The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today

The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today

by Thomas E. Ricks

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143124092
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/29/2013
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 209,526
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas E. Ricks is an adviser on national security at the New America Foundation, where he participates in its “Future of War” project. He was previously a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and is a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prizewinning blog The Best Defense. Ricks covered the U.S. military for The Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. Until the end of 1999 he had the same beat at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for seventeen years. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, he covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of several books, including The Gamble, and the number one New York Times bestseller Fiasco, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book, Churchill and Orwell, is a New York Times bestseller.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

PROLOGUE: Captain William DePuy and the 90th Division in Normandy, summer 1944

PART I
WORLD WAR II

1. General George C. Marshall: The leader

2. Dwight Eisenhower: How the Marshall system worked

3. George Patton: The specialist

4. Mark Clark: The man in the middle

5. “Terrible Terry” Allen: Conflict between Marshall and his protégés

6. Eisenhower manages Montgomery

7. Douglas MacArthur: The general as presidential aspirant

8. William Simpson: The Marshall system and the new model American general

PART II
THE KOREAN WAR

9. William Dean and Douglas MacArthur: Two generals self- destruct

10. Army generals fail at Chosin

11. O. P. Smith succeeds at Chosin

12. Ridgway turns the war around

13. MacArthur’s last stand

14. The organization man’s Army

PART III
THE VIETNAM WAR

15. Maxwell Taylor: Architect of defeat

16. William Westmoreland: The organization man in command

17. William DePuy: World War II– style generalship in Vietnam

18. The collapse of generalship in the 1960s

  • a. At the top
  • b. In the field
  • c. In personnel policy

19. Tet ’68: The end of Westmoreland and the turning point of the war

20. My Lai: General Koster’s cover-up and General Peers’s investigation

21. The end of a war, the end of an Army

PART IV
INTERWAR

22. DePuy’s great rebuilding

23. “How to teach judgment”

PART V

IRAQ AND THE HIDDEN COSTS OF REBUILDING

24. Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and the empty triumph of the 1991 war

25. The ground war: Schwarzkopf vs. Frederick Franks

26. The post– Gulf War military

27. Tommy R. Franks: Two- time loser

28. Ricardo Sanchez: Over his head

29. George Casey: Trying but treading water

30. David Petraeus: An outlier moves in, then leaves

EPILOGUE: Restoring American military leadership

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

NOTES

INDEX

What People are Saying About This

Hew Strachan

The Generals rips up the definition of professionalism in which the US Army has clothed itself. Tom Ricks shows that it has lost the habit of sacking those who cannot meet the challenge of war, leaving it to Presidents to do so. His devastating analysis explains much that is wrong in US civil-military relations. America's allies, who have looked to emulate too slavishly the world's pre-eminent military power, should also take heed. (Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford)

William J. Perry

This is a brilliant book—deeply researched, very well-written and outspoken. Ricks pulls no punches in naming names as he cites serious failures of leadership, even as we were winning World War II, and failures that led to serious problems in later wars. And he calls for rethinking the concept of generalship in the Army of the future. (William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense)

From the Publisher

This is a brilliant book—deeply researched, very well-written and outspoken. Ricks pulls no punches in naming names as he cites serious failures of leadership, even as we were winning World War II, and failures that led to serious problems in later wars.  And he calls for rethinking the concept of generalship in the Army of the future.”
—William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense

“Thomas E. Ricks has written a definitive and comprehensive story of American generalship from the battlefields of World War II to the recent war in Iraq. The Generals candidly reveals their triumphs and failures, and offers a prognosis of what can be done to ensure success by our future leaders in the volatile world of the twenty-first century.”
—Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War

“Tom Ricks has written another provocative and superbly researched book that addresses a critical issue, generalship. After each period of conflict in our history, the quality and performance of our senior military leaders comes under serious scrutiny. The Generals will be a definitive and controversial work that will spark the debate, once again, regarding how we make and choose our top military leaders.”
—Anthony C. Zinni, General USMC (Ret.)

The Generals is insightful, well written and thought-provoking. Using General George C. Marshall as the gold standard, it is replete with examples of good and bad generalship in the postwar years. Too often a bureaucratic culture in those years failed to connect performance with consequences. This gave rise to many mediocre and poor senior leaders. Seldom have any of them ever been held accountable for their failures. This book justifiably calls for a return to the strict, demanding and successful Marshall prescription for generalship. It is a reminder that the lives of soldiers are more important than the careers of officers—and that winning wars is more important than either.”
—Bernard E. Trainor, Lt. Gen. USMC (Ret.); author of The Generals’ War

The Generals rips up the definition of professionalism in which the US Army has clothed itself. Tom Ricks shows that it has lost the habit of sacking those who cannot meet the challenge of war, leaving it to Presidents to do so. His devastating analysis explains much that is wrong in US civil-military relations. America’s allies, who have looked to emulate too slavishly the world’s pre-eminent military power, should also take heed.”
—Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford
 

Anthony C. Zinni

Tom Ricks has written another provocative and superbly researched book that addresses a critical issue, generalship. After each period of conflict in our history, the quality and performance of our senior military leaders comes under serious scrutiny. The Generals will be a definitive and controversial work that will spark the debate, once again, regarding how we make and choose our top military leaders. (Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.))

