The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Title Page, Copyright
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One pitfall in writing a biography is the risk of becoming too immersed in the topic. You spend so much time with the historic figure you begin to feel like you know the person and those in his or her circle. This project has consumed meâwith varying degrees of intensityâsince 1982. I first encountered Beetle Smith when...
Part One: Epilogue as PrologueâSoldier, Diplomat, Spymaster
1. Soldier Turned Diplomat
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The featured stories in the Washington newspapers on 14 August 1961 dealt with the East Germans sealing the border in Berlin and the latest exploits of Mickey Mantle in his pursuit of Babe Ruthâs home run record. Other than the obligatory obituariesâunimaginative pieces mostly gleaned from Current Biography...
2. Expecting the Worst
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The Truman administration grew increasingly disenchanted with the struggles of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to find its niche in the national security structure. In early 1948 the National Security Council (NSC) commissioned three intelligence veteransâAllen Dulles, William Jackson, and Matias...
3. Dullesâs Number Two
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Eisenhower made it clear that he intended to give Smith an important role in the new administration. At first he toyed with bringing Smith in as his chief of staff but jettisoned the idea for fear that two generals in the White House might awaken antimilitary sentiment. In the period before the election, John Foster Dulles had engaged...
4. The Geneva Conference
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Eisenhower entertained no great expectations for Geneva. He instructed Dulles to âsteer a course between the unattainable and the unacceptable.â He considered âa general Asian peace in which the free world could have real confidenceâ unattainable and said, âany division or partition of Indo-China was not included in what...
5. âIkeâs Prat Boyâ
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Geneva provided the final impetus, spurring Smithâs resignation. Never happy serving under Dulles, Smith would have quit long before if not for Geneva. The stress of the first round of the Geneva talks had undermined his health. He joked with journalists he could easily see himself wandering the corridors of the...
Part Two: Officership in the Army of the âLong Generation,â 1917â1939
6. Born to Be a Soldier
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Americans are a paradoxical people: though wary of foreign entanglements, when drawn into hostilities, they are at once strikingly bellicose and peculiarly unmilitary. During the years before the Great Warâexcept for Grand Army of the Republic parades and bursts of patriotism, such as during the war with SpainâAmericans...
7. The Summons to War
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The year 1917 proved eventful for both the nation and Walter Bedell Smith. Relations between the United States and Germany worsened, and on 2 April President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. This struggle took on the pattern of previous American wars, as large numbers of citizen-soldiers inundated...
8. âThey Donât Make âEm Any Better than Smithâ
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Junior officers like Smith who stayed in the army did so because they wanted to soldier. Some, perhaps the majority, remained in the army because they enjoyed the undemanding lifestyle. The army provided a haven from social change, and the war unleashed plenty of that. For those officers, ambition counted for little...
9. âExpunge the Bunk, Complications and Ponderositiesâ
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External historical determinants dictated that the army and navy traveled on different paths toward modernization and professionalization. The army faced an incubus from which the navy was immune. The U.S. Navy could never threaten the constitutional balance and possessed, at least from the late 1880s, a fleet-in-being...
10. The Other Class Stars Fell On
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In his inaugural lecture to the class of 1926 at Leavenworth, Commandant MG Edward King summed up the philosophy behind the armyâs schools. The schoolsâ mission was utilitarian: train the largest possible number of officers for potential command and staff duties in an expansible army, instruct them in accordance...
11. âNo One Ever Graduatesâ
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The year Smith graduated from Leavenworth, the U.S. Armyâs downward spiral finally hit bottom. Strapped for money and men, the army could not properly fulfill any of its missions. As Marshall pointed out, âwe have fewer Regular troops in the United States today than twenty years ago, and unfortunately most of our...
Part Three: The Towering FigureâGeorge C. Marshall
12. The Chiefâs Apprentice
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Marshall never acted unless convinced of the rectitude of his decision, and when he did, he exhibited complete self-assurance in his ideas and actions. He thought long and hard about his experiences in France and the interwar years. Upon becoming acting chief of staff, Marshall possessed a clear conception of the changes...
