From Parameters, Spring 2003, pp. 145-62.
General Patton: A Soldiers Life. By Stanley P. Hirshson. New York: HarperCollins. 826 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Martin Blumenson, author of The Patton Papers and other works, including the recently published Heroes Never Die.
There is much to admire in Stanley P. Hirshsons biography of George Smith Patton, Jr. His style, always lucid and direct, is livelywhat else could it be with a subject so colorful and controversial?and his study of Patton is easy to read. Also admirable is Dr. Hirshsons research. A history professor at Queens College in New York City, he has consulted a good many sources, and his proud account of his prodigious travels in search of knowledge is impressive.
As a consequence, his story of the early Patton is detailed and sharp. He has all the Virginians and Californians, the cousins and the connections, down pat. He describes Pattons childhood, youth, and middle age fairly well. His essay on the movie and the books after Pattons death is excellent.
Dr. Hirshson has written a civilians appraisal of Patton, however, and he stumbles when he comes to World War II. What is missing from his examination of Pattons life is the perception of certain inner realities that comes when one is familiar with the customs, habits, ethos, and lore of a particular profession, in this case, the military. Many of these values are nuanced and difficult to document. Yet they are nevertheless true.
To overcome this deficiency, Dr. Hirshson has relied on others, among them Bradford Chynoweth, S. L. A. Marshall, John S. Wood, and more. This reviewer was amazed by the number of reminiscences and recollections in the footnotes, many rendered quite a few years after the events. As anyone who has performed historical interviewing can attest, memories are forgetful, play tricks, and lead listeners astray.
Specifically, Hirshsons nonmilitary focus mistakes the intent of some of Pattons talks to the troops. He starts his narrative with the killing of prisoners of war in Sicily, apparently the result of Pattons language. To begin this way is manifestly unfair. No one endorses atrocities, yet they occur in wartime. To blame Pattons inciting words is to be unaware of the tough and brutal leadership required to overcome the defenders of Nazism and the Holocaust.
Inspiring hatred against the enemy was Pattons message on the battlefield, and it worked, not only in Sicily, but also in North Africa and Europe. It is perfectly right and just that Pattons Third Army was the first to overrun and uncover at Ohrdruf the horrors of the concentration camps.
Contrary to Hirshsons view of Sicily as a minor campaign of the war, Sicily was of prime importance. Many British officers after the disastrous American defeat during the Kasserine Pass battle believed US troops to be second-rate fighters. Thus, Sir Harold Alexander, the Allied ground commander in Sicily, assigned Patton and his Seventh Army the insulting role of protecting Sir Bernard L. Montgomerys flank and rear as he drove to Messina, the only strategic objective of note.
Patton was determined to prove the British wrong. Thats why he drove so ruthlessly first to Palermo (not to split the island as Hirshson says, but to obtain a port for logistical support), then to Messina. It explains why he wanted so desperately to reach Messina ahead of Montgomery. Thats why he ordered the small amphibious operations. Thats what Bradley and Truscottand incidentally Hirshsonfailed to understand. From then to the end of the war, there was no talk of Americans being inferior fighting forces. And that was Pattons achievement.
Hirshson makes no effort to understand why Patton slapped two different soldiers in two different hospitals a week apart. The question hangs. Was Patton out of his mind? Somewhat nuts? General H. Essame has provided the most plausible reason for Pattons actions. Patton, Essame says, was simply frustrated, unable to dominate the battlefield, unable to prevent the enemy from withdrawing into the northeastern corner of the island, then ferrying substantial numbers of troops and equipment to safety on the Italian mainland. The Allied inability to prevent the massive Axis evacuation, Patton knew, would prolong the war. And that bothered him deeply.
It was the slapping incidents that promoted Bradley, Pattons immediate subordinate in Sicily, to become his immediate superior in Europe. Hirshson seems hardly aware of the humiliation thus imposed on Patton.
In England when Patton was preparing his Third Army for combat, his location was supposed to be an Allied secret. After every public talk, Patton told his audience that he was a myth, he was incognito, he wasnt there, they didnt see him. Yet when his innocuous words in Knutsford were suddenly revealed in a British newspaper, he was again close to being fired, relieved of his command. I was told confidentially that British intelligence, in charge of managing the great pre-invasion deception, was responsible for the publication. They wanted the Germans to be sure to know that Patton was in the United Kingdom and commanding the nonexistent army group that was apparently planning to invade the Pas de Calais area.
As a result of the slapping and Knutsford, although Hirshson says nothing, Patton was in the doghouse in Normandy. He had the impression that Eisenhower and Bradley were searching for a reason to get rid of him. He was especially careful to keep from upsetting his bosses. As a consequence, he felt unable to defend John S. Wood, who thought the Allies were winning the war the wrong way and who wanted to take his 4th Armored Division eastward toward Paris rather than westward to a dead end.
Patton was later unwilling to press more forcefully for closing the Falaise gap. He was restrained from cutting the Bulge at its base. Throughout the European campaigning, he was held back from practicing his concept of mobility and daring. It is a wonder that Patton accomplished so much.
Finally, Dr. Hirshsons book, in my opinion, is anti-Patton. It is pro-Eisenhower and pro-Bradley. They are always right. They are even-tempered, rational, civilized. Patton is always wrong. He swears and he rages and he rocks the boat, even though he is, according to Eisenhower, indispensable for Allied victory. I sometimes believe that the charisma and publicity Patton generated simply by being, that is, without conscious effort, frightened his superiors. They were unable to compete with him in this area, and so were wary of him. And Hirshson projects their point of view.
Those who admire Patton as a genius in war, as the outstanding battle commander of the struggle, as the soldier who did most to shorten the conflict, will be disappointed in Dr. Hirshsons presentation.
Lincolns Virtues: An Ethical Biography. By William Lee Miller. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. 515 pages. $30.00. Reviewed by Russell F. Weigley, author of A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865.