Bernard E. Trainor

The Generals is insightful, well written and thought-provoking. Using General George C. Marshall as the gold standard, it is replete with examples of good and bad generalship in the postwar years. Too often a bureaucratic culture in those years failed to connect performance with consequences. This gave rise to many mediocre and poor senior leaders. Seldom have any of them ever been held accountable for their failures. This book justifiably calls for a return to the strict, demanding and successful Marshall prescription for generalship. It is a reminder that the lives of soldiers are more important than the careers of officers—and that winning wars is more important than either. (Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor, USMC (Ret.); author of The Generals' War)

Carlo D'Este

Thomas E. Ricks has written a definitive and comprehensive story of American generalship from the battlefields of World War II to the recent war in Iraq. The Generals candidly reveals their triumphs and failures, and offers a prognosis of what can be done to ensure success by our future leaders in the volatile world of the twenty-first century. (Carlo D'Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War)

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The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Aviator47 More than 1 year ago
Rick's has indeed produced an interesting book, and my third star is based on this versus the "analytical "value of the content. However, having served from 1960 through 1995, and studied the legislative and regulatory evolution of the Army over the course of its history, I found the book sorely lacking in addressing as simple an issue as the profoundly different legal and regulatory environment of the "Marshall Army" and subsequent years. Further, the "Marshall Army" was an Army that had to grow more than 10 fold in a few short years, while competing with sister services and industrial for leadership and manpower demands. No subsequent general had a "management" task remotely resembling this. Ricks failed to address the many generals whose tactical blunders were very costly, yet did not result in relief. Further, the WWII Army was able, legally, to take an operational star, such as Patton or Terry Allen, and "park them" somewhere to escape the glare caused by their personal eccentricities, and quickly return them to command of combat formations when they were needed. Such "luxury" became less and less possible under subsequent legislation and situational circumstances. In short, WWII, much like the Civil War, was a "one-off", and it is inaccurate to try to draw personnel management parallels to subsequent years without seriously addressing the nature of the "one-off". Others have discussed the differences in civilian leadership, foreign policy and strategic objectives, that explain some of Ricks' conclusions differently, and there I agree as well. It would almost appear as Ricks had a thesis, and simply set out to present just those anecdotes that supported his thesis, and quit when that was done. However, the book does give some interesting anecdotal material. Some (not all) of his criticisms of more recent generals are pretty spot-on, even if the causality he ascribes is far from so. He does, as others note, put national policy errors too heavily on the generals. The civilian leadership will obviously select theater commanders who are fully willing to execute their unenlightened objectives over those who don't. That such sycophants exist is no new development. Donald Rumsfeld, for example, was not interested in any contrasting opinions, as demonstrated by his marginalizing GEN Shinseki. Nuff said. For all its warts, I would never want to see the military be the main force behind foreign policy. Our job is to offer professional military (not domestic political) advice, then obey the lawful orders of those appointed over us. At the top, those appointed over us are, and will remain, civilians.
Podo More than 1 year ago
Great book. It's very easy to read, and insightful at the same time, which is nice. You may not agree with what he writes, but the book is certainly thought provoking. Highlights the need for military strategy to be in tune with political strategy, and the need for clear and honest communication at the top. I found a lot of truth in his assertions about the military officer corps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a little conflicted on this book. The author starts out with looking at general officer removal from battle as a subject of those officers failing. But as the book goes on it becomes more about how the general officer corps cannot nation build. I think that the author missed the point as to why Gen Marshall, in WWII, did what he did with the general officers. It stems from his time in WWI and that in the inter-war years he saw what the Army had and as war loomed he knew that the US could not afford the casualties that it sustained in WWI. It would need leaders that used all available assets to achieve victory and use thier intellect not orders to win battles. The general officers in WWII, that fought in WWI, were far different than the general officers of WWI. Good book on what it takes to be a general officer in the US Army. How our lessons learned must always be applied to current and future conflicts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The prologue almost lost me as a reader, but as soon as Chapter 1 started, it was really interesting and well written, I enjoyed learning about the different leadership styles of generals and connections or disconnections with politics, and seeing the resulting changes over time, for good or bad.
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Bought it for our son in the military..husband had to read it first.said it was very good and our son definitely will want to read it...he is an infantry officer giving it for a Christmas gift.
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biased, nothing new on ww2
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Too political
DathVader79 More than 1 year ago
didnt like
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SAA -- I just completed this book and feel so proud and relieved Ricks' finally had the courage, foresight and knowledge to finally reveal to the general public what has needed to be said about the military's top bureaucrats. There are no more Pattons, Rommels, Jacksons and Pershings. There are only robotic drones (no pun intended) experts at ironing, shining and marching; under educated about most cultures in the world without a care about the history of other non-caucasions. He was accurate that generals are not fully to blame. The PODUS, SECDEF and Sec. of State also deserve some blame but instead of trying to be nice and ensure they get along, the civilian-military discourse (Ricks' words) has devolved into corporate mgmt. polities ensuring there is no yelling and only backstabbing. Great job Mr. Ricks and I can't wait to read your next book. Today's officers and senior enlisted are not leaders, they're followers!
THEVET More than 1 year ago
The author demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge on how the politicians determine the constraints placed on the military, not the military themselves. The book is pretty much one big "cut and paste" job from a minority of authors who agree with his opinions; when they disagree with his thesis he buries a disclaimer in a "coda" or in footnotes. Sophomoric drivel written probably to safeguard his rice bowl at the New York Times The Vet