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Explanation of terms 
 Army data 
 Unit histories 
 Orders of battle 
 Orders of appearance 
 Units in theater
 Units under HQ
 Units at location

Armies of the Second World War began as a casual attempt to gather information on some relatively obscure Allied formations, then gradually snowballed into a more formal effort to assemble more precise data about a wider range of units

Early on it was suggested to me that Armies should track every unit in the war at battalion level. While a stupendous piece of historical documentation might have emerged, such a feat was never in the cards. Information becomes increasingly fragmentary, contradictory and incomplete at such a scale, and the job would never have been completed.

Consequently I made two important decisions about limiting the scope of the project.

First, I decided to exclude, despite their obvious importance, artillery, engineers, and support forces. Instead, Armies focuses on armor and infantry--the arms that most commonly led the way, defined the front lines, and decided the campaigns.

Second, I chose to exclude most units below divisional size. This proved to be a less rigid decision as I soon realized that there were some independent brigades and regiments, especially tank and armored formations, that were too important or too interesting to leave out. In addition, it became clear to me that in the sprawling, low-unit-density Middle East theater neither the conduct of operations nor the constant shuffling and reassignment of brigades could be explained satisfactorily from a divisional perspective; thus, in that theater, prior to 1943 units are tracked at brigade and regiment level. Finally, a few oddball battalions are thrown into the OB, mostly for my own amusement.

Although this first volume contains only the “minor” Allies and limits itself geographically to about half the globe, future installments will expand coverage to include a wider assortment of Axis and Allied armies within a truly worldwide framework.

Armies does not attempt to explain how or why events occurred. It simply presents, as factually as possible, the day-by-day, unit-by-unit progress of the war. In that sense, this is not an especially exciting, kinetic package. Nor is it intended to be a glittering multi-media extravaganza.

But, Armies of the Second World War is packed with more useful information than has ever been gathered in one place for the armies and individual units of almost two dozen Allied nations in World War II. I hope you enjoy browsing through the material as much as I enjoyed unearthing and assembling it.

—Bill Stone, 7 May 1995 & 7 May 1999 [an error occurred while processing this directive]