Abraham Lincoln won the presidency of the United States because of his moral values. There were other factors, but his moral principles were decisive. In the election of 1860 the schism in the Democratic Party nearly assured that any Republican candidate who did not divide his own party would reach the White House. In these circumstances, Lincoln attained the Republican nomination in large part because he seemed a less divisive candidate than Senator William H. Seward of New York, a conservative whom many thought to be more radical than he was, so that he took criticism from both sides, or than Senator Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, a genuine radical on slavery. Lincoln also won the nomination partly because of superficial factors: his friends had arranged to hold the national nominating convention in Chicago, in his home state of Illinois, where the galleries would be friendly and indeed the hall could be packed with his supporters carrying counterfeit tickets. But what decisively propelled Lincoln to the nomination over other nondivisive but merely available contenders, such as Senator Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania and the attorney Edward Bates of Missouri, was his establishing himself, particularly during his debates with Senator Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, as the most steadfast major Republican opponent of slavery. As such (and notwithstanding the moral awkwardness of packing the convention hall), Lincoln appealed more than any of the other contenders to the deep well of moral outrage against the Kansas-Nebraska Act that had given birth to the Republican Party in the first place.
So argues William Lee Miller, a student of ethics and morality, and currently the Miller Center of Public Affairs Scholar at the University of Virginia. His book is not a conventional biography but a study of the evolution of the principled morality that Miller believes carried Lincoln to the presidency. Except for an appendix, Reflections on Two War Presidents, contrasting Lincolns ability to infuse the Union cause in the Civil War with a sense of moral purpose with James K. Polks failure to do any such thing in the Mexican War, Miller deals only indirectly with Lincoln as President and ends his study with the journey from Springfield to Washington for the presidential inauguration.
Lincoln was a man of moral purpose who never allowed himself to become self-righteous about his morality. When he was a young politician he sometimes indulged in sarcasm and even occasional cruelty toward his opponents, but never from any sanctimonious claim to be a better man than they. He did not use alcoholic beverages and from early on was a temperance advocate, but he never portrayed himself as morally superior to those who drank; rather, he conceded that drinkers often had virtues that tee-totalers did not so much display, such as warmth, generosity, and outgoingness. Similarly, as he took up moral opposition to slavery, he did not claim that Northerners in the nonslaveholding states were morally superior to Southerners. Instead, he emphasized that except for a few, Southerners would not initiate slavery if they had the ability to start again, and that if slavery had been in their midst, Northerners would not have known better than Southerners what to do about it. The moral wrong was in the act of excessive drinking or in the institution of holding fellow human beings in bondage; it was not an evil intrinsic to the character of the drunkard or the slaveholder.
To Miller the ethicist, this absence of sanctimony and self-righteousness sets Lincoln apart in a crucial way from many other champions of righteous causes. Lincolns recognition that if Northerners were surrounded by slavery they would support it just as Southerners did, that he and his fellow Northerners were not personally morally superior, is a very hard doctrine for human beings generally, especially for those in the grip of some excellence, and in particular moral excellence. When we strive for some great good, or oppose some great evil, it is extremely difficult not to spill out some of the goodness onto ourselves, and the evil onto our opponents, creating a deep personal moral gulf.
Later Miller writes, The moralizer is notoriously prone to the vices of distortion and self-righteousness. Especially in America, with its inheritance of the Protestant ethic and the Enlightenment, with its consequent drive toward perfection, it has always been hard for the champions of moral causes, like opposition to supposedly immoral wars as well as opposition to slavery or racism, to avoid branding those who disagree with them as evil. Lincoln recognized, however, that such self-righteousness is first of all inexpedient, because those who disagree with us will not listen to us if we simply denounce them as wicked; and more than that, self-righteousness is itself immoral, because it fails to take into account our own propensity toward error and the complexity of moral choice.
Miller perceives that there is a connection between Lincolns unwillingness to denounce his opponents as evil and the currently vexed question of whether Lincoln was a racist and therefore unworthy of our usual adulation as the Great Emancipator. Lincolns abhorrence of self-righteousness prevented him from ever allowing too wide a gulf to separate him from the general public opinion of his day. Besides that, he was a politician, and no one in his day aspiring to political office in Illinoisit was probably, with the large Southern migration into its lower counties, the most racist of the Northern statescould have hoped to win anything if he had expressed 21st-century ideas of racial equality. So Lincoln is indeed open to the scorn of those who denigrate him because he made the ethical mistake of living in the 19th century, though they might do well to remind themselves that otherwise neither he nor anybody else in his time could have abolished slavery, the first indispensable step toward racial equality in the United States.
Miller also reminds us that Lincoln continually moved forward in his thinking about racial equality, so that toward the end of his life he probably came about as close to our own eras ideas on the subject as was possible for any white person of his time. Saying that has become a cliché for Lincoln apologists like Miller or this reviewer, but it is nevertheless true. Moreover, Lincolns habitual moral detestation of slavery was rooted in an egalitarianism at least strong enough for him always to condemn the subjugation of one human being by another, and that moral principle brought Lincoln out of political retirement upon the passage of what he considered the iniquitous Kansas-Nebraska Act, and then led him to the office from which he could free the slaves.
This moral study of a lawyer and politician is not irrelevant to the professional military readers of Parameters. Certainly the wielding of military force poses plenty of moral conundrums, and reflecting upon the wise and unsanctimonious Lincoln can help provide guidance for dealing with such puzzles, and for coping with the self-righteous people who will always consider any use of force to be wrong.
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. By Daniel Ellsberg. New York: Viking Press, 2002. 498 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, D.C.
Whether the reader admires or despises him, this book by Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times 30 years ago, belongs on any short shelf of volumes about Vietnam. The author has provided what is certain to be an epic firsthand account of a critical episode in that acutely divisive era.
Ellsberg, who fought as a Marine in Vietnam and was then a researcher at the RAND think tank, tells an intriguing tale of smuggling copies of the 7,000-page secret study out of his office, surreptitiously copying them, and flogging them to several Senators before they saw the light of day in The Times. It is a suspense story that could have come from the pen of John Le Carre.
