This book is a historical study of 3 men --- all friends and West Point graduates --- who rose to the highest ranks of the U.S. Army during the Second World War, and through their achievements, helped ensure victory in Europe for the Allies in May 1945.
Dwight Eisenhower ("Ike") and George S. Patton, Jr. first met at Camp Meade, Maryland in 1919. Both men were serving in the nascent U.S. Tank Corps. Patton, unlike Ike, had been blooded in combat, first in Mexico as a member of the Punitive Expedition sent there by President Wilson to capture Pancho Villa (who had had the effrontery to stage a raid on U.S. soil in 1916), and later in France, as a commander of a U.S. tank unit in the Battles of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne (where he was wounded). Ike (like Bradley, his West Point classmate) lamented having missed out on combat in WWI. He was much impressed with Patton and the two became close friends. However, a year after their meeting, both were separated into different branches of the Army and would see little of each other over the next 20 years.
Bradley, unlike Patton who hailed from an affluent background in California, grew up poor in Missouri. Like Ike, he went to West Point for a first-class free education. His upward path in the Army between the wars was slow and steady. It began to bear fruit when Bradley became an instructor of tactics at Ft. Benning, the Army's Infantry School, where he became friends with George C. Marshall, the assistant commandant, widely recognized as one of the Army's finest minds for his outstanding work in as General Pershing's aide in France, where he had been
"instrumental in the design and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which contributed to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front."
Marshall, who subsequently, became Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939, would be key in shaping the careers of Ike, Bradley, and Patton.
With America's entry into the Second World War, Ike went, within a year, from the chief officer in the War Plans Division in Washington to commander of all Allied Forces in the European Theatre before being moved to Gibraltar in October 1942 as "Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations."
In North Africa, Patton served under Ike, first, as commander of the Western Task Force of the U.S. Army that had landed in Morocco as part of Operation Torch. Then, following the bloody riposte the Army received at the hands of Rommel's Afrika Korps at the Battle of Kasserine Pass (Tunisia) in early 1943, Ike put Patton in charge of the U.S. II Corps, in which capacity he instilled a fighting quality that helped bring about victory at El Guettar and gave the Army the impetus it needed in assisting the British in driving out Axis forces from North Africa in May 1943. (At this time, Bradley was serving under Patton as a corps commander.)
The book goes on to show the dynamics of the relationships among Ike, Bradley, and Patton as the war went on into Sicily (where Patton commanded the 7th Army with considerable success, but got himself into hot water with Ike for having twice slapped enlisted personnel suffering from combat fatigue in Army hospitals, a court-martial offense), in Britain (where Eisenhower served as the Supreme Allied Commander in preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion of France; Bradley followed soon thereafter as commander of the U.S. First Army), and later across Europe during 1944-45 (where Patton redeemed himself as commander of the U.S. Third Army; this time, Bradley was his superior as commander of the U.S. Twelfth Army Group) in the aftermath of Overlord. However, when peace returned, Patton was unhappy, knowing that his combat career was at an end. He later lost command of the Third Army because of impolitic remarks he had made before the press (Ike had often warned him to "keep his big mouth shut" because of his propensity for stirring up controversy). He died in December 1945 from injuries he had received in an auto accident and was buried in an Army cemetery in Luxembourg.
I enjoyed reading this book because it showed how these 3 men, entrusted with so much power and authority in war, managed to work well together to defeat Hitler, despite the fractious nature of their personal relationships.