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How Great Generals Win Reprint Edition

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393323160
ISBN-10: 0393323161
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alexander ( Korea: The First War We Lost ) reveals how some of the great military men of history applied common-sense principles of warfare that "nearly always will secure victory." Relying on deception, these generals usually won their campaigns with a surprise attack on the enemy's rear or flank. Leaving aside the killed-and-wounded advantage of such maneuvers, Alexander emphasizes the decisive psychological effect on enemy soldiers and their commanders. Generals whose deceptive, indirect, surprise tactics are considered here include Scipio Africanus ("The General Who Beat Hannibal"), Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman ("The General Who Won the Civil War"), Mao Zedong, Erwin Rommel and Douglas MacArthur. Alexander makes the interesting point that these principles are for the most part self-evident, yet most generals ignore them in favor of the direct frontal assault. He is surprisingly critical of the Confederacy's icon, Robert E. Lee, for his tendency to resort to direct (and costly) methods such as Pickett's charge at Gettysburg. He calls MacArthur "a military Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, capable of both brilliant strategic insight and desolating error." This study is essential reading for students of military strategy and tactics.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

An astute military historian's mildly contrarian appraisal of what separates the sheep from the wolves in the great game of war. Arguing that von Clausewitz's thoughts about the bloody solution of battle have been misread over the years, Alexander (Lost Victories, 1992, etc.) asserts that the principal purpose of armed conflict is to reduce the possibility of an enemy's resistance (a view the author shares with Sun Tzu). Alexander then ranges back and forth through time to identify and comment upon commanders who were able, in the words of Stonewall Jackson, to ``mystify, mislead, and surprise'' their foes. Among those who measure up are Scipio Africanus (who bested Hannibal); Napoleon (who, in 1797, conquered northern Italy through innovative techniques); Sherman (whose march to the sea broke the South's will during the Civil War); Subedai (whose Mongol hordes sacked Buda and Pest during the mid-13th century), and MacArthur (whose daring Inchon assault turned the tide of the Korean War). Covered as well are the bold WW I campaigns mounted by Allenby and Lawrence in the Middle East; Mao's defeat of the Kuomintang; and the nervy genius of three top generals whose misfortune it was to serve Nazi Germany--Guderian, Rommel, and von Manstein. A merciless critic of annihilative, brute-force engagements (of the sort he witnessed as a US Army officer in Korea), Alexander makes a persuasive case for great captains who achieve their strategic ends via maneuver, stealth, guile, or a willingness to defy conventional wisdom. The author's analysis suggests that the doctrines that guide professional soldiers (be they Roman legionnaires or Norman Schwarzkopfs) have remained notably constant for more than two millennia. Informed opinions on the martial arts that draw provocative distinctions between victors and winners. (Maps--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323160
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The choice of Generals to review did span much of recorded history, but huge chunks of history were missed. The first third of the book covers only 3 generals in all of recorded history up to 1800. Then the rest of the book (disporportionaly) covers the last 200 years. The review of campaigns was interesting, but some maps showed the flow of battles and others seemed to just be filler. The final two chapters on Rommel and MacArthur were done in too much detail. It became a deluge of unit identifiers and was hard to follow. All the recounts prior to these last two included not just historical review of engagement, but included analysis of what made the generals great -- not the last two recounts. I completely missed why reviewing and repreatedly reminding the reader of MacArthur's grand failure made him a great General? Finally, why were no naval and aviation generals included? Perhaps the book should have been "How Some Great Generals Won Some Ground Wars".
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "benhai" on May 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Bevin Alexander's book may redefine the meaning of "great" commander for some of its readers. A lot of readers are in the same classroom as I when it comes to military history. I grew up accepting that the generals presented to me in history class were the best because my betters said they were. Especially,when it came to the Civil War. They don't cast bronzes of incompetents, right? Maybe, maybe not, but Mr. Alexander did a convincing job explaining why some of history's spotlights are on the wrong statues. A lack of military history won't prevent anyone from reading and enjoying his book. He will set the stage for each adventure and allow the reader to be swept along by the likes of Hannibal, Lawrence of Arabia and Erwin Rommel without loosing him. These stories are real, first class, adventures and that's how Mr. Alexander's book comes across.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Matthew G. Brist on April 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Alexander has written a nice overview of some of military history's best generals. His overall thesis was certainly proven well, and he chose those generals who best proved his point. I particularly liked the chapters on Hannibal/Scipio, Genghis Khan, Sherman, and Rommel. This work could have been a five star book; however, his chapter on MacArthur was where the book lost me. Militarily speaking Alexander continued as he had throughout the book, but his political overview of the Communist threat was almost as ridiculous as was Toland's in 'In Mortal Combat', which dealt with Korea. Hence I do concur with one of the other individuals who reviewed this work that his objectivity is lacking in his more modern chapters. Nonetheless, save for the last chapter, this was a good overview for someone starting to learn about miliraty history and strategy, or it is a nice refresher.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Richard La Fianza on December 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book takes the reader through time and history as the author describes why certain generals won, or lost their wars. In particular, the author tries to show how certain techniques or tactics used from Ancient Rome to Genghis Khan to Napoleon are still applicable today in the modern world. Indeed, when these tactics are not used, in Korean for example, the author reveals how he feels the generals have let down their men; and their country.
As a primer, this book is good. The author has a good grasp on basic tactics and very interesting facts about history. For example, when fighting armies who have elephants, the Romans had bells with them which they would shake, scarring the beasts and making them useless for the battle.
As I said, overall this book, as a basic guide, is very good. It is not for those who have a solid background in this area already. For me, though, it was very interesting. I particularlly like the earlier chapters. In my view, as the booked came closer to present times, the author's emotions and personal feelings made him less objective. This took away somewhat, from his conclusions but, overall, the book was still a fun read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Kratz on December 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the best written compilation of short histories of many pivotal battles in world history that I have ever read. The chapters on the Civil War and Hannibal are outstanding. I appreciated the maps with each chapter, but many geographic points the author thought were important enough to put in the narrative were not put on the maps, such as Sherman's multiple column routes through the Southern states (some shaded or dotted map arrows would have added to the story).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sahra Badou on July 24, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the first book I read on war strategies. It is really a fascinating read, and in a way reads like a thriller. The battlefield is like a chess game, with opponents trying to outsmart and deceive each other. The book offers the reader a fascinating journey through the minds of some of the most famous generals in history. Readers will be introduced to the strategies of Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, William Tecumesh Sherman, T. E. Lawrence, Sir Edmund Allenby, Mao Zedong, Heinz Guderian, Erich von Manstein, Erwin Rommel, and Douglas MacArthur.

The author points out the exceptional as well as the bad choices that generals make. The reader will learn many war strategies which are fascinating to say the very least. For example, when fighting armies with elephants, the Romans shook bells, scarring the elephants and making them useless for battle.

Generals can succeed in one war but utterly fail in another. MacArthur is referred to by the author as the Jekyll and Hyde. In the Pacific theatre, MacArthur gained fame as an invincible general. However, during the Korean War, he made one mistake after another, and exposed his armies to unnecessary danger. Despite his tactical disasters during the Korean War, his fame and legend led the Truman administration to approve his disastrous strategies (as a footnote, many historians note that the United States has not won a single war since World War II!).

Deception is the main key to victory. Hannibal took his army through the formidable swamps of the Arnus River in Tuscany in 217 B.C. rather than face the Roman army directly. Not expecting such a move, the Romans left the route open, permitting Hannibal to emerge behind the Roman army with a clear road to Rome.
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