Academic journal article Military Review

Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith

Academic journal article Military Review

Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith

Article excerpt

BEETLE: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith, D.K.R. Crosswell, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2010, 1088 pages, $39.95.

Eisenhower thought General Walter "Beetle" Smith indispensable to the Allied victory in Europe, yet Smith remains a little known figure. In this definitive biography, Crosswell shows Smith as Eisenhower's necessary junior partner and offers a view of World War II in the Mediterranean and Western Europe from the highest operational level. Crosswell addresses controversial topics in coalition warfare, discusses wartime staff organization and manpower problems, and connects command decisions to the limitations imposed on them by logistics.

Crosswell's account of Smith's postwar career as Truman's ambassador to the Soviet Union and CIA director and Eisenhower's under secretary of state leads one to understand why neither Marshall nor Eisenhower considered Smith a viable candidate for independent command; he was an operator and fixer, but not a strategic thinker. The book also highlights the Army's emphasis on institutionalized education, its shortcomings, its role in Smith's career, and his relationship with George Marshall.

As one of Marshall's inner staff, Smith was an efficient administrator, shielding his boss from unnecessary interruption and mundane affairs; he proved indispensable, emerging as Marshall's principal apprentice and troubleshooter. Eisenhower recognized Smith's ability after he joined the General Staff in December 1941 and requested Smith's services when he became commander of the European Theater in June 1942.

In Croswell's view, Smith "was much more than advertised," as Eisenhower's chief of staff. …

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