In doing so, Ellsberg triggered a controversy that shook the land. President Nixon and his senior aides contended that Ellsberg had committed treason and got an injunction that forced The Times to stop the presses. The Supreme Court voted (6-3) that publication of the papers had not caused a clear and present danger and permitted The Times and other newspapers to resume publishing.
Once that happened, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started an intensive search for Ellsberg, who eluded capture by flitting from hotel to hotel and homes of friends. After more than two weeks, he surrendered and was put on trial in an effort to discredit him and to deter others who might be tempted to leak government secrets. After 80 days, the judge threw the case out on grounds of serious government misconduct, including breaking into the office of Ellsbergs psychiatrist to filch his medical records.
For years, critics of Ellsberg have argued that he was a traitor, and admirers have asserted he was a patriot, and this book is not likely to settle the argument as it gives ammunition to both sides. Much of it is a good read, but it suffers from a lack of editing as the author is allowed to wander off into theories of nuclear war, passages about Vietnam that are not pertinent, and self-serving ruminations about his motives. Nonetheless, any serious student of the agonizing experience of Vietnam should read this apologia, in the classic sense of justification.
The Pentagon study, which had been ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, comprised 47 volumes of memoranda, intelligence analyses, cables between Washington and Saigon, marching orders, and other raw materials. To Ellsberg, they proved that several administrations, especially that of President Lyndon Johnson, had repeatedly lied to the American people.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Ellsbergs narrative is his friendship with an Indian woman named Janaki Natarajan, a fervent devotee to the nonviolent principles of Mahatma Gandhi. They met during an antiwar conference at Princeton University in April 1968; eventually, Ellsberg says, she became one of four people who had the greatest intellectual and moral influence on him as he journeyed toward his catalytic role in opposing the war. The others were Randy Kehler, head of the War Resisters League; Morton Halperin, who served in the Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton Administrations in national security positions; and Tran Ngoc Chau, a lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese army.
At Princeton, Ellsberg overheard Janaki say, I come from a culture in which there is no concept of enemy. Ellsberg swung his attention to her: What do you mean by that? She replied briefly, and they made a date for breakfast the next morning. For two days, they skipped most of the conference as Janaki expounded on Gandhis teachings.
Janaki gave Ellsberg a list of books about resistance to the war, which he read over the next year. She visited him in California, where he worked for RAND, and they spent a few days together in London. She had made a profound impression on me, Ellsberg writes. I could say she was a hero of mine.
Even so, Ellsberg was not immediately converted. Then, in August 1969, Janaki invited him to an antiwar conference at Haverford College, the Quaker school outside of Philadelphia, where Ellsberg appears to have had an epiphany. At the end of the four-day meeting, he says, I realized I had the power and the freedom to act the same way as the antiwar activists.
A month later, Ellsberg began stuffing several volumes into his briefcase and walking past the guards at RANDs doorway who gave him a cheery, Good night, Dan. He drove to a small advertising agency where he began to copy what would become the Pentagon Papers. Over the ensuing months, Ellsberg was nearly discovered by cops responding to burglar alarms, copy-shop people who might have seen the Top Secret markings, and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had heard rumors of his activities.
Contrary to a widespread assumption, Ellsberg did not give the papers to The Times at first. Rather, he sought to have them released by critics of the war such as Senators J. William Fulbright, Gaylord Nelson, George McGovern, and Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. All turned him down because, as Fulbright told him, they feared retribution by the Administration.
Finally, Ellsberg approached Neil Sheehan of The Times, and in June 1971 The Times published extensive excerpts and commentaries on the documents. The rest, as the cliché would have it, is history.
Billy Mitchell. By James J. Cooke. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2002. 305 pages. $49.95. Reviewed by Dr. Douglas V. Johnson II (LTC, USA Ret.), a Research Professor with the Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
I have never been a fan of Billy Mitchell. Most previous biographies have reinforced my distaste, although the adoring style has generally been more the cause than the actual story. Wearing my prejudices on my sleeve, I commend this latest work on a very complex and difficult man. James Cooke has done an excellent job of portraying the foibles, strengths, and failings of the first American prophet for airpower in a most evenhanded fashion.
In todays parlance, Mitchell had a seriously dysfunctional childhood. That information isnt particularly new, but Cooke does an excellent job of tracing the legacy of that early period throughout Mitchells life. The story begins with dysfunctional grandparents and extends itself to Mitchells life in an unbroken line that will make students of social services work nod knowingly. Mitchell fathers three children and then abandons and alienates them to the extent that none attend his funeral. It must have been seen as tragic in
his dayunfortunately not necessarily so today. The tale of a self-absorbed, bright man failing utterly in the management of his personal finances is likewise not new, but is compellingly told in nagging detaileffectively naggingmaking the impact upon the man palpable to the reader.
One of the strongest points of this book is the portrayal of Mitchells early commitment to air support for the ground battle. While this again is nothing new per se, Cooke recounts in broad strokes the importance of Mitchells actions on behalf of that concept as well as his immense frustration at the constraints placed upon him. All of these events were aggravated by Pershings unwillingness to elevate Mitchell to command of the entire air effort. In the aftermath of the war, Cooke traces Mitchells gradual abandonment of what we know today as close air support for a growing belief in the exaggerated capability of airpower to do it all, even at the strategic level. The timeliness of this publication, as the advocates of airpower once again have seized center stage, is serendipitous, and is in keeping with the authors work at Air University a few years ago.
This story also highlights the command style that dominated the American Expeditionary Forces. It illustrates how fundamentally that style served to alienate Mitchell, whose previous brilliant performance as a signal officer had emerged in a much more open environment. The Pershing style was rigid adherence to narrow norms and total support to the command team regardless of the appropriateness of such behavior relative to mission accomplishment. Mitchell, having won his mark as an innovator and effective free agent, felt progressively hemmed in by the environment that this extraordinarily low level of professionalism demanded. Partly trained or untrained units and leaders were not trusted to operate independently, and Pershing and his staff opted to enforce rather rigid behavior patterns on almost everyone. The only way to gain and maintain flexibility of action was to become a team playersomething Mitchell was incapable of doing. Regrettably, this behavior, which Cooke carefully links to Mitchells childhood, crippled Mitchells prospects for success until he had become essentially irrelevant.
