15 STARS: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century

By Pearlman, Michael | Military Review, January/February 2008 | Go to article overview

15 STARS: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century


Pearlman, Michael, Military Review


15 STARS: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century, Stanley Weintraub, Free Press, New York, 2007, 541 pages. $30.00

This very readable book is a collective biography of three five-star generals identified in the subtitle. It concentrates on World War II, when they jointly acquired those fifteen stars, although it also covers the generals' prewar backgrounds and postwar careers. 15 Stars mixes portraits of the men and a cast of surrounding characters with discussions of high strategy: the cross-channel invasion into Normandy vs. Mediterranean operations, and the central Pacific pathway towards Japan vs. the New Guinea road through the Philippines. George Marshall comes off the best because he was selfless. According to author Stanley Weintraub, Marshall was virtually a martyr, refusing to ask for his heart-felt desire to command the Northwest Europe Theater. Douglas MacArthur comes off the worst, relentlessly pursuing his personal agenda for military glory. Dwight Eisenhower falls somewhere between these extremes. While praised for being what MacArthur was not, "genial and unpretentious," Ike spends too much time in luxurious quarters in rear areas and pays too much attention to Kay Summersby, his beautiful chauffer. One could think that Weintraub also pays too much attention to her (eight lines in his index), if this were not a book on personalities as well as matters of policy.

Truth be told, Weintraub slams a host of Anglo-American figures: Franklin Roosevelt is manipulative; Winston Churchill is duplicitous and stubbornly resentful when his power ebbs vis-à-vis Roosevelt; Alan Brooke, Mark Clark, Bernard Montgomery, and George Patton can seem as self-centered as MacArthur; and Omar Bradley and Courtney Hodges, despite their purported modesty, often don't come off a great deal better. …

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