13. Forging the Mold
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December 1941 marked one of the turning points in the war. A week into December, Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war; four days later, the Axis joined Japan against the Western democracies; eleven days later, Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff opened talks with their American opposite numbers...
14. âExceptionally Qualified for Service as Chief of Staffâ
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Relationships cannot be reconstructed from official records. Documents obscure unofficial lines of influence derived from close personal connections or confidential collaboration. Unrecorded conversations conducted in corridors or over strawberry shortcake often shape events in more decisive ways than can be gleaned from...
Part Four: The Mediterranean Campaign
15. âSmith Will Save Ikeâ
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At nine oâclock on the morning on 6 September, Nory and Dykes saw âdear old Beetleâ off on his flight. Dykes took Nory back to Fort Myer and stayed for a cup of coffee. âShe feels his leaving very much,â Dykes wrote.1 Smith doubtlessly felt it too, but a great deal else occupied his mind. With no time for decompressing...
16. âWe Are on the Threshold of a Magnificent Successâ
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Leadership and command are not synonymous. Leadership is largely the distillate of character. Command is conferred; legally and professionally, subordinates owe loyalty and obedience to the office, not the incumbent. Preindustrial codes of personalized loyalty retain a powerful resonance in the U.S. Army. War produces...
17. âThank God You Are in Londonâ
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Holed up in the fetid catacombs inside the Rock of Gibraltar and grousing about the French (but really fuming at the impotence he felt), an idle Eisenhower advised Smith not to worry about âmissing out on the show here.â1 Smith was far too busy to give it much thought. All the political and command channels converged...
18. âWe Shall Continue to Flounderâ
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His time in Washington left Smith disheartened. He found most senior American officers ârather coldâ to suggestions about exploiting the possibilities offered in the Mediterranean that so intrigued Churchill and the BCOS. The people he talked to in Washington fixed their attention on Asia and the Pacific region...
19. âAllies Are Very Difficult People to Fight Withâ
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The logic that dictated the decision to embark on operations in North Africa in 1942 still held for the Mediterranean in 1943. Torch offered the only opportunity to employ Anglo-American power that had any likelihood of producing significant strategic and political gains without hazarding a catastrophic defeat. Hitlerâs...
20. The Many Travails of an Allied Chief of Staff
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Before Smith left on 10 May, he and Eisenhower closeted themselves and reviewed the whole range of issues confronting AFHQ. Eisenhower cautioned Smith against adopting a defensive posture in presenting AFHQâs suit. Ostensibly, Smith went to the conference to report on the state of the French rearmament program and...
21. The Road to Messina
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The British scored a success in the Algiers talks, winning Eisenhower over to the idea of invading Italy. Before Trident he favored the more cautious route of attacking Sardinia and Corsica; immediately following the Algiers conference, Eisenhower informed Patton, who (curiously) had not been present, âIt would be impossible...
22. The Italian Job
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Badoglioâs government promised Italyâs âwar will go on,â but within a week of Mussoliniâs ouster, it was looking for ways to end it. Three options presented themselves, none of them very attractive. First, Italy could end the alliance with Germany and go over to the Allies. Second, Italy could stay in the Axis but seek an accord...
23. âA Feeling of Restrained Optimismâ
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Except for its nearly disastrous consequences, the sequel to the Lisbon and Cassibile amateur theatricals took on aspects of an opÃ©ra bouffe. Altogether too much wishful thinking egged on all the chief players. Smith went all out for Giant II because without the promised airborne operation, the Italians would not play...
24. âWe Conduct Our Wars in a Most Curious Wayâ
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Smith returned to Algiers on 21 October. As Hughes reported, he âhastened to report to Ike. Wonder if he knows the answer to Ikeâs future?â1 Speculation on âIkeâs futureâ gripped Algiers. All Smith could tell Eisenhower was that nothing had been set in stone. He could forget about a field command in Overlord...
