Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roosevelt's Centurians by Joseph E. Persico

FDR and the Commanders he led to Victory in World War II I have read so many books about WWII; I have memorized the persons involved and the events. It is always a pleasure for me to re-live those perilous times that I was fortunate enough to live through, old enough to understand but too young to participate. I found this book at a local book store and purchased it. The principle military leaders were Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, King, Halsey, Nimitz, Patton, Bradley, Stilwell and Arnold. FDR had a direct influence on selecting and working with these fine Americans. Together the war was ended with us the victor. In this short review I don’t intend to re-live the war but rather would like to present the author’s summation of how FDR achieved the objectives of selecting military leaders, deciding how and where the war should be fought and his performance as cheer leader in chief. FDR receives top scores on his selection of military chieftains capable of winning the war. They were stable and reliable staying in their positions untill the end. As a strategist the results are mixed. His decision to concentrate on Germany was correct. That was a far greater threat than Japan. Going into North Africa, Sicily and Italy the author feels was a mistake and may have prolonged the war. FDR reasoned that our Army had to engage the Nazis somewhere in 1942. Churchill was adamant that a frontal attack across the channel could have disastrous results. Based on the initial blooding of our troops I believe his decision was correct. We were able to keep German troops occupied giving some relief to Russia. FDR was criticized for his declaration of unconditional surrender. Some felt this stiffened German resistance. No doubt this did occur. The decision to split the Pacific into two zones was correct. McArthur did retake the Philippines and rescue thousands of prisoners while Nimitz drove North taking islands ever closer to Japan. The decision early on to spend billions developing the atomic bomb was a definite yes. Without it the war would have dragged on, perhaps for years with unimaginable casualties. I personally give FDR the highest rating as a home front leader. He exuded confidence. The timbre of his voice, firm yet fatherly, the fireside chats, the dazzling smile, the upturned hat, the jaunty angled cigarette, the quips and banter with the press told us that if our President could be so upbeat then how dark could the outcome be. He created the women’s Army Corps. He gingerly integrated the services. He visited war plants and stimulated bond drives by having films made to inspire workers and soldiers alike. Lastly his greatest long lasting achievement was establishing the G.I. Bill of Rights, one of the most transformative social experiments in the nation’s history. Over 10 million veterans participated including yours truly. I never would have left my home town had I not had the opportunity to receive a college education. Most of the comments in these last paragraphs are the author’s words, not mine. It is a well-researched book worthy of being read. Jack B. Walters August 15, 2013

Grant's Final Victory by Charles Bracelen Flood

Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year After completing his eight years as President, General Grant placed his assets in a jointly managed investment company. Two of the associates stole funds which when discovered wiped out the funds Grant needed to support his wife, children and grandchildren. Friends came to help by providing loans. He had been solicited to write his memoirs about his war time experiences in the Civil War. This presented the best solution towards earning enough funds to pay off his debts and provide for his family. As he started the project he suffered severe throat pains. A cancer was discovered at the base of his tongue. It was painful to swallow liquids or eat. Nonetheless he continued on day by day the arduous task of putting his thoughts to paper. Along the way Mark Twain entered the picture and convinced Grant to let Twain’s Company to publish. Twain provided valuable assistance to aid Grant. The story describes his year long struggle to accomplish the goal despite the continuing deterioration of his body. A growth grew on the left side of his neck to huge dimensions. He communicated by whispering and writing notes. It was completed three days before he succumbed to death. The result was a two volume book entitled “Personal Memoirs” which contained 1,215 pages of text and 291,000 words. He died at 8:08 A.M. July 13, 1885. His son Colonel Frederick Grant walked over to the clock and stopped the clock. It remains that way to this day. His wife Julia lived an additional 17 years, a widow who had become wealthy from the sales of her husband’s book. She would lie beside him in the massive tomb the next generation would know. The place selected was a temporary tomb on the cliffs above the Hudson River in N.Y. City. It was the largest parade in the history of America. It was estimated at one and one half million people along the parade route. It was led by General Hancock. Everyone wore black. The buildings had black streamers hanging down. The hearse was drawn by twenty four black horses. There were twenty generals, some former Rebel Generals. Julia insisted that several of them should be allowed to be pallbearers. President Grover Cleveland and former Presidents Rutherford Hays and Chester Arthur followed in their carriages. There were many bands and thousands of soldiers including rebel soldiers paying tribute. I must now order books to learn why he was so beloved. Jack B. Walters August 15, 2013