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“Magisterial.”—The New York Times “[A] fine new biography . . . [Eisenhower’s] White House years need a more thorough exploration than many previous biographers have given them. Smith, whose long, distinguished career includes superb one-volume biographies of Grant and Franklin Roosevelt, provides just that.”—The Washington Post
“Highly readable . . . [Smith] shows us that [Eisenhower’s] ascent to the highest levels of the military establishment had much more to do with his easy mastery of politics than with any great strategic or tactical achievements.”—TheWall Street Journal
“Always engrossing . . . Smith portrays a genuinely admirable Eisenhower: smart, congenial, unpretentious, and no ideologue. Despite competing biographies from Ambrose, Perret, and D’Este, this is the best.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“No one has written so heroic a biography [on Eisenhower] as this year’s Eisenhower in War and Peace [by] Jean Edward Smith.”—The National Interest
“Dwight Eisenhower, who was more cunning than he allowed his adversaries to know, understood the advantage of being underestimated. Jean Edward Smith demonstrates precisely how successful this stratagem was. Smith, America’s greatest living biographer, shows why, now more than ever, Americans should like Ike.”—George F. Will
About the Author
Jean Edward Smith is the author of the highly acclaimed FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; John Marshall: Definer of a Nation; and Lucius D. Clay: An American Life. A member of the faculty at the University of Toronto for thirty-five years, and at Marshall University for twelve, he is currently a senior scholar in the history department at Columbia.
I have read Jean Smith's biographies of Presidents Grant and FDR and liked them a lot. I was therefore very anxious to read his Eisenhower biography, and I was not disappointed. The book is quite detailed but is also very enjoyable reading and not the least bit academic or dry. I recommend this book because it provides a comprehensive portrait of a man whose talents are often overlooked. Smith clearly shows that Eisenhower's rise to prominence was due to hard work, garnering superior fitness reports that carried him to jobs with ever increasing responsibilities and visibility. To be sure, Eisenhower had many mentors who protected him and arranged for his appointments to serve under a previous or a current army chief of staff (Generals Pershing, MacArthur, and Marshall). Working for these men was indispensable for Eisenhower's career, but even more importantly was their recognition of the superior work that he did for them. The best way to describe Smith's picture of Eisenhower is to repeat the opinion of a fellow general, cited in the book: Eisenhower was "affable, energetic, dynamic, zealous, original, loyal, capable, dependable, and outstanding."
Eisenhower has been the subject of numerous excellent biographies, so it is reasonable to ask if this one has any characteristics that make it stand out. In my opinion, it is very objective and treats Eisenhower's failings in detail as well as his successes. Smith discusses Eisenhower's marital problems that first surfaced with the death of his infant firstborn son, but which were ongoing. Smith also discusses, in considerable detail, Eisenhower's relationship with Kay Sommersby.Read more ›
I was mightily impressed by Smith's biography of John Marshall and have been looking forward to this biography's publication for quite some time. Conversely, I have always found the Ambrose biographies to be massively deficient in more ways than I can possibly count, so it was good to see a full-length biography which is not reliant on Ambrose's scholarship, so called. Is it definitive? I wouldn't go that far, but it represents a considerable improvement in the field and is definitely worth reading.
Smith takes something of a revisionist view in both the areas of Eisenhower's presidency and his role in World War II. Concerning the latter, Smith says as much in a footnote in Chapter 15, where he takes a shot at the Pogue school of thought (which "treated Eisenhower & Marshall as demigods"). Smith skillfully portrays a coalition which somehow, in spite of itself, managed to stumble towards victory with Eisenhower at the helm. Smith is unsparing in his portrayal of Eisenhower as a less than competent ground commander; the chapters dealing with North Africa & the month following the Normandy invasion are not exactly flattering. Eisenhower mismanaged the North African invasion almost from the very start, and prevailed over the Germans only by sheer force of numbers and materiel, rather than superior strategy. Similarly, Eisenhower's failure to press the advantage in France after D-Day resulted in the war in Europe being extended by nearly half a year, and his tactics allowed Germany enough time to regroup and launch its counteroffensive in the Ardennes (although once this was underway, Smith observes, Ike was one of the few command level officers to not to panic).Read more ›
Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 -- 1969) served as the 34th President of the United States (1953 -- 1961) following his career as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during WW II. His presidency and his generalship have been the subject of varied assessments over the years. I was a child in the 1950s and my first memories of a president are of Eisenhower. To many younger Americans, he may remain an obscure historical figure. Jean Edward Smith's new large biography, "Eisenhower in War and Peace" (2012) is an extraordinarily detailed study of Ike's public and private life. Smith is senior scholar in the history department at Columbia University, where Eisenhower served briefly as president. He has written extensively on American history, including biographies of FDR, Ulysses Grant, and John Marshall.
Although the book consists of over 760 pages of text and an additional 150 pages of notes and bibliography, the narrative flow of the story is absorbing. Smith recounts complex military and political history in a way that is both understandable and entertaining. His writing style, unbiased presentation, and detailed documentation made me inclined to trust his judgment. Throughout the study, Smith draws useful parallels between Eisenhower and other American military and political leaders. In particular, Smith often compares and contrasts Eisenhower with Ulysees Grant in terms of decisiveness, relationship to subordinates, and military accomplishments. The most telling parallel lies in writing and in ability to communicate. Although not having the gift for words that Grant displayed in his Memoirs, Eisenhower was an excellent, clear writer, especially of his own war memoirs, and, when he wished to be, a skilled eloquent speaker.Read more ›