Group Portrait of a Stellar Triumvirate

Article excerpt

Group Portrait of a Stellar Triumvirate 15 Stara: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century. Stanley Weintraub. Free Press. 543 pages; black and white photographs; index; $30.

When Congress authorized the creation of five-star rank in December 1944, the first three Army recipients were Gen. George C. Marshall, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. This triumvirate of American warriors wore a total of 15 stars; each contributed mightily to the Allied victory in World War Ð. Although the book's subtitle is somewhat misleading, in 15 Stars Stanley Weintraub salutes these officers "who did their nation proud" and who "represented 20th-century America at its crest."

Weintraub should be quite familiar to readers of ARMY Magazine. He is the Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Perm State University and the author of several notable histories and biographies, ranging from World War I to the Korean War.

By the end of World War II, Marshall, MacArthur and Eisenhower were household names. Each had been featured on the cover of Time, and the faces of all three would eventually appear on postage stamps reflecting their distinctive leadership styles. All pursued notable postwar careers, culminating in one serving as virtual viceroy of Japan, another as secretary of State and secretary of Defense, while the third ascended to the nation's highest political office. Though their lives were intertwined over nearly six decades of public service, Weintraub posits that "their trajectories, however upward, reflected their differences," rather than their professional similarities.

Weintraub excels in his analysis of how Marshall's, MacArthur's and Eisenhower's respective careers interconnected over their joint military service. Weintraub begins his narrative in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, when Army Chief of Staff Marshall summoned Eisenhower to Washington, D.C, to head the War Department's Operations Division. Eisenhower's first task was to do everything possible to save MacArthur's beleaguered command in the Philippines. Over the course of the next four years, Marshall retained his senior post as Army Chief of Staff, while MacArthur and Eisenhower served as his principal theater commanders in the South West Pacific Area and Europe, respectively.

In the more than 20 years before Pearl Harbor, Marshall and MacArthur served with distinction in Gen. John J. Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces. Denied combat service in World War I, Eisenhower spent six years as MacArthur's aide and speechwriter in the 1930s. By the time President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Marshall as Army Chief of Staff, Eisenhower was still relatively unknown outside military circles, while MacArthur was safely ensconced as senior military adviser to Commonwealth of the Philippines President Manuel Quezon.

The author maintains a healthy respect for Marshall and Eisenhower. He portrays both officers as professionally competent and leaders of character. At no time was this more evident than when Marshall cabled Eisenhower after the German capitulation: "You have completed your mission with the greatest victory in the history of warfare. …