The Supreme Commander, The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Supreme Commander, The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower

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The Supreme Commander, The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, by Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002), is a 2012 First Anchor Books Edition. Anchor Books is a division of Random House, Inc. The book, first published in 1969, is divided into two sections: Book One, The First Two Years, and Book Two, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. Four valuable maps from Eisenhower’s 1948 publication, Crusade in Europe, are included. The Supreme Commander has 732 pages that include a Glossary of military codes (e.g., TORCH), Chapter Notes and an Index.

The first book is a biographical and historical account of Eisenhower and his command during the North African and Southern European invasions of 1942-43. In the Epilogue of Book One, the author ponders the mystery of the effectiveness of this great leader:  “… he dominated any gathering of which he was a member. People naturally looked at him. His hands and facial muscles were always active. Through a gesture or a glance, as much as through the tone of his voice or what he was saying, he created a mood that imposed itself on others… Dwight Eisenhower was an intensely alive human being… He had a sharp, orderly mind. No one ever thought to describe him as an intellectual giant, and outside of his professional field he was not well read… When his superiors gave him a problem, they could count on his taking all relevant factors into consideration…” However, according to General Bernard Montgomery “… his real strength lies in his human qualities… He has the power of drawing the hearts of men toward him as a magnet attracts the bits of metal. He merely has to smile at you, and you trust him at once. He is the very incarnation of sincerity.” (From Widipedia: the name Eisenhower is German in origin and means iron hewer.)

Eisenhower worked for four years under General George Marshall (1880-1959), the Army Chief of Staff, and during this time he received a temporary promotion to Major General. (Most promotions during war times are temporary, although later they can become regular or permanent.) Ambrose writes: “The Supreme Allied Command in Europe would never have come about had it not been for Marshall’s thought, driving force, and persuasive powers, but it would not have worked had it not been for Eisenhower.” Eisenhower impressed Marshall by developing strategies opposed to the “Asia-first advocates,” and stressed that in the two-ocean war (Japan and Europe), the United States should make its first major offensive in Europe. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) agreed. “If the war is to be won in Europe, land forces must be developed and trained which are capable of landing on the continent and advancing under the support of an overwhelming air force.” This would require “strict economy of force in other theaters.” The military drive to begin the offensive by first landing on the western coast of France in 1942 (SLEDGEHAMMER, which would have been a “suicide invasion”) was difficult to overcome, but decisive help in this regard came from the political leaders, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. (A proposed later invasion of France, to take place in 1943, was called ROUNDUP. France had been occupied by the Axis forces since 1940.) With the assistance of the French generals, Henri Giraud (1879-1949) and Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), the offenses began with TORCH, the 1942 invasion of Northern Africa from the vantage point of neutral Spain. Here, Eisenhower had headquarters within the Rock of Gibraltar. To his surprise, he had been appointed by General Marshall as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force of the North Theater of Operations.

There were three landings in North Africa: at Casablanca in Morocco, and at Oran and Algiers in Algeria. These ultimate victories – and the brutally hard lessons they taught – were followed (after happily bagging over 11,000 prisoners from the small Isola de Pantelleria) by the invasion of Sicily, called HUSKY, then Salerno, AVALANCHE, and finally Italy at Anzio, SHINGLE. At the time, Italy had a complex governmental and social structure that included King Vittorio Emanuele III of Sardinia, who abdicated the throne in 1946; Benito Mussolini, fascist premier; Pietro Badoglio, prime minister after the fall of the fascist regime; Vatican City, with Pope Pius XII, later known as Hitler’s Pope; and the influential and far reaching Sicilian Mafia.

In December of 1943, after the successes in Italy, Eisenhower – again to his genuine surprise – was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. He was to command Operation OVERLORD, the invasion of Europe that was finally to begin in France, in June 1944, with landings at Normandy. As is very well known, Normandy beach was divided into five sectors, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Ambrose begins Book Two at this point. Normandy became the final choice “as the site for history’s greatest invasion.” “Everything that had gone before – TORCH, Sicily, Salerno – seemed unimportant, insignificant by comparison. The Allies were about to come to grips with the Wehrmacht on the Continent.” “Although Hitler personally believed that the attack would come at Normandy, the German defenses there were not as far advanced as they were to the north.” The German casualties at Normandy have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men, and the allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.

Eisenhower received his five-star promotion to General of the Army on December 20, 1944. This rank was retired in 1981 on the death of General of the Army Omar Bradley.

Book II extends from page 327 to page 668. It is a history that will be familiar to many readers. – Review by Martha Keltz


Eisenhower’s Military Chronology:

An excellent, thorough Wikipedia site all about Ike:

Rudolf Steiner on The True Nature of the Second Coming:

American Graves at Normandy:

The cover photo on The Supreme Commander paperback book shows Eisenhower speaking with the men of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division. The date was June 5, 1944, the day before the D-Day invasion.

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