If not Ike, who?

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by sherlock, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. sherlock

    sherlock Member

    If Eisenhower hadn't been named as Supreme Commander, who would have been a better choice? The two most obvious choices would be the American George Marshall or the British Alan Brooke. But, would they have done a better job than Eisenhower given the situation?
    Always felt that Marshall was a great organizer, but as a field commander, I'm not so sure. And Brooke was a solid field commander, as he had shown in 1940, but with his personality and strong opinions, he probably wouldn't have helped hold the coalition together.
    Eisenhower, no matter what he and his supporters say, was a great political general. As a military general, not so much. But again, given the situation, he was the best possible choice.
    Agree? Disagree? Any other nominees?
     
  2. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    GENERAL FRANK MAXWELL ANDREWS
    Often referred to as the 'father of the United States Air Force'. In February, 1943, he took over from General Eisenhower as Commanding-General of the European Theater of Operations.

    I posted this a few years ago.

    Apparently Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to this at the Casablanca Conference.

    Lt. General Frank Maxwell Andrews. He was being groomed by General Marshall and would have been appointed Supreme Allied Commander over Dwight Eisenhower had he not been killed. (Good read if you have a spare five minutes.)

    Frank Maxwell Andrews - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Does not mean anything of course because he was killed however even Hap Arnold was of this opinion.

    Cheers

    Geoff
     
  3. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    Eishenhower had always believed in the importance of a Supreme Commander. During one of the early joint meetings in London he was asked who he would recommend for the job. He said Mountbatten and then explained his reasons. He had not met Mountbatten then and was surprised when he learned he was in attendance at the same meeting and they were introduced.

    He wrote about the incident in Crusade in Europe

    Dave
     
  4. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    Eishenhower had always believed in the importance of a Supreme Commander. During one of the early joint meetings in London he was asked who he would recommend for the job. He said Mountbatten and then explained his reasons.
    One has to put his bizarre recommendation in context:The first question asked me was: "And who would you name as commander of this expedition?"
    Still thinking of an operation in early 1943, when the British would necessarily provide the major portion of the forces during the initial stages, I replied: "In America I have heard much of a man ... I think his name is Admiral Mountbatten. Anyone will be better than none; such an operation cannot be carried out under committee command. ... if the operation is to be staged initially with British forces predominating I assume he could do the job."
    My remarks were greeted with an amazed silence. ... The meeting was merely for an exchange of ideas [between the Americans and the British] and nothing was done. Almost needless to add, however, from then on Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten was my warm and firm friend.

    Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pages 75-76
     
    Dave55 likes this.
  5. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I don't know much about Andrews, and what I read does not give me confidence in him. A supreme commander has to appreciate and work with all arms and services, and Andrews sounds like a dedicated heavy bomber dogmatist.

    As to Marshall, his record as a staff man was outstanding. He had much experience of operational planning in the First World War, but he had no field experience. Brooke had shown himself to be a competent corps commander in 1940, but to go from a corps to the whole show would have been a big leap. Brooke's personality was also a big minus. He was a fine soldier, but sometimes blunt to the point of rudeness and that would have been disastrous if he had to lead an Allied force that eventually contained more American troops than British.

    I don't think Mountbatten would have done, either. Until he went to Burma he had no experience as the top man, and Dieppe was hardly a recommendation. I suspect the Canadians would have hit the roof if he had been picked, and rightly so.

    Eisenhower was the best choice, and in my view the only choice. People tend to dismiss him as a general and it is true that at times he failed to grip his commanders in the Med as he should have (I'm thinking of Kasserine and Sicily), but then you look at his record and his operations had been consistently successful ever since TORCH. Of what other Allied commanders could that be said? Nor should his 'political' skills be discounted; in fact they were absolutely essential in a supreme commander, and I don't think any other man could have welded the OVERLORD team together as well as Ike did. He was the right man.
     
    stolpi likes this.
  6. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    One has to put his bizarre recommendation in context:

    You're right, of course. Thanks for the entire passage.

