cover image EISENHOWER: A Soldier's Life

EISENHOWER: A Soldier's Life

Carlo D'Este, . . Holt/Macrae, $35 (864pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5686-0

A lieutenant colonel at 50 with no military future ahead of him in the stifling between-the-wars promotion system, Eisenhower became, in little more than three years and three months, a five-star general. D'Este (Patton: A Genius for War) sees Ike's rise as predicated upon his having been recognized as "the ultimate career bureaucrat he so disdained." Never having had hands-on command of a unit in combat, Eisenhower would pay heavy prices for his inexperience. Yet D'Este seems to agree with General Omar Bradley that Ike lived an "extraordinarily charmed life" on the basis of likability, desk-officer brilliance and the active patronage of influential men. Although D'Este, who carries Eisenhower's career only through victory in Europe in May 1945, leans heavily upon Russell Weigley's masterly Eisenhower's Lieutenants, he goes well beyond Weigley in indicting the supreme commander for so grossly playing favorites as to keep incompetents in major positions, for command indecision and indifference about such crucial dimensions of combat as logistics, and for a litany of strategic blunders that lengthened and raised the price of the war. He also attempts but fails to bypass the delicate matter of Eisenhower's attentions to his British chauffeur and aide, Kay Summersby. Although at first he contends loyally that their names would be "wrongly" linked, later he notes that it was "common knowledge among war correspondents that something was going on between them." At the close, our knowledge of the future eminence of D'Este's flawed hero seems to validate the implied if reluctant verdict of a charmed life. Still, its dramatic objectivity about Eisenhower's significantly flawed career as a WWII commander will earn this volume attention and controversy. 16 pages of b&w illustrations, 4 maps not seen by PW. (June 4)