BROTHERS, RIVALS, VICTORS: EISENHOWER, PATTON, BRADLEY, AND THE PARTNERSHIP THAT DROVE THE ALLIED CONQUEST IN EUROPE
By Jonathan W. Jordan
New American Library, $28.95, 654 pages
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George S. Patton were the three standout American generals in the war against Nazi Germany, and they have been the subject of an infinite number of histories over the past 65 years. Yet Texas military historian Jonathan W. Jordan has pulled off a mission impossible: He has produced a groundbreaking study that transforms our understanding of all three men.
Mr. Jordan has focused on interpersonal relations to trace the lifelong interaction among Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton. He goes all the way back to their earliest meetings and their long friendships during the decades between the two world wars when all three men were convinced destiny had passed them by.
Mr. Jordan is no Patton skeptic. He acknowledges that “Old Blood and Guts” was an extraordinary and unique battlefield genius. But he also makes clear that far from frustrating Patton at every turn and simply being envious of his supposedly superior genius, Eisenhower and Bradley were essential to protecting Patton and giving him the playing field to pull off his outstanding achievements.
Bradley certainly did not want to appoint Patton as 3rd Army commander in August 1944: Eisenhower insisted on it. Once Patton was appointed, however, Bradley came to appreciate him immediately and worked with exceptional effectiveness with him for the rest of the war. Far from being bitter or jealous of Patton, Bradley for a quarter of a century after Patton’s death warmly remembered his late friend. He was understandably hurt and appalled in 1971 when Patton’s previously censored (by his wife, Beatrice) and secret scribbles of resentment and jealousy against Bradley were published. Bradley’s far more critical and dismissive comments about Patton during his last decade of life must be seen in this context.
But back in 1943, when Patton derailed his own career by slapping a shell-shocked soldier at a field hospital in Sicily, Bradley, though personally disgusted by the incident, was loyal to his Army commander and tried to prevent even Eisenhower from learning about it.
When Ike did learn about it from other sources, he tried to protect Patton by covering up the story, too. And when the American press broke it, it was Eisenhower who saved Patton’s career. Ike already knew that he wanted both Bradley and Patton as his standout field commanders in the European theater of operations.
Patton, for all his battlefield genius, lacked Eisenhower’s outstanding gifts as a diplomat and grand strategist. He could not have served as Allied supreme commander as Ike did, and he knew it.
Mr. Jordan quotes Patton as early as 1920 saying to his friend, “Ike, this war may happen just about 20 years from now. This is what we’ll do. I’ll be [Stonewall] Jackson. You’ll be [Robert E.] Lee. I don’t want to do the heavy thinking; you do that and I’ll get loose among our [expletive deleted] enemies.” That of course is exactly what happened.
Mr. Jordan does much to deservedly rehabilitate the reputation of Gen. Bradley. It was he, not Patton, who meticulously planned the decisive Operation Cobra breakout from the Normandy bridgehead in July 1944, and it was he who personally selected the great Gen. J. Lawton “Lightning Joe” Collins to spearhead it.
Significantly, Mr. Jordan reveals that Bradley applied the crucial and usually overlooked tactic of classic German blitzkrieg doctrine to send infantry in first to make the decisive breakthrough in Cobra. The repeated British and Canadian efforts to break out of the left flank of the bridgehead in front of Caen had failed because Gen. Bernard Montgomery sent his tanks in first. Ironically, Montgomery had employed Bradley’s correct and successful infantry-first approach himself in his famous desert victory of El Alamein.
Mr. Jordan also notes that Patton’s gift for shameless groveling and flattery of his superiors was crucial to his professional survival.
This book should be required reading at West Point and all other military academies. It is beautifully written and a classic work of popular biography and military history for the general reader. It is a pleasure to recommend it.
Martin Sieff is former managing editor, international affairs, for United Press International. He is chief global analyst for the Globalist and a columnist for Fox News. His most recent book is “Shifting Superpowers: The New and Emerging Relationship Between the United States, China and India” (Cato Institute, 2010).