Saturday, November 28, 2020


 The “only man who could have made things work was Ike,” Churchill’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Hastings Ismay, said after the war. “No one else.”

Victory in North Africa had enhanced his stature and his self-confidence. Perhaps the lucky coins helped, but so too did hard work and a gift for square dealing. General Bernard L. Montgomery, who would command British forces in HUSKY, considered Eisenhower “the very incarnation of sincerity,” with “the power of drawing the hearts of men towards him as a magnet attracts bits of metal.” Another senior British general said, “He was utterly fair in his dealings, and I envied the clarity of his mind, and his power of accepting responsibility.” He listened well, and spoke well. “I am bound to say,” Churchill confided to a British colleague, “I have noticed that good generals do not usually have such good powers of expression as he has.” Few could resist that infectious smile, and his physical vigor proved a tonic to others. “Always on the move,” the reporter Drew Middleton noted. “Walking up and down, pacing patterns on the rug, his flat, harsh voice ejecting idea after idea like sparks flung from an emery wheel.”

“I’m a born optimist,” Eisenhower once said, “and I can’t change that.” He told his son, John, a cadet at West Point, that effective leadership could be learned by “studious reflection and practice….You must be devoted to duty, sincere, fair, and cheerful.” At times he could nitpick, grousing that “not one officer in fifty knows how to use the English language,” and supposedly cashiering an aide for failing to master the distinction between “shall” and “will.” Still, he remained humble and balanced despite having served seven years under a paragon of pretension, General Douglas MacArthur, whose refusal to ever acknowledge error and whose persistent references to himself in the third person baffled Eisenhower. Told that George Marshall proposed to nominate him for the Congressional Medal of Honor after TORCH, Eisenhower warned, “I would refuse to accept it.”

Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (The Liberation Trilogy Book 2). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

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