It's no surprise that the biographer of Douglas MacArthur and Ulysses S. Grant clearly conveys the military talents that enabled Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) to ensure the Allies' victory in World War II, but Geoffrey Perret is equally perceptive when dealing with the personality behind the famously genial grin. Perhaps marked by his father's coldness and grim religious zeal (though his mother was a lively, cheerful woman), Eisenhower never expressed his feelings easily, even to his cherished wife, Mamie. His intelligence and scholarly gifts got the poor boy from Kansas into West Point; his administrative and training abilities made him too valuable at home to be employed for active duty in World War I, much to his chagrin. Professional fulfillment and fame as the general who won WWII couldn't change the self-controlled habits of a military lifetime, and Perret depicts Eisenhower as reluctantly drawn into politics by a sense of duty. Covering his presidency, Perret doesn't let him off the hook about such touchy matters as U.S. involvement in the 1954 overthrow of Guatemala's elected government or the biased hearing that lifted physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance. But the author obviously likes Ike, and he helps his readers understand why most Americans in the 1940s and '50s did too. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Breaking no new ground in the way of facts or interpretation, Perret (Old Soldiers Never Die; Ulysses S. Grant) nevertheless provides a useful, generally efficient summary of Ike's long and multifaceted lifeAalbeit one devoid of critical judgments and one that is stronger on Ike's military career than on his political career. Evidently an ardent fan of the warrior-president, Perret fails to give adequate scrutiny to such troubling events as Eisenhower's well-known abandonment of his old friend George Marshall during the McCarthy era, or his key role in fostering the plan for the ill-starred Bay of Pigs invasion, put into effect so disastrously by KennedyAwhom he despisedAonce Ike had left office. Perret is strong in portraying all aspects of Eisenhower in his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII. The author is particularly good at depicting Ike's intense, sometimes tense relationships with British Field Marshall Montgomery and President Roosevelt, as well as with his own wife, Mamie, who tried but failed to get the general to assure their son John safe duty away from combatAsomething neither father nor son thought proper. What the book lacks as a presidential biography, it makes up for as the biography of a great military leader. (Oct.)
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