In the last years of his life, author/historian Winston Groom wrote a series of history/biography books that typically center on three figures framed within their place and moments in history.
“The Aviators” delved into the lives of “Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and the Epic Age of Flight.”
“The Allies” followed “Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin and the Unlikely Alliance That Won World War II.”
His last work, published in 2020, the same year Groom died, was “The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the Making of America.”
Before “The Patriots,” he spent time with another set of World War II figures: “The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall and the Winning of World War II.”
Groom has interesting even exciting material here and he knows how to present it. Sadly, in the hands of some historians, even the tumultuous lives during World War II, can be dry reading.
Not so with Groom.
He after all is best known for writing the novel “Forrest Gump.”
With “The Generals,” he introduces George Patton, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall from the stories of their ancestors, to their parents and childhoods, their World War I and post-war careers, then their meteoric rise to prominence and success during World War II and their post-war careers.
Groom captures the bombast of Patton, the arrogance of MacArthur and the quiet determination of Marshall. These characterizations are expected but he also finds the insecurities that plagued Patton, the humanity within MacArthur and the ambition in Marshall.
Marshall is an interesting choice. Patton and MacArthur seem like givens for a book on American generals during World War II. But some readers may have expected Dwight D. Eisenhower to fill the other slot on the bill given he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.
But reading the book, readers are reminded, or introduced, to the steeliness of Marshall, his mind’s brilliance for organization and his humility in working where he was deemed needed most.
For while Patton, MacArthur and Eisenhower received the glory of battles won, Marshall won the war of overseeing organization in both the European and Pacific Theatres.
He had been tapped to lead the invasion of Overlord on D-Day but President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other leaders felt Marshall would and could do more good remaining the Army Chief of Staff, leading behind the scenes in Washington, D.C. Without protest or complaint, Marshall accepted the order pulling him from Overlord, while Eisenhower oversaw the Allied maneuvers of D-Day.
After the war, Marshall served as President Harry S. Truman’s secretary of state and secretary of defense. He organized the financial aid to rebuild post-war Europe known as the Marshall Plan.
Marshall was once described as the “organizer of victory.”
Groom seems to lean heavily on the Carlo D’Este and William Manchester biographies of Patton and MacArthur respectively, or at least he quotes them often throughout the book, but Groom writes an engrossing volume on the lives of three men who shaped the victories of World War II.