John S.D. Eisenhower modestly explains General Ike as “a son's view of a great military leader—highly intelligent, strong, forceful, kind, yet as human as the rest of us.” It is that, and more: a portrait of the greatest Allied military leader of the Second World War, by the man who knew Ike best.
General Ike is a book that John Eisenhower always knew he had to write, a tribute from an affectionate and admiring son to a great father. John chose to write about the “military Ike,” as opposed to the “political Ike,” because Ike cared far more about his career in uniform than about his time in the White House. A series of portraits of Ike’s relations with soldiers and statesmen, from MacArthur to Patton to Montgomery to Churchill to de Gaulle, reveals the many facets of a talented, driven, headstrong, yet diplomatic leader. Taken together, they reveal a man who was brilliant, if flawed; naïve at times in dealing with the public, yet who never lost his head when others around him were losing theirs. Above all, General Ike was a man who never let up in the relentless pursuit of the destruction of Hitler.
Here for the first time are eyewitness stories of General Patton showing off during military exercises; of Ike on the verge of departing for Europe and assuming command of the Eastern Theater; of Churchill stewing and lobbying Ike in his “off hours.” Faced with giant personalities such as these men and MacArthur, not to mention difficult allies such as de Gaulle and Montgomery, Ike nevertheless managed to pull together history's greatest invasion force and to face down a determined enemy from Normandy to the Bulge and beyond. John Eisenhower masterfully uses the backdrop of Ike's key battles to paint a portrait of his father and his relationships with the great men of his time.
General Ike is a ringing and inspiring testament to a great man by an accomplished historian. It is also a personal portrait of a caring, if not always available, father by his admiring son. It is history at its best.
This thoroughly worthwhile memoir recalls the author's father in his association with various distinguished soldiers and statesmen of the past century. The roster begins with Fox Conner (a pre-WWII general and Ike's mentor), John J. Pershing (the AEF commander in WW I) and George Patton (when both he and Ike were officers in the Tank Corps of 1919). The final trio is Charles de Gaulle, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Winston Churchill. In the author's view, De Gaulle's French patriotism brought out the best and the worst in him, in dealing both with Ike and with his fellow countrymen. Monty never understood Ike, asked the impossible and grumbled when he didn't get it. And Churchill (at whose funeral Ike represented the U.S.) is inscrutably sui generis in the author's eyes as in those of so many others. In between are sketches of MacArthur, Marshall and Patton (as a subordinate general). Possibly the most moving piece recalls the period of 1940 1941, the last days of the peacetime army, when the younger Eisenhower, now the author of such titles as Yanks and The Bitter Woods, was a cadet at West Point, and his father was dreaming of staying with troops in the coming war. But the author paints no one in rosy hues, not even his father, and his research puts them all in their proper context.