American Generalship: Character Is Everything: The Art of Command

By Edgar F. Puryear Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3: "Feel" or "Sixth Sense" in Decision
Making

Although I am convinced after interviewing more than a hundred four-star generals that there is a pattern of successful leadership in the American military, some people do not agree. But even the strongest opponents of the thesis concede that all truly great military leaders have a "feel" or "sixth sense."

Contact with the troops played a role in Eisenhower's decision making. Just before he was to transfer from the Mediterranean area to London to assume his duties as supreme commander of the Allied invasion of Europe, he became uneasy over the Anzio project. He was disturbed to hear that his plan for concentrating air force headquarters in Caserta was to be dropped. "To me this decision," General Eisenhower commented, "seemed to imply a lack of understanding of the situation and of the duties of the highest commander in the field: regardless of preoccupation with multitudinous problems of great import, he must never lose touch with the 'feel' of his troops. He can and should delegate tactical responsibility and avoid interference in the authority of his selected subordinates, but he must maintain the closest kind of factual and spiritual contact with them or, in a vast critical campaign, he will fail. This contact requires frequent visits to the troops themselves."1

Eisenhower did not spend all of his time with his senior commanders and his staff; he visited the soldiers in his command frequently. In fall 1944, he went to the front to talk with several hundred men of the 29th Infantry Division. He spoke to them on a muddy, slippery hillside. After he had finished talking, he turned to go back to his jeep but slipped and fell on his back and became covered with mud. The soldiers he had been talking with could not re

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