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Book Review - Ike - An American Hero

By: Michael Korda (501.2/35728)
Publisher : Harper Collins ISBN: 978-0-06-075665-9

In this first major single-volume biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower to appear in many years, Michael Korda, the author of Ulysses S. Grant, paints a fresh, frank, revealing, and admiring full-length portrait of American's greatest soldier - and one of its best presidents. This is not the smiling, amiable Ike of legend but the real man: a daring, gifted, courageous, superlatively trained, and tough-minded soldier, a perfectionist with a hair-trigger temper (mostly held under precarious control ) who was perhaps the most successful leader of a multinational coalition in all history. Ike waged war in some of our darkest hours and brought the Allied nations to a triumphant victory. He went on to become president of Columbia University, the first commander of NATO and later a wise, wildly popular two-term president who "waged peace" at the height of the Cold War.

Ike is more than a much-needed and compellingly readable biography: in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August and Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, it is narrative history on an epic scale, and trenchantly demonstrates Ike's role in the great events and with the major historical figures of the twentieth century. Korda confronts squarely such difficult, controversial issues as Ike's relationship with his wartime aide and driver, Kay Summersby; and his struggles with his most infuriating subordinate and rival, Bernard Montgomery, who clashed with Ike over strategy from 1943 to the end of the war (and long afterward) and cuttingly dismissed him as, 'Nice chap, No soldier." He discusses Ike's dispute with the "bomber barons" of the USAAF and the RAF, which forced him to threaten to resign his command and go home if he didn't have control of their heavy bombers before D-day. Further, he addresses Ike's determination to win the war in Europe with his own strategy; the reasons for his firm decision not to take Berlin or Prague before the Russians; the story of his by no means inevitable rise to the presidency; and the many crises he confronted as president, from McCarthyism to the perils of nuclear war.

Within the context of history and against the backdrop of two world wars and the Cold War, Ike's life and career are central to understanding America's involvement with global affairs in the postwar era. As the boy reared in Kansas rose to become a military hero, an international statesman, and president of the world's most powerful nation, he always remained a man whose basic values were those of his youth: honesty, courage, and basic human decency.

November 2007

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