The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War

The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War

The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War

The Fifth Star: High Command in an Era of Global War

Synopsis

In modern times, ten Americans rose to five-star rank: Pershing (who chose to wear only four stars), Leahy, Marshall, King, Arnold, MacArthur, Nimitz, Halsey, Eisenhower, and Bradley. In concert with the Roosevelts, Wilson, Truman, and Sir Winston Churchill, they were at the helm as the world transformed from the machinations of regional despots to an era of global war. With few exceptions, these men exercised their responsibilities with remarkable integrity and ability. The first part of this book reviews the biography and military highlights of each five-star; the second analyzes and compares the ten to identify common features of the elements of command and leadership. While studying the careers of these distinguished men, Hall also provides an insight into the analysis of war. He explains that war operates on five levels of perspective: heroism, tactics, operations, theaters, and national purpose. When these levels conflict, even the best leaders are fortunate to escape with their reputationsintact. This volume details how these commanders achieved success by understanding and properly maintaining these different perspectives almost unfailingly. Consequently, they reached the pinnacle of power in the military profession.

Excerpt

This book started as a collection of biographical sketches with little more cohesion than that each principal had worn, or had the authority to wear, five stars. Underlying the idea was the hope that it might encourage better understanding among the services as the importance of joint operations grows. This purpose is still valid; but in the process of the research, I realized there was a larger story to be told. The period of 1890-1953--for Anglo-Saxons if not the world--was a modern Iliad; and the principals in this book, along with both Roosevelts and Sir Winston Churchill, had developed into something of a mortal parallel of an extended Olympian family.

The motivation for writing it arose from three sources. The first occurred growing up as a navy brat. At the time I assumed all admirals were crusty and austere. Then I noticed some effusive comments Fleet Admiral Nimitz had written to my father, a navy commander, on a photograph of the surrender ceremony. In part, Nimitz wrote, "From one Skipjack skipper to another." My father served on that submarine before and during World War I. But as he had been an enlisted petty officer at the time, I asked him what Nimitz meant by "skipper." He told me that the admiral himself had once commanded the Skipjack and later moved up to division (flotilla) commander. Then one day, my father decided to take it out for a short cruise on his own initiative. As he returned to dock, Lieutenant Nimitz was standing there and said: "That's very good seamanship, Mr. Hall. You're confined to quarters for thirty days." Thus, while Admiral Nimitz was a stickler for most regulations, he also appreciated initiative in subordinates; he could remember casual events many years afterward and have a little fun. In the process, he endeared himself to millions of sailors.

The second event was less auspicious. While at the preparatory school for the Military Academy, I noticed a poster in the supply room that read "Stairway to the Stars." On the first riser was "West Point," on the next . . .

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