The story of the trial is effectively told with balance and compelling effect. The author deftly portrays Mitchells cavalier attitude toward the proceedings and his consequent massacre at the hands of an able prosecutor. Cooke does an excellent job of presenting the issue of evidence of plagiarism of significant portions of Mitchells tour de force, Winged Victory, from a naval officers work. The issue of interservice rivalry flows deftly from this rather secondary point, but in the process Cooke highlights the Navys conversion to airpower as part of a seaborne combined-arms team at a time when Mitchell had cast the combined-arms concept aside.
Throughout the book the reader is struck by an interesting paradoxall of Mitchells superiors see a great deal of potential in him and give him enormous latitude. It is not clear that Mitchell ever understands or appreciates the degree of freedom he is given, but it is clear that he rapidly comes to expect it. Then, having failed to rein him in at critical junctures, his superiors fail to counsel him and simply shift him about from job to job, evidently hoping he will get the message that he is about to cross the line. When he does cross that line of insubordination, it appears to be a simple extension of the all-too-familiar and too-long-tolerated adolescent behavior.
This book relies heavily on magazine articles to capture the flavor of the public side of the debates over airpower. That turns out to be a rather effective device, because it presents Mitchells sometimes more refined thoughts. Cooke relies on the
transcribed record of the trial for that episode. Then, like many researchers, he recounts how he simply stumbled into the collection of Mitchell family correspondence that so richly flavors his book. Without access to the family letters, one would never know the extent of the split between Mitchell and his father or of the very close and supportingparticularly financially supportingrole his mother played through much of his life. In this regard, it would be useful to read another relatively new book, First Mothers, a collection of the mothers of several Presidents of the United States. All in all this is an immensely readable book and the most balance portrayal of Mitchell I have seen to date.
Xenophons March: Into the Lair of the Persian Lion. By John Prevas. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002. 225 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
The march through much of ancient Persia by 10,000 Greek mercenaries in support of the pretender Cyrus the Younger and their fighting retreat to Greece after the defeat of their employer is one of the most familiar tales from the ancient world. The young Athenian Xenophon, who joined the expedition as a staff member of a friend and rose to be one of its primary commanders during the retreat, wrote an eloquent and detailed account of the expedition that is one of the major surviving primary sources in all of ancient military history. Surprisingly, the academic world is not awash in quality translations of Xenophons Anabasis (much less his secondary but equally valuable works). However, this book does not address that issueit is not a translation of Anabasis. What John Prevas has done with Xenophons March: Into the Lair of the Persian Lion is provide an interesting, readable, and reliable interpretation of Anabasis with the added twist of some modern analysis of the terrain Xenophons army traversed.
Prevas leans heavily on Xenophonas one must expect, since he is the exclusive available sourceciting seven primary manuscripts or fragments from various periods and a slew of mainly 18th- and 19th-century translations. What he adds to this familiar tale is the benefit of having personally traveled the routeas best as that can be reconstructedand visited the places he describes. This is an interesting technique for recounting marches (Prevass earlier book was about Hannibals march over the Alps), but one must hasten to point out that Xenophons March is neither a travel guide nor a travelogue. One gets the benefit of descriptions of terrain by a firsthand observer without either the how-to-get-there details or the story of the local inhabitants that characterizes those genres. The story, not the travel aspect of the book, is its primary value.
Prevas has a lucid style that gives vivid insight into warfare in the period around 390 B.C.E. One senses the frustration of leading free-spirited Greek soldiers who wanted to be consulted on and even vote on every issuetactical, strategic, or administrative. One senses too the logistical difficulties of a large force moving through hostile territory in the face of active opposition and the symbiotic economic relationship between an ancient army and the local populace.
The mercenaries invariably solved their logistics problems by sanctioned looting unless the local population was especially friendly or ethnically Greek. In those cases, the soldiers ventured further afield to loot (presumably the villages of an enemy of their hosts). The frequent need for the Greek mercenaries to divest themselves of ac-
cumulated wealthespecially slavesto facilitate mobility through particularly difficult stages of the journey and their hesitance to do an especially thorough job of that task reflect directly the economics of the period. If their employer would not or could not provide cash, they simply pillaged the closest available town. Since the disposable wealth of the typical village in the heart of ancient Persia (or anywhere else) was limited, the residents themselves became the primary loot.
One sees even more clearly the superiority of the disciplined Greek infantry over any force the Persians could throw against them. One of the principal contemporary results of the journey of the 10,000 was the recognition that the vaunted Persian empire was actually hollow, and that the Greeks could prevail on almost any battlefield. The loss at Cunaxa (394 B.C.E.) was attributable to Cyrus and his Persian units and not to the performance of the Greek mercenaries, who had actually swept the field before them. Alexander of Macedon would exploit that information not long after Xenophons death.
One also gets a vivid picture of the horror with which the mainland Greek city-states greeted the return of the marauding adventurers. It is easy to sympathize with their hesitance to allow a large, armed, trained, and disciplined forcewhich had existed for years by pillagingto mosey around Greece with no visible means of support. In a sense, Xenophon illustrates all the advantages and disadvantages of mercenary armiesboth ancient and modern.
The story of Xenophons 10,000 is undeniably a great tale that is still of interest to the modern soldier. John Prevas does a good job of telling it. The expert on ancient warfare should read Xenophons March as the latest contribution on the subject. The novice should read it as an easy and enjoyable way to learn about this famous episode in ancient history.
Hell in the Hürtgen Forest: The Ordeal and Triumph of an American Infantry Regiment. by Robert Sterling Rush. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2001. 403 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. Samuel Newland (LTC, ARNG Ret.), Professor, Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.
