Sunday, August 21, 2011

#60: Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe by Jonathan W. Jordan

New York, NAL, 2011. 672 pages

Yes, 672 pages. I blew through this book in three sittings. Jordan has a lot of experience in writing about all three of the above men, and he brings his expertise to bear in this book. My only complaint about this text is the overuse of phrases like "cut to the bone" and "pot boiled over"; this is a minor quibble of style, The substance in the book is fascinating

Here are ten things I liked about the book.

1. The author's use of diaries and personal communication. Ike, Bradley and Patton all come across a little differently in private, most of all Bradley. Ike and Patton had by 1941 been friends for going on 25 years. Bradley and Patton knew each other somewhat, Ike and Bradley were classmates at West Point but had not been together much in years. It is remarkable to see how their opinions and views of each other change throughout the war, and how pre-conceptions can work to undermine relationships.

2. The pacing of the book is excellent. It is difficult to weave one story together let alone three, and Jordan does this quite well.

3. Ike is not handled with kid gloves in this book. For a lot of Americans, he was the Conformity loving, golfing, avuncular bald man who was president before the guy with the haircut and Boston accent. Ike served as the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, and it is a job that NO ONE in their right mind would want. Ike said many times "If some other sonofabitch wants my job, he sure as hell can have it."

4. My favorite lines from Patton's diary:
--"am amused at all the envy and hatred I wasted on him (General Mark Clark) and many others. Looking back, men seem less vile" June 1942 (158)
-- "He (Bradley) fails to see war as a struggle, and not an educational course" March 1945 (488)

5. The relationship between Eisenhower and General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery is sort of like watching two high school girls fighting over a boy. They snipe, one smacks the other down, apologies are given, and then one writes in his diary "Ike has no competency for war or anything else. He has all the popular cries but no skill." (422). I disliked Montgomery before I read this book, and am now convinced he is one of the more overrated commanders of World War II.

6. Hell, Patton and Bradley are just as bad. At least Bradley didn't travel around wearing a silver helmet with ivory-handled pistols (Patton) or a chauffeur who most likely doubled as a mistress and who arranged for room on a ship for his ping pong table while Patton's tanks needed gas (Eisenhower).

7. SHAEF stands for Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. For many GI's it stood for "Should Have Army Experience First".

8. Ike and Patton's debate over de-Nazification is short, but well done. Patton did not have a lot of time for Jews, Communists, Gypsies or Eastern short, everyone who "was rolled over by the Germans". (522)

9. More on Montgomery: Ike smoked like 700 packs of cigarettes a day (if you worked with these arrogant pricks you would also) and at one point during a strategy meeting in North Africa he asked "Who is smoking? There is no smoking when I am speaking." Like I said, what a dick. In 1944, as his offensive in the Low Countries floundered, Monty railed against Ike, his commands, Patton, Bradley, the Moon and blamed the weather, shortages, the Pope and Marlene Deitrich for his failures. Ike patted his knee and replied "Steady, Monty. You can't speak to me like that. I'm your boss." (398)

10. Bradley and Patton both labeled Monty as an SOB in their diaries. If there is a lot of Monty bashing going on, he deserves it. Of course, no one is perfect. Bradley is petty and sometimes judgmental, Ike is short tempered and Patton is a flaming egotist with a big mouth. But they did their jobs well.

Extra Point:
11. I cannot believe the pressure that Eisenhower was under from both sides. It is a wonder that the alliance stayed in place; after reading this book, it is not out of the realm to argue that had anyone else been in charge, it would not have. This was an excellent read.

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