three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
user_rating: 
0

An American Hero

A-IkeBorn to a poor Mennonite family in Abilene, Kansas, Dwight D. Eisenhower left the homestead for a career of excitement and adventure in the army. Instead, he slowly climbed through the ranks in one disappointing clerical position after another. After his surprising appointment to Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, his administrative and diplomatic skills were rendered indispensable amid the competing egos of George Patton, Winston Churchill, Bernard Montgomery, and Charles de Gaulle. While his peers looked down on him for his lack of combat experience, he single-handedly held together the fragile Allied Powers, commanded an army of three million men, executed one of the most complex military maneuvers in history, and led his country to victory.
HarperCollins. 800 pages. $34.95. ISBN: 0060756659

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"His gorgeously written and propulsive Ike is clearly in [the company of David McCullough’s biographies of Harry S. Truman and John Adams], even if it doesn’t rise to the heights of the peak of the form—American Caesar, William Manchester’s magisterial take on Douglas MacArthur. … Korda is terrific at sorting out the military details and describing the day-to-day drama of the always thrilling story of D-Day and the subsequent Allied advance across the continent." John Barron

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Korda’s skillfully written and thoroughly researched narrative explores all the important decisions made by the Allies, especially before and after the D-Day landing, and relates how Eisenhower kept his fractious team working toward the same goal of defeating Hitler. … Although Korda is justified in dwelling at length on Eisenhower’s long military career, he devotes too little time on his presidency." Chuck Leddy

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mr. Korda leaves no doubt that he likes Ike and occasionally comes across as more cheerleader than biographer. … He seems to have read virtually everything written on Eisenhower’s military career and has done a superb job of turning such material into a readable, vibrant narrative." Jonathan Karl

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Based on comparatively few, although excellent, published sources, this book is not an addition to scholarship. But it is a fresh and engaging characterization." John Whiteclay Chambers II

Denver Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Despite my investigative journalism background and my preference for muckraking, revisionist biography, I found myself caught in Korda’s web as he admires good ol’ Ike, scolding him good-naturedly only occasionally." Steve Weinberg

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Though he has positioned himself squarely in what may well be a new Eisenhower moment, Korda’s sprawling new book, Ike: An American Hero, is alternately engaging and frustrating—more likely to whet than satisfy the reasonably serious appetite." Tim Rutten

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s a good, but not great, book. It offers context, not revelations." Bob Minzesheimer

Critical Summary

Citing David McCullough’s biographies of Truman and MacArthur, Michael Korda claims that "a reputation can be revised by a single great book," and he seeks to do just that in Ike. Korda treads no new ground; instead, he gathers his information from previously published sources. In place of originality, reviewers commended his engaging, accessible style. Some were annoyed by Korda’s lack of objectivity and the short shrift he gives to Eisenhower’s presidential years (fewer than 100 pages), but they generally agreed that Ike is a stirring portrait of a truly inspiring man. "Academics may dismiss Ike: An American Hero as popular history, but most others will read with pleasure a great American story, well told" (Wall Street Journal).

Supplementary Reading

Eisenhower Soldier and President | Stephen Ambrose (1990): In this balanced, widely acclaimed biography, historian Stephen Ambrose examines Eisenhower’s entire life—from his modest Midwestern childhood to his presidency and later years as a revered elder statesman.

The Longest Day The Classic Epic of D-Day | Cornelius Ryan (1959): Based on interviews with the soldiers who lived through it, this gripping account of the D-Day invasion of Normandy set the standard for World War II military history.