This title, like others in Osprey's Leadership-Strategy-Conflict series, makes no pretense of being an in-depth biographical study. It is instead an introduction to Dwight Eisenhower, offering more depth than a Wikipedia article, but a quicker, easier read than a full-length biography. Zaloga's narrative mastery makes this title a pleasant, informative, and engaging read.
Eisenhower's personality was an enigma. Some contemporaries thought they perceived a mediocrity, but they were overlooking his best qualities. A better-than-average listener, Eisenhower built loyalty among subordinates, and trust with superiors. His sometimes quiet, often smiling demeanor masked a first-rate intelligence, relentless personal drive, and astuteness in handling personalities. He did not need to be a colorful combat commander. Ike was running a different kind of war, serving more as a CEO than a front-line general. He willingly delegated authority to leaders like Patton, Bradley, and even - to some extent - Montgomery, allowing them to put their own personalities and command style onto their armies and army groups.
Zaloga points out astutely that Ike's Midwestern upbringing left him free of the anti-British bias then common among certain members of America's East Coast elite. His less biased outlook helped with balancing the complex alliance's needs. Much the nostalgia many Brits and Americans feel for shared war experience probably owes something to Eisenhower's fairness and astute diplomacy.
Zaloga demonstrates the subtle wisdom of Eisenhower's more controversial decisions. Ike ordered Bradley to liberate Paris despite plans to by-pass the city with its 4 million hungry inhabitants. What this decision lacked in military logic it more than made up in politics and symbolism. Images of liberation helped strengthen the "good war" image, mitigating the trauma of a costly summer stalemate in Normandy hedgerows, which had depressed morale among soldiers as well as on the home front. Eisenhower's 'broad front' strategy after D-Day prevented Allied forces from presenting the Germans with a point of concentration against which to counter-attack. It also kept the Germans guessing the main axis of Allied advance.
The author concludes with a brief and informative sketch of a few of Eisenhower's German opponents, with a particular emphasis on his smiling German counterpart Kesselring, whose generalship did so much to slow the Allies in their costly slog up the Italian boot. The title concludes with a brief account of Eisenhower's presidency, and a summary of useful sources for further research. All in all, this is a fine short biography, amply illustrated with informative photo captions, some good art work, and useful maps. Eisenhower was consistently under-estimated and under-appreciated. His best qualities, like balanced judgment, deep-down integrity, fairness, and willingness to entertain new ideas, are virtues too rarely found in leaders, across the span of history and unto the present day.