    I don't have a copy of the book any more or I would have provided more info.

    Dave
     
  7. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    If Eisenhower hadn't been named as Supreme Commander, who would have been a better choice? The two most obvious choices would be the American George Marshall or the British Alan Brooke. But, would they have done a better job than Eisenhower given the situation?
    Always felt that Marshall was a great organizer, but as a field commander, I'm not so sure. And Brooke was a solid field commander, as he had shown in 1940, but with his personality and strong opinions, he probably wouldn't have helped hold the coalition together.
    Eisenhower, no matter what he and his supporters say, was a great political general. As a military general, not so much. But again, given the situation, he was the best possible choice.
    Agree? Disagree? Any other nominees?

    Sherlock,

    That's an easy one. Next in line from the American side was Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers. He was, after Eisenhower, the most likely choice from among the most senior "Marshall Men." Given the American investment in men, munitions, and resources, I believe Churchill had already given up on the idea that a British general would be appointed Supreme Allied Commander.
     
  8. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    GENERAL FRANK MAXWELL ANDREWS
    Often referred to as the 'father of the United States Air Force'. In February, 1943, he took over from General Eisenhower as Commanding-General of the European Theater of Operations.

    I posted this a few years ago.

    Apparently Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to this at the Casablanca Conference.

    Lt. General Frank Maxwell Andrews. He was being groomed by General Marshall and would have been appointed Supreme Allied Commander over Dwight Eisenhower had he not been killed. (Good read if you have a spare five minutes.)

    Frank Maxwell Andrews - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Does not mean anything of course because he was killed however even Hap Arnold was of this opinion.

    Cheers

    Geoff

    Edwards was only one of several "Marshall Men" who was being groomed for high command. With his demise, Devers assumed command of ETOUSA, and was first in line as Supreme Commander if Marshall decided not to select Eisenhower. Being a "wing wiper," I do not believe Edwards could have become the SC. That job pretty much had to go to someone from the ground forces.
     
  9. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    Eishenhower had always believed in the importance of a Supreme Commander. During one of the early joint meetings in London he was asked who he would recommend for the job. He said Mountbatten and then explained his reasons. He had not met Mountbatten then and was surprised when he learned he was in attendance at the same meeting and they were introduced.

    He wrote about the incident in Crusade in Europe

    Dave

    As a rule of thumb, it is best to take anything written by Eisenhower with a large dose of salt. After all, he is not known as a political general for nothing, and was not above twisting the truth in his favor.
     
  10. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    As a rule of thumb, it is best to take anything written by Eisenhower with a large dose of salt. After all, he is not known as a political general for nothing, and was not above twisting the truth in his favor.

    With the exception of the Gary Powers incident, I haven't seen that. He might have been known as a political general when dealing with allies as a theater commander but the first 25 years of his career he was about as apolitical as one could be and an absolute amateur compared to Clark and MacArthur. I'd call him diplomatic rather than political.

    Dave
     
  11. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    With the exception of the Gary Powers incident, I haven't seen that. He might have been known as a political general when dealing with allies as a theater commander but the first 25 years of his career he was about as apolitical as one could be and an absolute amateur compared to Clark and MacArthur. I'd call him diplomatic rather than political.

    Dave

    So you do not see his books like "Crusade in Europe" as self-serving?

    Might I suggest, in the friendliest of terms, that you might gain a different perspective with a broader and deeper course of reading about this man.

    It's thick, but Crosswell's landmark biography, Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith (His second book about the man, not the first.) is a great place to start. Butcher's serialized, post war book about his time with Eisenhower is also worth the effort. Don't confuse it with the generally favorable My Two Years with Eisenhower.
     
  12. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA Patron

    I enjoyed Carlo D'este's "Eisenhower. A Soldier's Life" a lot and I think that helped form my very favorable opinion of him. I haven't read the ones you recommended yet but I will. Thanks

    Dave
     
  13. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    I enjoyed Carlo D'este's "Eisenhower. A Soldier's Life" a lot and I think that helped form my very favorable opinion of him. I haven't read the ones you recommended yet but I will. Thanks

    Dave


    I am genuinely happy to be of some assistance.

