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The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost - From Ancient Greece to Iraq Hardcover – May 14, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Business has its turnaround artists; so does warfare. Classical historian Hanson presents five generals who retrieved wars from defeat, three Americans (William Sherman, Matthew Ridgway, and David Petraeus) and two from ancient history (Themistocles of Battle of Salamis fame and Belisarius, briefly the restorer in the 500s of the Roman Empire). As a group, they exhibit commonalities that Hanson develops through the specific situations they confronted. In each case, despondency descended on wars going wrong, and dispelling it as much as a strategic change of course lay behind these generals’ successes. Each one, Hanson argues, was a good communicator, up the line to their leaders, down the line to their soldiers, and more widely to civilians. Dispelling hopelessness by rejustification of a cause, explaining plans to redeem it, and restoring morale, they were, in Hanson’s view, contrarians who naturally irritated political interests with their repudiations of preceding failures of strategy. Ingratitude was usually these generals’ reward; after their rescue operations, most were shunted aside. Students of military leadership will be intrigued by Hanson’s astute set of cases. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

“Mr. Hanson's fluency with a broad range of historical epochs, which has made him one of his generation's most notable historians, is on full display in ‘The Savior Generals.'” ―Mark Moyar, Wall Street Journal

“It is not really news that Victor Davis Hanson has written another outstanding and eye-opening book. He has done that before and repeatedly, on a variety of subjects.” ―Washington Examiner

“An instructive series of portraits of five military outsiders called in to turn defeat into victory.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“An engaging book in which the action on the battlefield is placed within a larger perspective of the politics and the societies that go to war, and the qualities of the generals who fight those battles.” ―John E. McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun

“Students of military leadership will be intrigued by Hanson's astute set of cases.” ―Booklist

“Great summer reading…In The Savior Generals, credit is given where it's due.” ―Weekly Standard

“Provides widely applicable insight regarding the dynamics of leadership and consensus, and how those dynamics can change the destiny of nations.” ―Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Victor Davis Hanson has written another good book for a wide variety of audiences.” ―New York Journal of Books

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1st Printing edition (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160819163X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608191635
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #442,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
VDH is one of the great historians of his generation.

He won the Presidential Humanities Award in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008 but neither is mentioned on the book jacket. VDH is humble just like the subjects of his book.

More impressive than the volume of his output (he writes multiple columns per week) is the breadth and depth of his knowledge and analysis.

To my mind, the real challenge of any military historian is not getting bogged down in too many details but still giving the reader enough details. VDH excels there.

The generals selected by VDH were the right choices. The all had some common characteristics that were true over the centuries. Most interesting to me was General Ridgeway as I (probably like most Americans) knew nothing about him. He inherited a dire situation in Korea and turned it around in 100 days. Think about that for a second. No South Korea and the Kim family running the whole show for a bigger populace. An entirely different consumer electronics industry throughout Asia. What does the auto industry look like without a South Korea?

"Uncle Billy" Sherman is widely misunderstood and under appreciated. The South could more or less stomach the death and injury, but when the property of the plantation owners was destroyed; well, that's something entirely diffferent. Burning Atlanta destroyed the transportation hub and the march to the sea destroyed the South's will to win.

And consider this VDH item: Lincoln well could have lost the electoral college vote but for Sherman's capturing Atlanta. If Lincoln lost the election, we'd have two (or maybe four) republics instead of one United States.

The concluding chapter is great.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is another outstanding work from a major contemporary historian. The concept behind "Savior Generals" is that although in most cases logistics, technology, numbers or training will be decisive in war, there are those rare occasions where generalship is so decisive, that the general becomes the "savior" of not just the battle, but of the state or civilization; something often forgotten in the post-modern world. Some examples of this, not covered in the book are Cortez, or Giap,. Hanson rather covers the "...generals who in extremis rescue rather than started or finished a war." Interestingly, these leaders are often denigrated after their victories and tossed on the "dust-heap" of history, as circumstances change. Note the selections below, and consider their long term fates; ranging from mere opprobrium, fabricated scandals and internal "exile" or being ignored and forgotten; to poverty or in some cases trial and foreign exile.

The generals discussed are: Themistocles, Belisarius, Sherman, Ridgway and Petraeus. No one can fault Hanson's choices for not being interesting; they are refreshing and challenging. Oddly, considering at least one of the above, Hanson says that he has limited his choices to those who are from societies that are at least in some ways consensual. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating work with great insights. The footnotes, often with excellent bibliographical references are outstanding
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Format: Hardcover
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...The author has impressive credentials... he has written many books that set the standard. But something happened here. The problem isn't that he left out Patton (he has covered Patton elsewhere and while he turned around a front, he did not turn around a war.) The choice of Sherman is not a problem... Sherman doubtless saved the Union from throwing in the towel.

...No, the problem is that in the piece on Ridgway there are many errors that should not have been made by anybody who has read at least one history of the Korean War. Why these errors made it into print baffles me.

...The author (as observed in another review) includes Eisenhower as a four star general in a group... then specifically lists MacArthur as only having four. Worse, he lists Ned Almond as a "Marine General..." Anybody who has read anything about the Inchon-Chosin Reservoir period knows that he was an Army General who had a single Marine divison attached to his Corps command. There was bad blood, and calling Almond a "Marine General" would be like calling Bin Laden an "Israeli..." None of the parties would have been able to stomach it.

...The author implies that Almond's Corps was a Marine organization. He wildly asserts that the lack of communication and coordination between X Corps and Eighth Army was because of Marine/Army differences. This is the kind of mistake that one would expect of a college freshman. How could this happen?

...There are supposed to be safeguards to prevent something like this from happening. The publisher is not only supposed to have the work checked for highly improbable grammar and syntax, but read by somebody with at least a basic grounding in the field to catch "howlers..." Did this not happen?

...
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this new work by VDH. It continues his method of case studies to make his central point about the nature of warfare in consensual societies. These types of societies produce tendencies in warfare and the production of savior generals is just another example. His case study method is an excellent way to make these broad arguments. If you've read his other works on war you will notice this method. This leaves him open to the quibbling of those who don't agree with his choices. I prefer to see the forest and not just the trees in his work.
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