Between the Allied triumph of establishing a lodgment on the Normandy Coast and the American victory in the largest campaign fought by the Allied Army in Europe during World War II, the Ardennes, there are numerous episodes of US military operations that historians have not adequately analyzed. Among such neglected episodes is the bitter fighting that occurred in the last four months of 1944 in the green hell of the Hürtgen Forest. The strategy, or lack thereof, and the human tragedy that unfolded as division after division was fed into this meat grinder has long intrigued students of the profession of arms. Regrettably, this intrigue has resulted in few incisive studies. It is therefore with considerable interest that Robert Rushs book was received.
The focus of Rushs book is the 22d Infantry Regiment, an element of the 4th Infantry Division, and its performance during an 18-day period beginning 16 November 1944. It appears that the reason for such a narrow focusonly one regiment rather than a divisionis the fact that the author was, for a period of time, the battalion Sergeant Major for the 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry, and is deservedly proud of the regiments accomplishments. To understand what happened in the Hürtgen and the status of the regiment
prior to the onset of the battle, the author did an impressive amount of research. He conducted a thorough analysis of the regiments official records and supplemented this work with an equally impressive number of interviews of participants.
In order to properly assess the regiments role in the forest campaign, the author first looks at the 22d Infantrys previous battle record and its replacement procedures from June through November 1944. Following the review of the 22ds record, the author examines the performance of the German units that tenaciously defended against the 22d, examining units at the battalion and below, and how they fought in the continuous and unrelenting combat. Given the books title, one would think that a considerable amount of the work would focus on the Hürtgen itself, but since the book covers only one regiment, less than half the pages are devoted to the actual fighting in the Hürtgen.
Rush follows the battle narrative with an enlightening analysis of organizational effectiveness and why men fight. He does this based on the data accumulated on the forces present on both sides of the line in this narrow area of the Hürtgen. The author challenges accepted theories of what contributes to unit cohesion and morale and what motivates men to fight. He also provides his own analysis of personnel replacement systems and how they support or inhibit units in maintaining their combat power. As Rush attempts to challenge traditional thinking regarding unit cohesion, he willingly and enthusiastically refutes previous studies of such issues by S. L. A. Marshall (Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War ) and Edward Shils and Morris Janowitz (Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War II), long accepted as gospel. The author finds that the 22d survived and triumphed in the miserable combat conditions that characterized the Hürtgen at least in part because of Army personnel practices which kept unit strengths remarkably high despite horrendous losses. This was in contrast to the German system, which focused on maintaining units until they were decimated by casualties and had to be pulled from the line for reconstitution.
Regrettably the author makes a number of questionable assertions throughout the book. First, he claims that the 22d fought and triumphed by defeating elements of five German divisions. This could be true only if one examines a very small section of the battlefield and measures success by the accomplishment of tactical objectives. Even so, if victory is measured by the capture of one small village (Grosshau), one wonders if the US Army could have long endured such victories. After all, based on Rushs own statistics, in the 18 days of fighting the regiment suffered some 2,805 casualties and managed to survive only because of the robust individual replacement system. That the regiment fought hard and bravely against a determined enemy, earning itself a well-deserved Distinguished Unit Citation, cannot be denied. Still, the Hürtgen was a bitter battle which produced few victories for the American Army, and this authors narrative does little to change that assessment.
As Rush begins to stray from the combat record of the 22d, he seems intent on drawing significant conclusions on why men fight, not just in the Hürtgen but in general. This leads to his analyses of factors contributing to morale and unit cohesion and as to what motivates soldiers when casualties mount. Thus, the direct challenge to Shils, Janowitz, and Marshall, whose studies asserted that it was the maintenance of the primary combat groupthe small unit composed of ones buddiesthat served as the prime motivator for men to fight. While many authorities have sharply criticized the US Armys individual replacement system, Rush finds it a good system because it focuses on the maintenance of unit strength and permits an organization to stay in the line even as
casualties mount. While the German system of building and training units, rather than individual replacements, has been admired by many writers since the end of World War II, Rush finds it wanting due mainly to its inability to maintain unit strength and allowing units to fight until they disappear.
In attempting to draw significant conclusions based on one small units experience in one battle, Rush falls into the same trap for which he criticizes S. L. A. Marshall. Rush takes Marshall to task for using what he terms the intense analysis of single actions in his studies. In essence, Rush does the same thing, attempting to draw too many conclusions based on a limited analysis.
In short, what could have been an insightful analysis of one regiments actions in the Hürtgen becomes a study challenging traditional wisdom without the necessary supporting data for either the German or American armies. It is a book that goes unnecessarily too far beyond the battle on which it should have stayed focused.
When We Were One, Stories of World War II. By W. C. Heinz. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002. 262 pages. $23.00. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.), a frequent Parameters reviewer and contributor and a combat infantryman in two wars.
W. C. Heinz (b. 1915) has enjoyed a full and successful writing career. It began as a war correspondent in World War II while he was still in his twenties and continued as he became a highly respected sportswriter who was inducted into the National Sports Broadcasting and Sportswriting Hall of Fame in 2001. Heinz has written for The New York Times, Life, Look, True, The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and Readers Digest. Among the ten books he has authored, coauthored, and edited are Run to Daylight (with football coach Vince Lombardi) and the novel MASH, under the pseudonym Richard Hooker (with H. Richard Hornberger, M.D.), which was the basis for the popular film and long-running television series of the same name.
His publisher says that Ernest Hemingway, whose sparse writing style was Heinzs model, called Heinzs The Professional the only good novel Ive read about a fighter. The same publisher says that novelist Elmore Leonard and writers Damon Runyon, Red Smith, and David Halberstam praised the writing of Heinz. The man is a skilled writer of brisk prose, and his kudos are many. So why, one asksother than exploitation of a current market receptive to World War II films and booksdid he produce the warmed-over yesterdays breakfast that is When We Were One?
