From the Publisher
John Milton Cooper, Jr. The New York Times Book Review Eisenhower makes World War I memorable...Yanks illuminates how [World War I] in part shaped World War II and all the American wars of the 20th century.
Alan Gropman The Washington Times An outstanding account of the American combat effort in World War I...brilliantly organized [and] exceptionally well-written...Eisenhower tells a great story and he tells it well.
Stephen E. Ambrose author of Band of Brothers and The Wild Blue When John Eisenhower describes General Pershing and his staff on the ship taking his first contingent of Americans to France, he makes you feel you were there most of all wondering, as Pershing did, how all this was going to work. Finding out is what makes this such an enjoyable read.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Starting from near zero, the U.S. and Gen. John Pershing created a war-winning army in less than 18 months; veteran historian Eisenhower (Agent of Destiny, etc.) tells how they did it in this fast-paced narrative. A retired brigadier general in the army reserves, Eisenhower (writing here with spouse Joanne) presents the U.S. involvement in the war from the perspective of statesmen and generals. Even for combat color, he focuses primarily on senior officers: Douglas MacArthur and George Patton, with his insouciant courage under fire; George C. Marshall; and lesser-known figures like Charles Summerall, who threw a whole army's rear echelons into compound confusion in order to give the 1st Infantry Division a chance to capture Sedan in the war's final days. That kind of drive and energy was necessary given America's almost complete military unpreparedness. It took almost a year for the U.S. Army to put a single division of the American Expeditionary Force into battle. Without denying the administrative problems and the casualties caused by inexperience and improvisation, Eisenhower stresses the Americans' high learning curves at all levels. He argues as well that Pershing was an effective commander even in the Argonne campaign, the one most often cited as bringing the AEF nearly to gridlock, making a remarkably clear presentation of that confusing combat. Eisenhower sympathizes with Pershing's belief that the armistice was a mistake, that even a few days more might have convinced the Germans they had, in fact, been defeated in the field. It remains an arguable position, but the AEF emerges from these pages as the decisive instrument of an incomplete victory. (June 4) Forecast: The Eisenhower name, both presidential and military historical (John S.D. is the son of Dwight David), will draw readers to this title, which is suitable for generalists and buffs alike. The latter, however, will be more likely to take this blow-by-blow account all the way to the register. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This history focuses entirely on the challenges, victories, sacrifices (320,500 casualties), and long-term consequences of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in Europe during World War I. According to Eisenhower (brigadier general, ret.; Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott), the AEF was originally meant to be amalgamated with the Allied armies in Europe, but through the stubborn insistence of the Wilson administration and Gen. "Black" Jack Pershing, the Americans fought under their own colors. This well-written work demonstrates how a small, ill-equipped force grew into an awesome fighting machine and was led to victory after victory (Marne, Ch teau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne) by a gifted, opportunistic corps of officers eager to prove themselves and their units. Battlefield accounts are enlivened with evocative recollections from the diaries and memoirs of officers and doughboys alike. Eisenhower contends that the AEF's contributions in France ranged from cowering the Central Powers into submission in 1918 to serving as an indispensable military model for World War II. This soundly researched effort, which would have benefited only from the inclusion of AEF engagement maps, includes Eisenhower's explanatory endnotes as an extra bonus. Recommended for all general and academic libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
"The history of the Victorian Age," writes Lytton Strachey in his Preface to Eminent Victorians, "will never be written: we know too much about it." That paradoxical and somewhat arresting statement serves as Strachey's excuse for selecting four lives to depict an entire age of British history, but it applies to any subject on which mountains of material have been written.
The First World War, often referred to as the Great War, certainly falls into that category. Too much is known about that vast conflict to permit one book to cover the entire war in anything but a textbook fashion. The "explorer of the past," to continue with Strachey, "will row out over that great ocean of material, and lower down into it...a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen."
With that idea in mind, I have not attempted to write a comprehensive story of the Great War. Instead I have focused on the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General John J. Pershing. In describing the inception of the AEF in early 1917 and its subsequent development and employment until the war's end in late 1918, I have not attempted to give a rounded picture of the whole war, which includes the actions of many nations on many fronts. Nevertheless, the story of the AEF and how it fit into the general scheme of the war is worth a study in itself.
The saga of the AEF is not, on the whole, a cheery one. The overseas experiences of the American troops -- "doughboys" -- bore little relationship to the rousing patriotic songs such as George M. Cohan's "Over There," or to the parades and banners. It entailed arduous duties, performed in the wet, the cold, sometimes the heat, with death always lurking, mostly in the front line infantry battalions but elsewhere as well. There was heroism, but there was also cowardice. At first there was ignorance of the job to be done -- "innocence" might be a better word. Yet the end result was inspiring. A great many people pulled together to attain a great accomplishment.
In a way, the story of the AEF in the Great War is part of my background, perhaps something I needed to put on paper in order to work it out of my system. I was born in an Army family slightly less than four years after the last gun was fired in the Meuse-Argonne; my first vivid memories are those of trudging over the battlefields with my father, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, and my mother. During 1928 and 1929 my father was a member of General Pershing's American Battle Monuments Commission, with offices in Paris. One of his tasks was to draft the official Guide to the American Battlefields in France. The end result was a remarkable book; it remains today the best available guide for the student of the war to follow. The final edition was not published until 1938, and I have no idea what proportion of my father's original words survived. I also have no idea of how the study of the terrain in northern France helped him in later campaigns across the same territory fifteen years later. But I know that accompanying him on his many tours around the territory made a lasting impression on me. At age six, I was even privileged to shake the hand of the Great Man himself, John J. Pershing!
It is not surprising that, as a youngster, I viewed the Great War in a romantic fashion. Heroic charges, reduction of fearsome enemy machine gun nests, the roar of artillery, the exploits of the air aces -- those were my boyhood fantasies, based on true stories but far from the grim truth.
Others have viewed the AEF and its role in the Great War much differently. Some have thought it unnecessary; others have succumbed to excessive disillusionment over the disparity between the patriotic mouthings of our propagandists and the grisly facts of the Argonne or of Château Thierry. The latter views, when carried to the extreme, are no more right nor wrong than my childhood concepts. They are just viewed from different angles, both extreme.
The purpose of this book, therefore, is to strike a balance, to examine how the AEF came about, to describe the gargantuan efforts needed to create it, supply it, train it, and fight it, and in so doing to show how the modern American Army was born. Since many of my sources are personal memoirs written by survivors, I have not dwelt at length on the immense tragedies felt by so many families. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this single, modest volume will provide some perspective on one of the truly pivotal events in American history.
John S. D. Eisenhower
Copyright © 2001 by John S. D. Eisenhower