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Book Review: Command of Honor: General Lucian Truscott’s Path to Victory in World War II (NAL Calibe

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by dgmitchell, Jun 19, 2009.

  1. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    General Lucian K. Truscott probably experienced more during World War II than any other American officer. Yet he sought nothing in return and avoided accolades and publicity. Thus it is not surprising that, even though General Truscott was the only American officer to command a regiment, division, corps and army in World War II, H. Paul Jeffers’s captivating Command of Honor: General Lucian Truscott’s Path to Victory in World War II (NAL Caliber, June 2008; 326 pages) is the first biography of Truscott since Truscott published his memoirs in 1954.

    Lucian K. Truscott was born in Chatfield, Texas in 1895 and grew up in Oklahoma. As a young man, he became a teacher in a rural school district but was quick to volunteer as an officer when the United States entered World War II. Although, Truscott did not see combat during the First World War, he was nevertheless committed to a life in the military – a life that he lead for the next forty years. It was not until the Second World War, however, that Truscott would earn his reputation as a “soldier’s soldier” and a brilliant tactician.

    Soon after the United States entered the Second World War, General Mark Clark asked then-Colonel Truscott if he would like to become a “commando.” The commandos were an elite British guerilla unit that the United States hoped to emulate. Truscott, accepted the challenge and, temporarily promoted to brigadier general, headed to England to study under the British. The result of Truscott’s effort was the successful creation of the US Army Rangers, a name that Truscott borrowed from early American history.

    After establishing the Rangers, General Truscott became the first American general to witness actual combat in Europe when he participated in the disastrous raid on Dieppe later in 1942. He then lead troops in the invasion of Morocco during Operation Torch and served as field deputy to General Eisenhower in Tunisia. During the invasions of Sicily and Italy, General Truscott lead divisions, and it was Truscott who designed the break-out from Anzio after months of deadly stalemate. Transferred to lead an army after the capture of Rome, General Truscott then lead the invasion of Southern France a month after D-Day. Following the success of his invasion of Southern France, General Truscott was then transferred back to Italy where he took charge of the Fifth Army for the final confrontation with Axis troops in Northern Italy.

    Other than zealous students of World War II, most Americans have forgotten the name of General Lucian Truscott. That makes Mr. Jeffers’s masterful biography, Command of Honor: General Lucian Truscott’s Path to Victory in World War IIall the more important. Lucian K. Truscott was not flamboyant. He did not speak in sound bites or seek fame, fortune or personal glory. He sought only to lead his men to the best of his ability and for the greater glory of his country. Mr. Jeffers has presented us with a wonderful profile of Lucian Truscott, the warrior.

    Where Mr. Jeffers has not given us enough, however, is in the portrayal of General Truscott after the war was over. In 1951, Lucian Truscott became the CIA’s station chief in Frankfurt and soon after that (apparently in 1953, although that is not entirely clear in the book) the Deputy Director of the CIA back in the States.

    As a CIA operative and then its deputy director during the height of the Cold War, Truscott was involved in many of the more remarkable events that shaped our current political geography, including the overthrow of an Islamist fundamentalist government in Iran in the early 1950’s and the overthrow of a Communist government in Guatemala in 1954. These aspects and events of Truscott’s life certainly deserved far more attention than they receive in one chapter of Command of Honor, but that may be indicative more of the continued confidentiality of the information related to Truscott’s intelligence activities. If not, a second volume of Command of Honor is needed.

    In addition, although Command of Honor includes a good bibliography, it is not footnoted. As a result, anyone wishing to further research elements of Truscott’s life is not directed to the specific sources for the information presented. Nevertheless, that is a relatively minor point and does not detract from the readability, organization or analysis of Command of Honor.

    Lucian K. Truscott is an American hero that few Americans now recall. In Command of Honor: General Lucian Truscott’s Path to Victory in World War II, H. Paul Jeffers has created a wonderful portrayal of Truscott that should be read by all serious students of World War II and even casual readers who just want a very readable, extremely entertaining story of a man who achieved greatness while remaining humble, dedicated to his duties and loyal to both his men and his cause. If Patton or Clark are the first generals that come to mind after Eisenhower, when you think of World War II, reading Command of Honor will forever change your hierarchy of the military minds of the Second World War.
     
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