The book consists of reprints of 23 dispatches written in 1944 and 1945 for the New York Sun, four previously published magazine articles, and an excerpt from one of the authors books. Topics include naval gunfire support of the infantry on D-Day, fighting as the Allies enter Germany, combat at the end of the war in Europe, and a few magazine pieces that essentially repeat the newspaper dispatches. For example, the first half of The Retreat from Mons, published in True in 1950, repeats the 4 September 1944 dispatch to his newspaper that is also reprinted in this book. There is nothing fresh here, nor is the book carefully edited. The author seems to have dropped out of sight in the late 1960s, after MASH, to reappear in 2002.
One suspects that publication of the odds and ends that constitute When We Were One was inspired by the commercial success of the film Saving Private Ryan and
the several World War II books of Stephen E. Ambrose, Tom Brokaws The Greatest Generation, Gerald F. Lindermans The World Within War, and Hampton Sides Ghost Soldiers. Perhaps public interest in war, an interest that ebbs and flows, has been stimulated also by the war on terrorism, the fighting in Afghanistan, headlines about American plans for regime change in Iraq, events in the Middle East, or films like Blackhawk Down and We Were Soldiers.
Your reviewer takes no exception to an author making a buck from the words he wrote in the past. One wishes, however, that the passage of time had tempted Heinz to reflect more deeply on the events he reported some 60 years ago and to synthesize them for readers coming to his theme for the first time in the 21st century. But, unfortunately, Heinz is not Paul Fussell, whose several reflections on specific wars and war in general demand our attention, nor is he up to the major contribution to students of war that Samuel Hynes gives us in The Soldiers Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War.
What one finds in When We Were One is not bad stuff. But it is rehashed reporting, not an attempt by a deep thinker to wring the essence of combat from twice-told tales. It seems to be an attempt to strike while the iron is hot, to capitalize on the current popular interest in war. Accompanying the terse prose, there is something of the dated chest-thumping, a Hemingwayesque machismo here that draws the readers attention to the writer rather than to the subject. To get what Heinz does rather well in a purer form, readers interested in the close observation of ground combat should return to Ernie Pyles deferential and admiring Brave Men and Here Is Your War. Thats the real stuff that features soldiers, not scribes.
The Normandy Campaign: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris. By Victor Brooks. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002. 288 pages. $26.00. Reviewed by Dr. James Jay Carafano (LTC, USA Ret.), a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University and the US Naval War College. His most recent book is Waltzing into the Cold War: The Struggle for Occupied Austria.
When the Allies finally broke the stalemate on the Normandy front in late July 1994, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight Eisenhower, told his senior American ground commander, General Omar Bradley, that he hoped they would be in Paris for his birthday. Wed take over the biggest hotel, Eisenhower declared, close it off to everyone else, and have the biggest party in the world until everyone got tight. The Supreme Commanders enthusiasm was justified. Success in Normandy made Germanys defeat inevitable. Hitlers hope of cracking the solidarity of the Alliance by throwing the American, British, Canadian, and Free French troops back into the sea was gone. There was little chance the Germans could keep Allied armies on two fronts at bay. Hitler may have had a bust of Frederick the Great in his office, but he would never duplicate the Prussian generals victories.
The story of Eisenhowers armies continues to hold the interest of military historians and professional warriors, as well it should. In virtually every aspect of warfare on land, sea, and air, there are subjects, despite a half century of scholarship, still worthy of analysis and debate. Victor Brookss aim in The Normandy Campaign: From
D-Day to the Liberation of Paris is to provide a succinct overview of the June to August battles across northern France. Brookss treatment touches on the key strategic, operational, and tactical elements of the campaign. Some engagements, such as the seizure of Merville Battery on D-Day, are spelled out in detail. Other battles and operations are briefly sketched, as are the backgrounds and actions of the senior commanders. Brooks attempts to give equal ink to the Germans, Americans, British, and Canadians. The French are largely absent, but then they showed up only late in the campaign. In the last chapter, the author muses on some historical what ifs and offers his own assessment of the senior Allied commanders.
In the preface, Brooks writes that this book was written to add a number of hopefully innovative and original perspectives to this decisive campaign. There is, however, nothing new or provocative in this account of the Normandy battles. Brooks claims that his chief insight is his total disagreement with the popularly scholarly notion that the Germans were overwhelmed by superior Allied technology and manufacturing capacity. This is all well enough. But the notion that the Allies won by brute force alone, a thesis advanced by Richard Overys Why the Allies Won, and Martin Van Crevelds Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945, among others, has been under attack for some time now. With respect to the American Army, for example, works like Michael Doublers Closing with the Enemy, Keith Bonns When the Odds Were Even, Mark Reardons Victory at Mortain, Robert Rushs Hell in the Hürtgen Forest, and Peter Mansoors The GI Offensive in Europe, in one way or another, all critique the myth of Allied ineptness.
Rather than new insights, this book is primarily a compilation of vignettes that students of the Normandy campaign will have read many times. Most frustrating is that the author might have drawn on a wealth of recent scholarship on important facets of the campaign that could enliven a new synthesis of the terrible and triumphant summer of 1944. What sources, in fact, Brooks consulted is unclear since the book lacks a proper bibliography and instead includes a brief and unimpressive guide for interested readers, which fails to give an appreciation for recent advances in scholarship on the Normandy campaign.
The gaps in Brookss version stretch from the landings to the liberation of Paris. There is, for example, no discussion of the innumerable miscues in planning and coordination that marred the preparations and undertaking of American amphibious operations. Interested readers will have to consult Adrian Lewiss Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory.
The Normandy Campaign also misses the big story on the beaches, relating, for example, the tale of the cigar-waving Brigadier General Norman Cota at the beach exits on Omaha, rather than the more important story of the independent fragments of units that infiltrated to heights above the beaches and cracked the German defenses. Readers will have to go to Stephen Ambroses Citizen Soldiers to find this history.
Brookss appreciation for logistics is also suspect. He credits the floating Mullberry harbors with being the savior of the Allied supply lines, when in fact logistics over the beaches delivered far more men and material to the front. Steve Waddells United States Army Logistics: The Normandy Campaign, 1944 tells the story well.
