Eisenhower — A Soldier’s Life, by Carlo D’Este

(Henry Holt & Company, 2002; 848 pgs.; 48 black & white photographs; $35.00 — ISBN 0805056866).

This is a powerful, compelling, destined-to-be-somewhat controversial book, which captures Dwight D. Eisenhower in a different light than past biographers. Carlo D’Este has carefully and thoroughly woven together exhaustive research to describe, with often brutal honesty, “Ike” the man. Eisenhower’s childhood, education at West Point, long and painful service between the World Wars and his meteoric rise from lieutenant colonel to 5-star general reveal a man driven by ego and determination, fired by a tremendous and sometimes ungovernable temper.

The author carefully removes the veneer from almost every important character within Ike’s circle of friends, fellow soldiers, adversaries and others with whom he had to interact as he ascended to Supreme Allied Command. Ike’s relationships with Kay Summersby, Generals Marshall, Patton and Bradley, Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Montgomery are explored in great detail, much of which will be new and intriguing to most readers.

The political pressures Eisenhower faced as his responsibilities increased, from the Pentagon, to London, North Africa and finally the D-Day Invasion and ultimate surrender of the Germans, are artfully explored and the key players like General Charles de Gaulle, Churchill and President Roosevelt are brought into sharp focus. The author treats all those surrounding Ike with penetrating precision, extolling their strengths and exposing their shortcomings.

Readers will come away appreciating that Eisenhower’s almost mystical skills in holding together allies, led by men of great power and even greater egos, are the critical aspect of allied success in the war. His single-minded determination and methods for achieving the allied cause make for dramatic reading entertainment.

This book is very well written, clearly revealing the incredible pressures Eisenhower faced and the travails they created, giving the reader an enjoyable and highly informative picture of one of America’s greatest military men.