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The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower Paperback – November 1, 1999
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From the Inside Flap
The story of Ike in his finest hours as the Allies’ top strategist in WWII
Top customer reviews
Thus is a long read, and often, especially with the rather prosaic Ambrose style, quite dull. But don't let that put you off! Once you have slogged through the prologue and rather turgid Italian campaign - why were the allies in Italy? Answer: because they were in North Africa. Why were they in North Africa? Something about promising Stalin they would attack somewhere in 1943 - what a great reason! - you start to appreciate this long journey on into France with Patton, Bradley and Monty et al. Ambrose, Ike's official biographer, who met him personally near the end of his life, is about as pro his subject as it is possible to be. Perhaps Ike's steadiness rubbed off as Ambrose also manages to give most of the Allied commanders a fair shake (or benefit of the doubt, if you like). So, little intrigue, a long, complex campaign - if you aren't a huge fan of Ike, and I wasn't right off the bat, you will come away with a certain appreciation of his talents - perhaps he was indeed the right man for the job.
Many of Ike's compatriots questions his skills as a soldier but all are certainly of his positive human skills at bonding a diverse group to attain the goal of defeating the enemy, in this Ambrose describes well. And from this experience at war time an outstanding president is groomed. I think Ambroses' "Eisenhower: A soldier and President" will have to be my next purchase.
One point I'm a bit disappointed is the fact that Ambrose does not spend much time dealing with Ike's rols in the debacle of Hurtgen Forest, the problems with Repple Depple, and the problems with the problems caused by Segragation in the Army, several of the areas that Ambrose had detailed discussions on in "Citizen Soldiers". But all in all, an excellent read.
Why was an American placed in charge of this huge multi-national force based mostly in England to wrest the continent away from the Germans? After all, the British had been fighting the Germans for more than 2 years before America entered the war. The simple answer was Churchill acquiesced because America would supply the bulk of the men and material to process the war but did so against the wishes of his own senior military commanders who considered the Americans to be brash and overreaching. The key to making this work was for the Americans to appoint a unifier; a leader and a diplomat-warrior to effectively head up the coalition and keep it together. Eisenhower was judged correctly to be such a leader.
While not the cleverest tactician or most daring commander (Eisenhower never personally led men in battle), he was best suited for the job of Supreme Commander by virtue of his grasp of the big picture. He not only had to review and approve all of the battle plans, he had to spend enormous amounts of time conferring with Prime Minister Churchill, ameliorating the sensibilities of his British staff (almost all of his "second in commands" were British) and the bruised egos of his American subordinates.
He performed this delicate balancing act with grace and humility. D-Day was such a pivotal event that he prepared a letter assuming personal responsibility should the endeavor fail. The fact that it succeeded was due in no small part to his considerable efforts as The Supreme Commander.
John E. Nevola
Author of The Last Jump - A Novel of World War II