In Caesar's Shadow: The Life of General Robert Eichelberger

By Paul Chwialkowski | Go to book overview
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Robert L. Eichelberger had a distinguished and prominent career. His accomplishments approached a level of greatness, although he was never accorded the honors that crowned the careers of the truly great officers, such as Patton, Bradley, and Eisenhower. Eichelberger died with the painful realization that, despite his many victories, he had never captured the attention of the historians and his peers; he had somehow been accorded less status than his more noteworthy counterparts in Europe.

This book suggests that Eichelberger's status as a near-great but not truly great officer can be explained by four key factors. One was Eichelberger's failure to achieve a special competence among his peers. As Morris Janowitz states in The Professional Soldier, officers "who wanted to rise [in rank and prestige] had to establish a reputation based on their skill or on their heroic qualities." For example, Patton fit the ideal prototype for the "heroic leader"; Eisenhower and Bradley were prime models of the "military manager." Eichelberger conformed to neither model, although Janowitz states that he "conformed more to the military manager image." 1

Indeed, Eichelberger's image in the years preceding World War II was ambiguous and ill-defined. He was known more for his ability to get along with his superiors than for any recognized talent or skill. He was perceived as a "rising star" among his peers and classmates, but his rapid advancement was generally attributed to the generous support of his well-connected superiors, as opposed to any outstanding accomplishments or talents.

Eichelberger's reputation, or lack thereof, proved to be a major detriment from 1935 to the end of his military career. His rapid advancement through the ranks in the late 1930s attracted negative attention from his peers; they felt he was being unjustly advanced over possibly more qualified candidates. His transfer to the infantry in 1937 only intensified these suspicions. Many of his fellow officers were aware of Eichelberger's connections, and felt that he had gained a


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