- Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace
Some stories are too good to be told just once. Such a tale is that of American leadership at the highest levels of the United States Army during World War II: a tale of competence, accomplishment, integrity, and selflessness that continues to excite our admiration. No two American leaders demonstrated these qualities more than generals George C. Marshall, the Army's Chief of Staff, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as American and Allied commander in North Africa and Europe. In this lively and well-written account, journalist/historian Mark Perry, who has authored several books on topics ranging from the American Civil War to the Central Intelligence Agency, has attempted to explain the Marshall-Eisenhower relationship in the context of the great events that their "partnership" affected.
If this is ground previously explored, at least the author has excellent trail-breakers and guides. For the most part he uses such reliable sources as the magnificent United States Army in World War II series; solid biographers Forrest C. Pogue, Stephen E. Ambrose, and D. Clayton James; and the published papers of Marshall and Eisenhower. Other writers such as Merle Miller, Harry C. Butcher, and William Manchester are sources for good stories. One work that might have been used more extensively is Joseph Hobbs's Dear General: Eisenhower's Wartime Letters to Marshall. [End Page 610]
Perry describes the Eisenhower-Marshall relationship as having been based on a shared strategic vision rather than on personal affinities. Influenced at different times by General Fox Conner, they both believed that "democracies could win only short wars, not protracted conflicts" (p. 249). Consequently, Perry says, both generals had adopted Conner's mantra: "Never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long" (p. 379). During World War II this meant that the United States, with its allies, should strike directly at the heart of its most dangerous enemy, Germany, while avoiding dispersion of effort and less consequential operations around the periphery of the Axis sphere. In practice, Marshall was tasked with keeping President Franklin Roosevelt's priorities in order back in Washington while Eisenhower coped, as best he could, with the brilliant if occasionally suspect ideas of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Aside from some annoying factual errors and an even more irritating tendency to lose focus by wandering into interesting but unhelpful digressions, the author has accomplished most of what he intended. One can only wish that he had been more inclined to explore the roots of Marshall's actions by looking into the earlier feud between Chief of Staff Peyton C. March and American Expeditionary Forces commander John J. Pershing. Also, Perry's treatment of the decision to select a commander for OVERLORD–Marshall or Eisenhower–seems curiously shallow, as does his account of Eisenhower's failure to defend Marshall in a presidential campaign speech given on October 3, 1952.
All in all, however, readers interested in looking for an example of strong and harmonious leadership will find this book to be entertaining and at times instructive.