Brothers, Rivals, Victors Traces the Tangled Lives of Europe’s Liberators

Brothers, Rivals, Victors
By Jonathan W. Jordan. 672 pp.
NAL Hardcover, 2011. $28.95.

Two factors mattered most in determining victory in Europe in World War II: the will to win, and the amount of materiel available to the warring powers. Stalin and Rommel, an unlikely couple, agreed and stated unequivocally that thanks to America’s enormous industrial capacity, the Allies had far more than the Axis of everything needed to kill the enemy and destroy its ability to wage war. But time and again, German willpower proved extraordinarily difficult to overcome. It took Allied generals of immense determination to drive men drawn from the ways of peace to ultimate victory over fascism—leaders such as Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley, the subjects of Jonathan W. Jordan’s new biography.

Each was indispensable in a different way. Eisenhower’s genius was that he understood the importance of industrial strategy. He was also particularly adept at soothing the growing tensions and resentments between the Allies. Patton’s gift was just as crucial—he knew intuitively how best to carry out Blitzkrieg. “Audacity, audacity, audacity” was his cri de guerre, one which saw him finally beat Rommel and Guderian at their own game as he stormed across France, determined to be the first to Berlin. Bradley, by contrast, was an infantryman to the core, acutely aware of the costs of attrition warfare. With his humble background and reticence in the company of raging British snobs such as Bernard Montgomery, he embodied the egalitarianism of the U.S. Army. On Montgomery, not surprisingly, all three men agreed—he was a repulsive publicity hound.

To the uninitiated, Jordan’s labor of love will prove the perfect primer on the three most powerful American warriors in Europe. For those who know a thing or two about this triumvirate of monumental egos, Jordan also offers juicy tidbits that legions of others have somehow overlooked in the archives. There is much to feast on. Before the war, Eisenhower, who later saved Patton’s career, had tried to get a job working for “Old Blood and Guts.” Eisenhower, often described as the consummate charmer, was unnecessarily ruthless in firing colleagues and prone to profanity-strewn temper tantrums. The famously foul-mouthed Patton was also disarmingly erudite and sophisticated—not at all the cold-hearted blowhard depicted by George C. Scott in the famous movie. Thought to be long suffering and good natured, the ordinary GI’s favorite general, Bradley could be mean-spirited and petty; he outlived both his rivals and exploited this longevity to twist the dagger callously into his fellow Americans’ reputations.

Bradley, Eisenhower, and Patton had one thing, above all else, in common: their willingness to give every last measure in the service of their country. Jordan’s book, while a rollicking good read, succeeds brilliantly in reminding us of this dedication, and of how fortunate the Allies were to have such exceptional soldiers leading the long, bloody march to victory.

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