Part Five: France 1944
25. The Supreme Command
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Smith updated Eisenhower on developments in London before he left for the States. He expressed his general satisfaction with the COSSAC staff and assured Eisenhower that, with the âsubstitution of a few individuals,â it could be made âto conform to the setup you want.â Not wasting any time securing the key players...
26. âEnough to Drive You Madâ
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In the first two and a half months of SHAEFâs existence, problems fell into two distinct categories: those under the purview of the CCS, and those that devolved on Eisenhowerâs commands. At the end of March, Eisenhower believed his headquarters was well on the road toward accomplishing its essential...
27. âItâs a Goâ
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âOnce through the difficult bocage country,â Montgomery predicted, âgreater possibilities for manoeuvre and for the use of armour.â The document clearly defined the respective roles of Dempseyâs and Bradleyâs forces in the first phase and the American and Anglo-Canadian army groups in the second. âOur aim...
28. Normandy Deadlock
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In August Beetle Smith pronounced the war in the west âmilitarilyâ over. In part motivated by hubrisâlater diagnosed as âvictory diseaseââhis analysis, though badly timed, proved correct. Two days before launching Neptune, Clarkâs forces entered Rome. Of far greater significance, the Soviets had completed the destruction of Army Group...
29. What Has the Supreme Command Amounted To?
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Cobraâs success vindicated Montgomery and the plan. Before and during Normandy, Montgomery demonstrated an uncanny ability to see âthe other side of the hill.â Originally, Rommel never considered holding Caen. He did not want his armor eaten up in a static defensive role, especially on ground unfavorable...
30. End the War in â44
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Eisenhowerâs conception of the tasks of a supreme commander and his headquarters remained circumspect. He confined âthe proper and necessary responsibilitiesâ of SHAEF to establishing âbroad strategy, the direction of effort, and the allocation of resources, including supplies, troops, and air.â Always a stickler for...
31. âThe Logistical Bottleneck Now Dictates Strategyâ
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Three factors explain why the Allies failed in their leap toward the Rhine. Two fall into the category of the imponderables of war: the remarkable German recovery and the weather. The third, the apparent logistical breakdown, was the sole element the Allies, in this case the Americans, exerted any control...
32. AprÃ¨s le DÃ©luge
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November marked the lowest ebb of Allied fortunes in the campaign in northwestern Europe. Montgomery, whatever his shortcomings, could never be faulted on his professional acumen. As he pointed out, Eisenhowerâs 28 October outline strategyâit could never claim to be moreâamounted to little. Nothing...
Part Six: The Victory Campaign
33. One Desperate Blow
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Anton Graffâs famous portrait of Frederick the Great dominated the Hitler bunker. The Prussian king occupied a prominent position in Hitlerâs mythical universe, and as the noose of the coalitionâs armies tightened around the Reich, Hitler drew on Frederick for inspiration. Those who dismissed Hitler as an intellectual...
34. DÃ©jÃ Vu All over Again
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As the end of 1944 approached, prospects brightened. The German attacks in the Ardennes ran out of steam, and Montgomeryâs pledge to attack from the north on 3 January raised expectations that the Allies would not only regain the initiative in the west but also inflict a telling if not fatal blow on the Germans. Hitler was far from...
35. The German Is a Whipped Enemy
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Not until 28 January 1945 did Allied forces regain the ground lost in the Ardennes. In both the Ardennes and Alsace, Hitlerâs stubborn refusal to yield ground doubled German casualties, according to one estimate. The manpower and materiel losses debilitated German designs for holding the West Wall, but the greatest casualty...
36. Mission Fulfilled
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In early January Churchill, in one of his ebullient moods as the emergency in the Ardennes abated, wrote to Roosevelt claiming that 1944 âyielded us results beyond the dreams of military avarice.â He spoke of his âcomplete confidence in General Eisenhowerâ and of the amity binding the supreme commander with Montgomery âand also Bradley...
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Sources and Further Reading
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Page Count: 1088
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: American Warriors Series