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I like the pace of this book, the author doesn't focus too long on any one time in Eisenhower's life. I knew very little of him before reading the book and I definitely feel this was the right book to jump in and get to know the man. There are others out there that focus only on the presidency or the war, but this one has it all.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
This is a very good biography of Dwight David Eisenhower although I feel constrained to say that the section on his presidency suffers from the writer’s clear political bias. This biography covers Eisenhower’s entire life although it might be best thought of as covering 5 specific time periods – his early childhood, his early military experience, his central position during World War II, his time as President of Columbia University and his Presidency.
I thought I knew a good deal about Eisenhower’s life. I had read extensively about both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II. The histories of the European theater, of course, covered him as central to that theater and the histories (and biography of Douglas MacArthur) covered Eisenhower’s period as aide to General MacArthur in the Philippines. In addition I felt I knew a great deal about the period of the 1950s when Eisenhower was President. Given all of that I did not expect to learn much new. I was wrong.
This book covers Eisenhower’s early military career in some detail and there is much I never knew about the locations where he served as well as the jobs and schools he attended and the important people he knew and met while ascending the military ladder. Although I knew about his friendship with other officers like George Patton, I did not know the depth of their friendship or the length of time they knew each other. In some ways this section was the most interesting to me because I knew little of what was covered.
Of course the book covers Eisenhower’s period as Supreme Commander in the European theater comprehensively but it also details some little known incidents during the war. One example is his refusal to believe reports that the Casablanca landings had failed and that the troops were re-embarking because, he said, he knew George Patton and that there was no chance Patton would cancel the landings and re-embark the troops. This section is full of such anecdotes and they add greatly to the readability of the book. One oddity, for me, was the author’s clear opinion that Bernard Montgomery was the great general of the Western European Theater. There is no real mention of Montgomery’s great failures, only his successes, and little mention of the bad blood between Montgomery and Eisenhower. As with other armchair generals the author is firm in his opinions as to the wisdom (or lack thereof) of Eisenhower’s strategic view of how the war should have been fought. His opinions would, perhaps, hold more weight with me if he if he had ever held a combat leadership role.
The coverage of the Eisenhower Presidency is thorough although, as with his coverage of the European theater, his opinions are clear. Many of Eisenhower’s most difficult decisions are lauded as great without any mention of the negative consequences stemming from them. One example is his decision to stop the British-French-Israeli seizure of the Suez Canal. The author speaks of the political good will the US generated in the non-aligned world but makes no mention of the anger of the British, French and Israelis as well as the consequences in US-French relations afterwards. I am not suggesting that the decision was either right or wrong, only that the author’s views influenced the way some events were covered and the wisdom of alternative actions was never considered.
Paul Hecht’s narration is very good and I recommend this book, with some reservations, to anyone interested in learning about Eisenhower and the central role he held in much of the 20th century.
52 of 55 people found this review helpful