Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Eisenhower's Lieutenants - Russell F. Weigley

February 26th, 2014: I'm preparing to read Eisenhower's Lieutenants. Am already apprehensive with the thought that Patton would most likely protest being called anyone's lieutenant. Objections from Montgomery are a certainty. Will press on regardless.

February 27th: The book is off to a fine start. Weigley has described the U.S. Army on the eve of World War 2 as a border constabulary force, designed to fight against scattered bands of Native Americans and Mexicans. As such, it is designed for quick maneuver and mobility. The conflict in this is that the Army's official military strategy is to seek out the enemy army and destroy it completely through application of overwhelming force on all fronts simultaneously, ala Grant in the Civil War. Yet they have built their army, and ordered weapons in such a way as to make that a difficult task. The question becomes, when faced with the Wehrmacht as they land at Normandy and press towards Germany, will they modify their objectives, their style, or find a way to apply overwhelming force with what they have?

March 1: Disaster strikes. Close to 300 pages in, the pages have begun to come loose from the binding. To make matters worse, this happened at the precise moment I opened a soda which decided to explode over the book. This has cast a pall over the entire campaign, as fears of how High Command (that'd be my father) will react to this setback. Otherwise, things are going well. The Allies are showing a certain lack of aggressiveness, and have failed to successfully envelop large sections of the German Army on at least two occasions so far. The slow pace can not, unfortunately, be laid solely at the feet of Montgomery.

March 2: The weather has turned ugly, snow and ice leaving me trapped within the housing. With no other recourse, I press on further into the book. The pace has slowed, as Weigley seems intent on flooding the book with details. The section on the Battle of the Bulge - which he prefers to call the Ardennes Counteroffensive - is only slightly over 100 pages, but feels closer to 200. Weigley enjoys detailing what one army of the Allies forces was up to for a certain number of days, then jump to a different army and do the same. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of overlap and repetition, which stretches things out and leaves the reader with a sense of wheels spinning. He includes a dozen or more maps, but these are often just maps, with no signs of where armies are moving or when. Also, it is difficult when you must flip back 80 pages or more to find a relevant map, then scan it for names that look familiar in the hopes you can figure out what's happening. May need a different book of maps to use as appendix.

March 3: I have reached the end of the road. I had never heard of the National Redoubt, and the idea that the Allies devoted to much manpower to trying to make certain the Nazis weren't holing up in some mountain stronghold is surprising. The primary thing I took from the book about the alleged "lieutenants" was that they're like a bunch of gossipy schoolkids. There's constant jockeying for position, glory, resources. Grousing about losing units of divisions to another commander, and as a result, the generals, in particular Bradley, but also Patton, will take aggressive actions largely to forestall Ike taking soldiers from them and giving them to Montgomery. Monty, of course, doesn't take aggressive actions (Market-Garden being the notable exception), he merely tries to take credit for all of them. It is truly impressive how readily Montgomery aggravates absolutely everyone on the American side of things by being a condescending horse's ass. His lack of awareness is staggering.

Near the end of the book, I realized Eisenhower's Lieutenants might actually answer the question I posed to my father two months ago, about whether FDR interfered in the plans of his assigned commanders as much as Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. The answer would appear to be no. Roosevelt is mentioned only a very few times, and those usually in reference to various meetings between the Allied political leaders. Eisenhower reports to George C. Marshall, not FDR, and Roosevelt does not involve himself in the difficulties between Monty and Bradley/Ike/Patton, while Churchill is chiming in all the time to stump for a greater role for British troops and commanders.

'No American commander drove harder than Truscott, and none clung more steadfastly to the principle that destroying the enemy army was the goal. Pehraps if he had led more than three infantry divisions that were constantly outrunning their supplies, he might have succeeded in the complete destruction of the enemy in his front which had consistently eluded the American generals.'

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