Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Crusade in Europe

I try to read some history each year, usually U.S. history, often military history. This year I read Crusade in Europe.

By Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower. Amazing. Maybe someone would correct me, but it is my impression that he really wrote this – it does not have the feel of the ghost writer that often comes in to provide the voice-over for the great man.

The personality that comes through is quite similar to that which Eisenhower conveyed in public. Able. Able to create consensus. A listener. Casual. Hands in back pockets. Stern if need be. Analytical. Concerned for his troops.

But most of all the sense emerges of Eisenhower being a modern organization man.

The job for America beginning in 1940 [when Eisenhower is still a colonel] was to mobilize. Eisenhower proved adept at understanding this, and gradually - but not too gradually - bringing the forces to bear. He appreciated amphibious war, tank war, and air war. He came to appreciate all these over many years of basically boring assignments. He also was dedicated to the notion of an allied force, and ready to negotiate through fields of politic and diplomacy to make that work, while enforcing a system of single command in Europe. He worked well with George Marshal [his mentor and patron], Winston Churchill, Bernard Montgomery, George Patton, and Omar Bradley.

And all these things come through crystal clear in Crusade in Europe like a memo from one same man in a mad battlefield.

There is a style of work that culls general’s writings, histories, and biographies to find wisdom of war that can be useful today for business leaders. Gee, I wonder why. Somehow, as far as I know, the great World War II leader Eisenhower has not been identified for this treatment. Which is kind of funny. Lee and Patton have been cited so, almost unto nausea. But neither of them have the traits of the modern organization man.

Eisenhower was asked to create a general line of action mere days after Pearl Harbor.

Not brazen was Ike. Looking at the charter to lead. “The question before me was unlimited in its implications and my qualifications for approaching it were probably those of the average hard-working Army officer of my age.”

He’d gained over years of staff work an understanding of technology as applied to war making. “..I had been forced to examine world-wide military matters and to study concretely such subjects as the mobilization and composition of armies, the role of air forces and navies in war, tendencies toward mechanization, an the acute dependence of all elements of military life upon the industrial capacity of the nation. This last was to me of especial importance because of my intense belief that the large-scale motorization and mechanization and the development of air forces in unprecedented strength would characterize successful military forces of the future. ... I knew that any sane preparation for war involved also sound plans for the prompt mobilization of industry. The years devoted to work of this kind opened up to me an almost new world.” P.19

This is where the story gets going. And he carries the narrative steadily until Hitler’s final defeat.

Some bits.

Planning: “It was our duty to determine military policy in terms of objectives, requirements in men and materials for the attainment of those objectives, and the most effective means of quickly meeting these requirements.” P.35

He took his cues from Marshall: “We fell into a practice of holding at least one general review a week, during which we often sat alone to evaluate the changing situation ... Marshall’s rapid absorption of the fundamentals of a presentation, his decisiveness, and his utter refusal to entertain any thought of failure infused the whole War Department with energy and confidence. His ability to delegate authority not only expedited work but impelled every subordinate to perform beyond his own suspected capacity.” p. 40

1 comment:

Jack Vaughan said...

Many of the officers in WWII worked to be sure to not recreate the stasis of WWI. But, the lessons derived, by Montgomery, and Eisenhower et al, were auite different.

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