I just finished reading Jonathan Jordan’s amazing book, “Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and the Partnership that Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe.” The book is even longer than the title. I am a big admirer of Omar Bradley and his book, “A General’s Life,” is a classic on my bookshelf. I have read it numerous times.
First off, all three are amazing heroes. Ike and Bradley with classmates at West Point and Patton and Ike were old friends and former next door neighbors. The two of them were ardent supporters of armor and Bradley had a background in the infantry. They were all really amazing people who were very human and all made their share of mistakes.
Eisenhower had one of the most difficult jobs of the war. He was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He had some amazing bosses. Winston Churchill was, well, Winston Churchill. President Roosevelt was more patient than Churchill, but there was General George Marshall, who, in my opinion is the truly great American of the 20th Century and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you! Marshall was the brains behind the American military operations in both theaters and his confidence in Eisenhower was well placed.
But part of Ike’s problem wasn’t his bosses but his subordinates. Bradley was, in so many ways, the perfect general. He was quiet and unassuming and was, in so many ways, the finest American general on the ground in Europe in terms of combat operations. Patton was brilliant but often reckless. Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton could irritate each others and often did. They never lost focus, however, of their two great enemies: the Germans and Bernard Montgomery. Monty’s ego, portrayed in this book and many other places, was amazing. He made Patton look humble----and that’s saying a lot.
I learned some interesting things. Despite his gruffness, of the three, Patton had the most tender heart and was deeply sensitive. He was prone to fits of rage and tears. When the three visited a concentration camp, Patton was so overwhelmed with grief, he was the one who sobbed and vomited. He had a very big heart----something not always seen in portraits of him.
Bradley was a lot tougher than often portrayed. Unlike the others, of his subordinates failed, he sacked them. He felt war was truly a dreadful event and failure had to be addressed and soldiers had to be led by experience, capable leaders and not those learning on the job. And Bradley was the planner of Cobra which was one of the most devastating attacks on the Germans in the war.
Ike was the guy who held everyone together. He lived on coffee and cigarettes, and very little sleep. When he was President he had terrible health and, wow, you can really tell why. The poor guy was physically almost destroyed by the war and the stress. Interesting to note, that Bradley, in his book, dismissed Eisenhower’s planning ability militarily, but, in this book, we see his ideas very much come to light. Ike was quite a man.
It was awe inspiring reading about these three amazing heroes. They truly were brothers, rivals, and ultimately victors!