Also missing is the impact of ULTRA, the Allied decryption of German coded messages that provided ground commanders a virtual window into the Germans order of battle in Normandy. In terms of intelligence, a subject barely touched-on in the book, the Allied Army was perhaps the most well-informed military force in history.
The role of tactical air support is also absent from The Normandy Campaign. The story of the steady improvement of air-ground coordination is a vital aspect of the Allied effort. It does not appear, however, that Brooks has consulted Thomas Hughes Over Lord: General Pete Quesada and the Triumph of Tactical Air Power in World War II, which lays out the chapter and verse of developments in Normandy, including armored column cover, an innovation that was instrumental to the breakout.
There is also no discussion of American artillery, another critical source of combat support. The US fire direction center (FDC), a command and control innovation, allowed the Americans to mass more artillery more quickly than any other army in Normandy. On more than one occasion an American artillery barrage turned the tide of a tactical engagement.
Another glaring flaw is the authors crediting of the hedgerow-busting rhinos with assuring the American breakthrough of the German lines in late July 1944. This is an old myth that refuses to die. Hedgerows were built-up berms of earth covered with trees and bushes that lined the fields of French farmers. The Germans used the hedgerows to construct formidable defensive positions that stymied the American advance from the beaches. Rhinos were steel prongs welded to the front of tanks that allowed the armor to rip through the berms. After witnessing a demonstration of the Rhinos, Bradley ordered that tanks were to be so outfitted for Operation Cobra. The Cobra attacks did slice through the German lines in-depth, but few historians have bothered to study the battle and discover that the rhinos played only an incidental role in ensuring the success of the operation. Tanks supporting the lead infantry divisions that actually broke through the Germans main defenses did not have rhinos. The tanks in the follow-on divisions did have rhinos, but the contraptions did not assure advances. The 3d Armored and 1st Infantry Divisions still struggled to gain ground. The 2d Armored Division sliced through the German lines, but its most impressive advances were made driving down the road, not fighting through hedgerows.
The Normandy Campaign also passes up an opportunity to address an important but virtually unaddressed aspect of the war, the role of the civilian population and the interplay between civilians and military occupation forces. As for assessments of generalship, readers would do far better to consult some recent biographies of the key figures, including Carlo DEstes Eisenhower, Stanley Hirshsons General Patton, and Nigel Hamiltons Monty. For an overall history of the campaign, though perhaps a bit dated now, Max Hastings Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy remains the best choice.
Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, The Manhattan Projects Indispensable Man. By Robert S. Norris. South Royalton, Vermont: Steerforth Press, 2002. 722 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, USA Ret., Chief of Military History, US Military Academy, 1999-2001.
No decision in World War II generated more controversy than President Harry S. Trumans decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Standing at the heart of the industrial and engineering construction effort that produced the atomic weapons was a career Army engineer officer by the name of Leslie R. Groves. In what is likely to become the definitive biography of the projects principal supervisor, Robert
S. Norris places Groves at the center of events and offers a more complete understanding of the Manhattan Project.
Norris is no stranger to the study of nuclear issues. A longtime nuclear weapons analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., and an editor of the Nuclear Weapons Databook series, he also coauthored Making the Russian Bomb: From Stalin to Yeltsin and Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons since 1940. Drawing upon family letters, government documents, and a plethora of primary sources, Norris argues that Groves was truly indispensable in the construction of the atomic bomb and was the critical person in determining how, when, and where it was used on Japan. Since he relies heavily on Grovess own military records and personal papers, Norriss portrait of the hard-nosed director of the Manhattan Project is decidedly pro-Groves.
Leslie Richard Groves, Jr., was born in Albany, New York, on 17 August 1896. The son of an Army chaplain, Groves entered West Point in June 1916 and graduated number four in the class of November 1918 under the curtailed wartime curriculum. Selecting the Corps of Engineers upon graduation, Groves served at various military camps throughout the South, in Washington, D.C., and in Nicaragua, where he helped survey a proposed interoceanic canal. A product of the Armys emphasis on institutionalized professional education, Groves also graduated from the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. His interwar efficiency reports were uniformly positive, though not spectacular. Despite his excellent military record, however, Groves was still a captain with 22 years of commissioned service at the onset of the European war.
World War II presented Groves with the opportunity to shine. In 1940 responsibility for military construction lay with the quartermaster general, not the chief of engineers. When Quartermaster General Edmund B. Gregory, a longtime friend of Groves, asked him to serve as his special assistant responsible for domestic construction, then-Major Groves accepted provided that such an assignment meant a promotion. Promoted to full colonel, Groves was now a man on the move, maneuvering adeptly through the bureaucratic labyrinths of Washington.
The highlight of Grovess tenure in the Office of the Quartermaster General was clearly his supervision of the construction of the Pentagon, which began on 11 September 1941. Norris curiously reserves a scant five pages to this episode, even though the project cemented Grovess reputation as an officer who could cut through red tape and bring a construction project in on time. Working closely with General Brehon B. Somervell, who ultimately rose to Commanding General of Army Service Forces, Groves guided the construction of the Pentagon in its earliest stages. The entire project was completed on 15 January 1943, just 16 months after breaking ground. Groves, however, was not on hand at the final unveiling, as he was already supervising the most expensive and colossal construction project in history.
The heart of Norriss biography is the story of the Manhattan Project, which Groves was selected to run on 17 September 1942. Grovess appointment was the result of his engineering, administrative, and organizational abilities, as well as his drive and determination. Having served with distinction under some of the Corps of Engineers most qualified officers also lent credibility to Grovess reputation. In detailing his subjects contribution, Norris presents a compelling case that of all the participants in the Manhattan Project, Groves alone was indispensable to its success.
Groves made all the important decisions governing the Manhattan Project himself. He personally recruited J. Robert Oppenheimer as his scientific director and
other giants of American industry to construct and run the atomic factories. Groves drew up the plans for the organization, construction, operation, and security of the project and took all necessary steps to put it into effect. Reporting directly to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and General George C. Marshall, Groves routinely bypassed traditional lines of authority to ensure the success of his project.
