Marshall and His Generals

U.S. Army Commanders in World War II

Stephen R. Taaffe

General George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, faced the daunting task not only of overseeing two theaters of a global conflict but also of selecting the best generals to carry out American grand strategy. Marshall and His Generals is the first and only book to focus entirely on that selection process and the performances, both stellar and disappointing, that followed from it. Stephen Taaffe chronicles and critiques the background, character, achievements, and failures of the more than three dozen general officers chosen for top combat group commands—from commanders like Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur to some nearly forgotten.

Taaffe explores how and why Marshall selected the Armys commanders. Among his chief criteria were character (including unselfish and devoted purpose), education, (whether at West Point, Fort Leavenworth, or the Army War College), and striking a balance between experience and relative youth in a war that required both wisdom and great physical stamina. As the war unfolded, Marshall also factored into his calculations the combat leadership his generals demonstrated and the opinions of his theater commanders.

“Taaffe’s penetrating look at the Army’s ‘one indispensable man’ shows how commanders like Omar Bradley, ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell, Courtney Hodges, and their peers were selected and deployed—and how they kept their jobs.”

Wall Street Journal

“Rarely does an academic historian offer insight into the past and a tutorial on the art of senior-level command. Taaffe accomplishes both. . . . Essential reading.”

Proccedings, U.S. Naval Academy
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Taaffe brings into sharp focus the likes of Eisenhower, MacArthur, George Patton, Omar Bradley, Walter Krueger, Robert Eichelberger, Courtney Hodges, Lucian Truscott, J. Lawton Collins, Alexander Sandy Patch, Troy Middleton, Matthew Ridgeway, Mark Clark, and twenty-five other generals who served in the conflict. He describes their leadership and decision-making processes and provides miniature biographies and personality sketches of these men drawn from their personal papers, official records, and reflections of fellow officers.

Delving deeper than other studies, this path-breaking work produces a seamless analysis of Marshalls selection process of operational-level commanders. Taaffe also critiques the performance of these generals during the war and reveals the extent to which their actions served as stepping stones to advancement.

Ambitious in scope and filled with sharp insights, Marshall and His Generals is essential reading for anyone interested in World War II and military leadership more generally.

About the Author

Stephen R. Taaffe is professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He is author of Commanding Lincoln’s Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War; Commanding the Army of the Potomac; The Philadelphia Campaign, 1777–1778; and MacArthur’s Jungle War: The 1944 New Guinea Campaign; and is a two-time winner of the Army Historical Foundations Distinguished Book Award.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series