    D'Este is definitely a member of the Eisenhower fan club, and there are more than a few others. However, as new information comes to light the great man’s place in WWII history has to be revised. This is true of history in general. There is an old saw among historians that a few generations have to pass before historical events and figures can be viewed in their proper (and more accurate) perspectives. On the other hand, many of the myths and misconceptions about WWII have achieved a concreteness in the public consciousness that are extremely difficult to overthrow with later historical revelations. Look at Patton for example. Somehow he is seen as the greatest armor commander of the American army, but this myth falls into its proper perspective when one learns of Creighton Abrams’ comment on the subject. Abrams, generally considered to be the best of the best (in the American army) in commanding armored formations in battle, was told that Patton said he was a great armor officer. Abrams’ response was couched in the simple, yet expressive words of a real warrior: “How would he know?” “Nuff” said.
     
  14. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  15. A-58

    A-58 Not so senior Member

    I am genuinely happy to be of some assistance.

    D'Este is definitely a member of the Eisenhower fan club, and there are more than a few others. However, as new information comes to light the great man’s place in WWII history has to be revised. This is true of history in general. There is an old saw among historians that a few generations have to pass before historical events and figures can be viewed in their proper (and more accurate) perspectives. On the other hand, many of the myths and misconceptions about WWII have achieved a concreteness in the public consciousness that are extremely difficult to overthrow with later historical revelations. Look at Patton for example. Somehow he is seen as the greatest armor commander of the American army, but this myth falls into its proper perspective when one learns of Creighton Abrams’ comment on the subject. Abrams, generally considered to be the best of the best (in the American army) in commanding armored formations in battle, was told that Patton said he was a great armor officer. Abrams’ response was couched in the simple, yet expressive words of a real warrior: “How would he know?” “Nuff” said.


    Not quite "nuff". Abrams was an excellent battalion commander in the 3rd Army. I do not know what he said or thought about Patton, but here is a little about Abrams and what Patton said and thought about him.

    On April 23, 1945, Will Lang Jr. wrote a biography called "Colonel Abe" for Life (Magazine).

    Abrams was known as an aggressive and successful armor commander. General George Patton said of him: "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer — Abe Abrams. He's the world champion."

    Frequently the spearhead of the Third Army during World War II, Abrams was one of the leaders in the relief effort that broke up the German entrenchments surrounding Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.

    He was noted for his concern for soldiers, his emphasis on combat readiness, and his insistence on personal integrity.

    source: wiki
     
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    TTH

    bit confused here with your statement that Eisenhower was the best man owing to his handling of the operations at Torch - then you point to his failure to grasp the situation at both Kasserine AND Sicily - my memory has it that both those operations were AFTER the Torch landings......so which is it ...?

    Cheers
     
  17. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    Not quite "nuff". Abrams was an excellent battalion commander in the 3rd Army. I do not know what he said or thought about Patton, but here is a little about Abrams and what Patton said and thought about him.

    On April 23, 1945, Will Lang Jr. wrote a biography called "Colonel Abe" for Life (Magazine).

    Abrams was known as an aggressive and successful armor commander. General George Patton said of him: "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer — Abe Abrams. He's the world champion."

    Frequently the spearhead of the Third Army during World War II, Abrams was one of the leaders in the relief effort that broke up the German entrenchments surrounding Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.

    He was noted for his concern for soldiers, his emphasis on combat readiness, and his insistence on personal integrity.

    source: wiki

    My sources include Lewis Sorely's biography of Abrams. Here is an excerpt in which Sorely quotes Lang.

    “Such accomplishments, in which Abrams has always been a leading performer, have draped the cape of a legendary hero around Abram’s shoulders.” p. 89. A little over the top don't you think?

