Magazine article Army

How a World War II Giant Commanded in a Crisis

Magazine article Army

How a World War II Giant Commanded in a Crisis

Article excerpt

How a World War II Giant Commanded in a Crisis Roosevelt's Centurions: FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II. Joseph E. Persico. Random House. 668 pages. $35.

In my view, there are two kinds of scholarly works of history. There are scholarly works replete with explanatory footnotes and annotated bibliographies, and they satisfy the requirements and expectations of academe. Works such as these are worthy contributions to the greater body of knowledge. The other kinds are the page-turning history books that tell a good story. In Roosevelt's Centurions, Joseph E. Persico tells a good story.

Persico begins: "Wars are different now, but the human factors and forces at the highest levels change little." He asks how President Franklin D. Roosevelt built his team of military leaders. He answers this question by exploring Roosevelt's ability as a recruiter, strategist and home-front leader. The exploration of these traits includes observations of the personalities and foibles of the "Great Captains" Roosevelt assembled to lead the American armed forces.

The book features supporting stories linked to an exploration of Roosevelt's abilities to select the leaders he needed to craftand execute the strategy required to win a two-front war. The book also explores his ability to select leaders who had the acumen to translate that strategy into globe-spanning campaigns and accept the fact that executing those campaigns required civilian oversight. War is an extension of policy; policy drove strategy, which is a lesson even Gen. George C. Marshall relearned. Roosevelt's centurions all realized politics intertwined with policy. …

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