Exhaustive, highly readable study of Ike the soldier, from his modest Kansas origins through V-E Day.
Descended from a long line of religious pacifists, Dwight D. Eisenhower was to end his political career by decrying the “military-industrial complex.” Yet, retired US Army officer and military historian D'Este (Patton: A Genius for War, 1993) points out, although he was president of the US, Eisenhower “would have been elated merely to be remembered as a soldier.” Thus, D'Este limits his treatment to Ike's military accomplishments. The first was graduating in the class of 1915 at West Point, where his indifference to discipline won him many demerits. After WWI, which he sat out as a trainer of the infant Tank Corps, Eisenhower distinguished himself in staff assignments, through associations with key officers who aided his climb up the Army ladder. D'Este portrays his subject as a complex personality, beneath whose sunny smile and easygoing manner lay ruthless ambition and a first-rate intelligence. After an important stint in 1925 at the Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Eisenhower commenced a career as a high-level staff officer, mostly engaged in turbulent service stateside and in the Philippines to the imperious, histrionic Douglas MacArthur. After WWII began, Eisenhower's mastery of the problems of industrial mobilization endeared him to George Marshall and won him assignments as strategic planner for the Mediterranean campaigns. The bulk of D'Este's account is devoted to Ike's masterful command of the Allied effort in Europe, which entailed brilliant diplomacy as much as military acumen. The biographer not only conveys the strategic problems Eisenhower faced, but shows how the general’s personal qualities—his unpretentiousness, single-minded dedication to the task, and sensitivity to the difficulty of forging unity between two proud allies who were often mistrustful of each other—ultimately drove the Allied war machine to victory.
An absorbing portrait of the growth of Eisenhower the man and a fine analysis of the accomplishments of Eisenhower the general.