What makes this particular biography so interesting is Norriss analysis of Grovess relationship with some of the projects more prominent members. Groves selected the 38-year-old Oppenheimer to supervise the laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, over the objection of virtually every advisor and scientist. The bond between the two was mutually beneficial, though Grovess lack of support of Oppenheimer during the Red scare of the 1950s tarnished Grovess own character.
Groves also maintained less-than-enthusiastic support for Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, the officer who piloted the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. According to Norris, Groves acknowledged Tibbetss ability as a pilot, but felt that Tibbets was too young to command the special bomber group and lacked the ability for senior level command, as demonstrated by the fact that with that back of him [the Hiroshima mission], he never got beyond brigadier general. Grovess self-serving assessment reflects more on his own character than it does on Tibbetss ability.
To his credit, Norris also presents the darker side of Grovess personality. On occasion Groves was egotistical, brusque, manipulative, and overly authoritative. A product of his times, he displayed unwarranted racial biases against African-Americans. He also demonstrated an inability to adapt to the postwar world and seldom shared the spotlight with anyone. As his chief aide for security and intelligence, John Lansdale, observed, Groves possessed a very adequate appreciation of his own abilities.
Where then does Groves fit in the overall history of the war? Very high according to Norris. In his afterword, Norris discusses the distinction between leadership and command. Leadership is composed of a combination of qualities that inspire and motivate others to follow and to achieve goals. Command, on the other hand, is a managerial functionthe coordinating of military forces. Whereas leaders do not always make effective commanders, and vice versa, Norris maintains that Groves fits very well as the archetype of the commander as manager.
In the final analysis, Norris has written a well-researched, informative biography of the Manhattan Projects forgotten man. Previous histories have concentrated on the scientists who perfected the bomb and ignored the Army officer whose management was critical to the projects success. Said one of his wartime aides, Groves planned the project, ran his own construction, his own science, his own army, his own State Department, and his own Treasury Department. Racing for the Bomb finally fills the void in the historiography of that era.
At War at Sea: Sailors and Naval Combat in the Twentieth Century. By Ronald H. Spector. New York: Viking Press, 2001. 463 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. Steve R. Waddell, Associate Professor of History, US Military Academy.
Ronald H. Spector, professor of history and international relations at George Washington University, Marine veteran of Vietnam, and former director of naval history
for the US Navy, has written a history of war at sea in the 20th century with a focus on the human side of naval warfare. The work is well researched and relies heavily on official sources, contemporary letters, diaries, and personal journals, as well as memoirs and reminiscences in written form or as oral histories.
Spector argues that technological determinism is an inadequate method of explaining the evolution of war at sea in the twentieth century because such an approach does not adequately explain how nations with similar technology chose to use it differently (the United States and Great Britain with respect to naval aviation in 1920s and 1930s for example) or why two navies with similar technologies do not perform equally well (the Japanese over the Russians in 1904-1905 for example). He argues the key to naval success is people: their training, ability, political and cultural background, experience, knowledge, and expectations, and a host of other social and psychological factors that cannot be accounted for by reference to the state of technological developments. Spector concludes that because of Clausewitz, writers have understood the importance of the social and psychological element in land warfare; but, unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the social and psychological element in the war at sea. That is the aim of his book.
As a result of his emphasis on the human side of naval warfare, the book is not a comprehensive history of naval warfare in the 20th century. Spector examines only certain campaigns, battles, and tactical and technological developments that he believes illustrate important stages in the development of naval warfare. The first half of the century is a comparative analysis of British, Japanese, and US navies, with an emphasis on the relationship between men and naval warfare. The second half of the century is about the Cold War, the human challenges faced by the US Navy, and nuclear submarines.
Spector seeks answers to a number of important questions. These include: How well did navies as institutions understand and adapt to the human requirements of war at sea? What kind of people did 20th-century navies want, and how successful were they at getting them? What was expected of seamen in the age of the machine? How were the seaman trained? Did their jobs become easier or harder as new equipment and gadgets assumed some of the tasks previously assigned to men? How effective were they as fighters, and how successfully did they adapt to the stresses of combat? How good were the leaders in each era? Was leadership in 20th-century navies mainly a matter of knowledge and expertise, or did it require particular personal qualities? At the highest levels, how did commanders direct their forces, communicate with subordinates, and receive information in fleets that were far more powerful, faster, and widely dispersed than those in the age of sail? Why did seaman of all ranks choose to enter and remain in a way of life that was at best uncomfortable, demanding, isolated, and monotonous, and at worst arduous, unforgiving, and dangerous?
Spector is very successful in illustrating the human aspects of naval warfare in the 20th century. He tells the story of naval battles and campaigns from the perspective of the sailors. In the end Spector demonstrates that the precise relationship between the human factor and success and failure in naval warfare [is] indeed complex. He determines that the exact relationship between technology, tactics, and personnel . . . [is] in turn influenced by issues of politics, finance, and national policy. Some of Spectors observations include: navies have had an increasingly difficult time retaining personnel; recruiting has become more and more broad-based as the need for personnel has increased; the integration of women and minorities into the Navy has been the result of personnel difficulties as
much as the effort of advocacy groups; over the course of the century sailors have had to perform increasingly complex and intellectually challenging tasks; while senior leadership is important, leadership seems most important at the junior officer levels of the Navy; and skill in using technology is more important than the technology itself.
Spector concludes that innovation in the Navy does not fit the commonly held view that innovations in military organizations occur only as a result of drastic changes in the political environment, defeat in war, revolution, or intervention by civilian authorities. Rather, he asserts that beneath their rituals and regalia, [navies] are extremely adaptive, fast-changing organizations. Whether one agrees with Spectors conclusions or not, At War At Sea is well researched, well written, and thought-provoking. Historians, military personnel, and history buffs alike will find this work both educational and exciting to read.
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Reviewed 7 February 2003. Please send comments or corrections to email@example.com