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 AcademySee all reviews...
“Provides a collective portrait of the ground army’s senior officer corps that is searching and complex.”
—Pacific Historical Review
“A well-written and refreshing approach that makes a valuable contribution to the study of senior military leadership in war.”
“A cogent, well-researched, and important contribution to our understanding of Marshall and his commanders that explores their conflicts with each other as well as their battlefield successes and failures.”
—Mark A. Stoler, editor of the George C. Marshall Papers
“Provides a marvelous synthesis of the specialized literature on the dozens of leading generals—some famous, many obscure—who directed the military campaigns in the European and Pacific theaters of war.”
—Michael Schaller, author of Douglas MacArthur: Far Eastern General
“A superb portrait of a group of army officers that deserves to be read by everyone interested in World War II.”
—Jonathan House, author of Combined Arms Warfare in the Twentieth Century
“A crisply written study and effective introduction to the relationship of Marshall and his lieutenants as they waged war in an extremely complex international conflict. It deserves a wide readership.”
—Kevin C. Holzimmer, author of General Walter Krueger: Unsung Hero of the Pacific WarSee fewer reviews...
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.