Manton S. Eddy spearheaded Patton’s charge across Europe, only to be relegated to obscurity.
By Harold E. Raugh, Jr.
Major General Manton S. Eddy has never received the recognition he deserved for his leadership, professionalism, bravery and battlefield successes. As commander of the 9th Infantry Division and later the XII Corps, Eddy played an important but relatively unheralded role in the Allied victories in North Africa and Europe during World War II.
The purpose of Gerard Phillips’ book, The Making of a Professional: Manton S. Eddy, USA (Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 2000, $65), is to help rescue this forgotten American commander from the relative obscurity to which he has been relegated.
Born in 1892, Eddy joined the U.S. Army in 1916 and was commissioned an infantry second lieutenant two years later, after America’s entry into World War I. Assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, Eddy (by then a captain) deployed to France in May 1918 and saw combat as a machine-gun company commander until wounded in action three months later. After recuperating, Eddy served as a battalion commander until the armistice in November. His interwar assignments were typical of most professional officers: student and instructor at the Infantry School; Reserve Officers Training Command (ROTC) duty; a two year posting to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and then assignment as a student and instructor at the Army Command and General Staff School.
It was during World War II that Eddy’s leadership qualities became apparent. After service as a regimental commander in the 44th Infantry Division, he was promoted to brigadier general in March 1942 and assigned to the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. Only four months later, he received his second star and became the division’s commander. During the invasion of North Africa in November 1942, Eddy commanded the Provisional Corps of the Western Task Force. Six weeks later, he rejoined the 9th, which was still consolidating when the Germans attacked Kasserine Pass in February 1943. Eddy helped restore the situation after the initial German breakthrough. The 9th next fought in Sicily, and, in November 1943, it redeployed to England to prepare for the invasion of France.
Its mission was to land on June 10, 1944, and to serve as the VII Corps’ reserve. Eddy came ashore at Utah Beach on June 8, and shortly after his division landed, he relieved the faltering 90th Division. Eddy was then directed to cut off German forces in the Cherbourg Peninsula and to seize the vital port city. This was arguably Eddy’s finest hour. He aggressively led his soldiers, effectively employed superior firepower and maneuvered his command through the difficult and deadly hedgerow country toward Cherbourg. In recognition of his leadership and heroism during the actions to seize the city, Eddy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Eddy continued in command of the 9th until he was promoted to take charge of the XII Corps in August 1944. His new command frequently spearheaded the lightning advances of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army as it charged across Europe and crossed the Rhine. The pace of the advance, however, took a toll on the XII Corps’ commander. With victory in sight, Eddy was diagnosed with life-threatening high blood pressure and was relieved by Patton less than three weeks before the end of the war in Europe.
Eddy’s absence from the victory celebrations, according to Phillips, is one of the reasons that he has been forgotten. His military career, however, was not over. After a medical examination, Eddy was allowed to return to duty in 1946. He received his third star in 1947 and retired in 1953 after 37 years of service. Nine years after his retirement Eddy passed away.
In his book, Phillips relies heavily on Eddy’s diary and information provided by five of the general’s wartime aides. While such half-century-old reminiscences are valuable, their credibility and accuracy need to be watched carefully. One other weakness is the author’s extensive use of unattributed quoted dialogue.
These small criticisms aside, The Making of a Professional is the first biography of this forgotten soldier, and as such it is valuable in bringing Eddy’s career and accomplishments to the attention of a larger, contemporary audience.