The Last Fighting General, by Anne Hicks
(Schiffer Publishing, 2006; 320 pp., $35 – ISBN 0764324306)
This is an objective biography of Major General Robert Frederick, U.S. Army. Did he earn the claim to fame of the last fighting general? I first compared him to the legendary General “Chesty” Puller, USMC, and General Jim Gavin, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. Puller was a fighter and idolized by the Marine Corps. Gavin was a parachute general with a superb record and a fighter. While Puller was not a staff officer, Gavin and Frederick were excellent. There is one major difference. Puller and Gavin enjoyed serving with an established unit, while Bob Frederick organized the First Special Service Force from scratch, a superb unit of Canadian and U.S. shock troops. They broke through the defensive German line in the Liri Valley, opening the way to Rome. Then the “Devils Brigade” held one-third of the Anzio beachhead and led the Fifth Army into Rome.
The Seventh Army needed airborne troops to invade Southern France. Again, Frederick started from scratch and came up with a task force that jumped in the Riveria, heading for a linkup with Patton. The elite force was disbanded. Frederick then commanded the 45th Infantry Division, capturing Nurnburg and then Dachau.
Frederick showed diplomatic mettle as a senior officer in occupied Vienna, where he won grudging respect from the Russian occupation troops as one who stood up to them.
Korea broke out, but this superb officer was not called. Instead of commanding a raw division, he went to advisory duty in Greece and then a training base. Politics raised its ugly head. Frederick was unjustly accused of an affair with the mistress of a Greek official and a waffling ambassador asked for his recall.
Fredericks opted to retire. This splendid officer, who was credited as being the father of Special Forces, was the victim of jealousy and petty politics at the cost of a better Army, as was James Gavin, who retired prematurely.
This synopsis cannot do General Frederick justice. This book should be required reading for noncoms and junior officers in today’s Army. Loyalty went down with Fredericks, and his troops knew it. They never let him down.