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The Generals by Thomas E. Ricks
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The Generals

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The Generals by Thomas E. Ricks
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Oct 29, 2013 | ISBN 9780143124092

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  • Oct 29, 2013 | ISBN 9780143124092

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“Engaging, informed . . . a highly entertaining book.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A masterful and critical study of the art of generalship from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan by one of the smartest military experts out there.” —The New York Times

“[An important and timely book . . . trenchant, straightforward.” —The Washington Post

“Impressive . . . Stark, fact-based, and strongly argued.” —Chicago Tribune

“Ricks shines, blending an impressive level of research with expert storytelling.” —The Weekly Standard

“[A] savvy study of leadership. Combining lucid historical analysis, acid-etched portraits of generals from ‘troublesome blowhard’ Douglas MacArthur to ‘two-time loser’ Tommy Franks, and shrewd postmortems of military failures and pointless slaughters such as My Lai, the author demonstrates how everything from strategic doctrine to personnel policies create a mediocre, rigid, morally derelict army leadership… Ricks presents an incisive, hard-hitting corrective to unthinking veneration of American military prowess.” Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

“Informed readers, especially military buffs, will appreciate this provocative, blistering critique of a system where accountability appears to have gone missing – like the author’s 2006 bestseller, Fiasco, this book is bound to cause heartburn in the Pentagon.” Kirkus

“Entertaining, provocative and important.” —The Wilson Quarterly

“This is a brilliant book—deeply researched, very well-written and outspoken. Ricks pulls no punches in naming names as he cites serious failures of leadership, even as we were winning World War II, and failures that led to serious problems in later wars.  And he calls for rethinking the concept of generalship in the Army of the future.” —William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense

“Thomas E. Ricks has written a definitive and comprehensive story of American generalship from the battlefields of World War II to the recent war in Iraq. The Generals candidly reveals their triumphs and failures, and offers a prognosis of what can be done to ensure success by our future leaders in the volatile world of the twenty-first century.” —Carlo D’Este, author of Patton: A Genius for War

“Tom Ricks has written another provocative and superbly researched book that addresses a critical issue, generalship. After each period of conflict in our history, the quality and performance of our senior military leaders comes under serious scrutiny. The Generals will be a definitive and controversial work that will spark the debate, once again, regarding how we make and choose our top military leaders.” —Anthony C. Zinni, General USMC (Ret.)

The Generals is insightful, well written and thought-provoking. Using General George C. Marshall as the gold standard, it is replete with examples of good and bad generalship in the postwar years. Too often a bureaucratic culture in those years failed to connect performance with consequences. This gave rise to many mediocre and poor senior leaders. Seldom have any of them ever been held accountable for their failures. This book justifiably calls for a return to the strict, demanding and successful Marshall prescription for generalship. It is a reminder that the lives of soldiers are more important than the careers of officers—and that winning wars is more important than either.” —Bernard E. Trainor, Lt. Gen. USMC (Ret.); author of The Generals’ War

The Generals rips up the definition of professionalism in which the US Army has clothed itself. Tom Ricks shows that it has lost the habit of sacking those who cannot meet the challenge of war, leaving it to Presidents to do so. His devastating analysis explains much that is wrong in US civil-military relations. America’s allies, who have looked to emulate too slavishly the world’s pre-eminent military power, should also take heed.” —Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford

Table Of Contents


PROLOGUE: Captain William DePuy and the 90th Division in Normandy, summer 1944


1. General George C. Marshall: The leader

2. Dwight Eisenhower: How the Marshall system worked

3. George Patton: The specialist

4. Mark Clark: The man in the middle

5. “Terrible Terry” Allen: Conflict between Marshall and his protégés

6. Eisenhower manages Montgomery

7. Douglas MacArthur: The general as presidential aspirant

8. William Simpson: The Marshall system and the new model American general


9. William Dean and Douglas MacArthur: Two generals self- destruct

10. Army generals fail at Chosin

11. O. P. Smith succeeds at Chosin

12. Ridgway turns the war around

13. MacArthur’s last stand

14. The organization man’s Army


15. Maxwell Taylor: Architect of defeat

16. William Westmoreland: The organization man in command

17. William DePuy: World War II– style generalship in Vietnam

18. The collapse of generalship in the 1960s

  • a. At the top
  • b. In the field
  • c. In personnel policy

19. Tet ’68: The end of Westmoreland and the turning point of the war

20. My Lai: General Koster’s cover-up and General Peers’s investigation

21. The end of a war, the end of an Army


22. DePuy’s great rebuilding

23. “How to teach judgment”



24. Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and the empty triumph of the 1991 war

25. The ground war: Schwarzkopf vs. Frederick Franks

26. The post– Gulf War military

27. Tommy R. Franks: Two- time loser

28. Ricardo Sanchez: Over his head

29. George Casey: Trying but treading water

30. David Petraeus: An outlier moves in, then leaves

EPILOGUE: Restoring American military leadership




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