles, and enthusiasts will appreciate his asides.... Recommended. General, graduate, researcher, professional collections."—Choice, June 1, 2007

"Although its subtitle ties GI Ingenuity to World War II, it presents those battlefield vignettes within a framework convincingly built on the lessons of World War I and even earlier conflicts. Specifically, several of Carafano's earliest threads extend all the way back to the 1830s and what he identifies as Prussian Gen. Carl von Clausewitz's indifference to technology.... In creating his own foundation for this excellent book, Carafano builds on Clausewitz's vision of general military genius.... The scope and creativity covered in GI Ingenuity go well beyond material solutions.... An important aspect of GI Ingenuity is the credit given to many of the Army's individual leaders, throughout the 20th century, who left their unique marks on the constructed edifice of GI ingenuity. Moreover, Carafano's individual highlights are followed by reasonable assessment of a continuing leadership legacy that is already being proven during the first decade of the 21st century."—Army, March 1, 2008

"Military historian Carafano describes how the US Army (his old outfit) transmuted from an industrial-age to a postmodern military on the battlefields of Normandy in the summer of 1944. The soldiers drew on the inspiration of their fathers' way of war, he explains, added the ingenuity of the The Greatest Generation, and presaged the military of the 21st century."—Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2006

"For the serious student of World War II, GI Ingenuity: Improvisation, Technology and Winning World War Two, by James Jay Carafano, is a devotee's study of American combat adaptation and creativity. GIs in Iraq continue the tradition."—Lowell Sun (Massachusetts), December 1, 2006

"Jim Carafano's study of Army innovation for the European campaigns of World War II puts the focus back on the GIs and explores the creative genius of a Democratic Army."—Allan R. Millett, National D-Day Museum

"In GI Ingenuity James Carafano has provided a lively and instructive account of the problem-solving American soldier in all his glory. Well researched and well documented, this is an account of enduring value to students of warfare at the troop level."—Lewis Sorley, author of A Better War and editor of Vietnam Chronicles
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