    And here is what Abrams had to say in a letter to his wife about the press coverage of his entry into Bastogne. “Hopeless dribble, so much of it inaccurate that I haven’t room to cover it all….. “ p. 81.

    Also, Abrams was promoted to command of CCB, 4th AD the day after the 37th Tank Bn. reached the Rhine.
     
  18. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    It is not either/or, Tom; it is a balance.

    Kasserine was a tactical defeat in the opening stages--i.e., Sidi Bou Zid. Everyone forgets that later on the Allies held the Germans along the line of the Western Dorsale. Rommel then gave up and withdrew. Eisenhower bore some responsibility for the initial defeat. He had supported Fredendall as US II Corps commander and failed to relieve him before the attack, even though he didn't like Fredendall's dispositions. More generally, Ike stayed too far in the rear too much of the time then and didn't give his ground commanders in Tunisia firm enough direction. Note, though, that the Allies went on to win very convincingly in Tunisia. If Ike gets some of the blame for Kasserine (or rather Sidi Bou Zid) then he also gets some credit for Tunis.

    The same thing applies in Sicily. Alexander led 15 AG there and it was his job to coordinate Patton and Montgomery and make them work to a common plan. Alex didn't do that, and Ike did not straighten Alex out. At a higher level, Ike should have put a lot more pressure on the air barons and the navies to close the Strait of Messina. He failed to do so. So Sicily was a flawed victory--but a victory nonetheless.

    The first three months of the Italian campaign were much the same. On the one hand you have the near cock-up at Salerno and the failure to capture Rome; on the other, you have the seizure of half the Italian Peninsula, the surrender of Italy, the infliction of very severe losses on the German Army and Luftwaffe, the capture of the Foggia air bases, the opening of a major new front that drained German strength from Russia, etc. Give Ike some credit for all that, too.

    No commander is perfect, no one has a spotless record. When choosing a man for a key command, you have to look at the balance of success and failure. Eisenhower had more and bigger successes than failures, and that is why he deserved to be supreme commander in NWE.
     
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  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    TTH

    all very well trying to strike a balance in commanding but what is also forgotten that unlike Hollywood - the dead do not arise and shoot endless bullets from their guns - but rather they STAY dead. Main problem as we saw it fairly close up -was the difference in strategy - the Americans were obsessed with capturing cities and territory Rome - Paris etc ..whereas the British concept was to KILL Germans and thus weaken them
    not feed them !
    It was mainly the dispositions of Anderson who held the line at the western dorsale- not Eisenhower - it was Alexander working to Monty's plan to finish off at Tunis and Cap Bon

    His command structure at Sicily was rubbish - He in Algiers - Alex in Malta - all over the place -
    failed to censure both Alex and Patton who took off for Palermo when he was needed at Catania.....

    Southern Italy - Germans were heading back to their first defence line and were dependent on wrecking highways to slow down Monty - whereas Clark thought Monty should "beam" over - like Scotty to help out at Salerno -

    No Eisenhower was lucky and an excellent PR man - until he took over field command in September of '44 - and as Alanbrooke pointed out - this act alone extended the war by six months
    Cheers
     
  20. Jim Lankford

    Jim Lankford Member

    No commander is perfect, no one has a spotless record. When choosing a man for a key command, you have to look at the balance of success and failure. Eisenhower had more and bigger successes than failures, and that is why he deserved to be supreme commander in NWE.


    You have to keep in mind that Eisenhower was given the job as Supreme Commander by default. His record as a supreme allied commander in N. Africa and Italy was sketchy at best, and at one point even he expected to be relieved of command, and returned home. It is also important to remember that General Marshall had worked hard to make sure he had a bench loaded with capable men that he could throw into the game as needed. In Marshall’s view no one was indispensable, and Eisenhower knew it. To a considerable extent, Eisenhower owed his job as Supreme Commander, ETO to the fact that Churchill and the British high command rightly believed him to be the most malleable choice after Marshall refused to reach out his hand to take the job.
     

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