Document Created: 24 August 2007
Air & Space Power Journal Fall 2007
Old Glory Stories: American Combat Leadership in World War II by Cole C. Kingseed. Naval Institute Press (http://www.usni.org/press/press.html), 291 Wood Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5034, 2006, 280 pages, $36.95 (hardcover).
Although we have various works on leadership during World War II, Old Glory Stories by Col Cole C. Kingseed, USA, retired, is refreshing in that, in a single volume, it evaluates combat leadership at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war. Moreover, the text goes beyond a mere historical review of leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, and Omar Bradley. Indeed, Colonel Kingseed provides insight into such lesser-known though no less significant warriors as Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, Jonathan “Skinny” Wainwright, Lucian K. Truscott, Walter Krueger, and J. Lawton “Lightning Joe” Collins.
However, the book goes beyond a review of leadership at the general-officer level, which comprises “The Generals,” part 1 of the work. In “The Warriors,” part 2, Colonel Kingseed evaluates and educates readers on the exploits of such legends as Col Paul Tibbets, Capt Joe Dawson, Maj Dick Winters, and several lieutenants: Vernon J. Baker, Audie L. Murphy, and Lyle J. Bouck. Of particular interest is a chapter on Maj Charity Adams Early, the first African-American female to command a battalion in the European theater of operations. Like many others, she faced a twin fight—one against the racism of the Army and another against the Axis. Throughout, the author provides a balanced evaluation of the leadership traits, personalities, and challenges encountered by theater and Army group commanders (those in charge of several armies), as well as company commanders and platoon leaders.
Colonel Kingseed follows Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Stilwell from cadet days to the pinnacle of their service, adding to our knowledge of the relationship between the two supreme commanders. Moreover, the author educates us on Stilwell, one of the oft-forgotten theater commanders who led forces in the extremely challenging China-Burma-India theater. While combating the Japanese, the general constantly fought with the Allies over strategy and with the Army for supplies and manpower. As Kingseed notes, “Stilwell was not called Vinegar Joe for nothing” (p. 32).
After analyzing Army group commanders, the author highlights the exploits of Army commanders in the Pacific theater, whom he rightfully categorizes as forgotten warriors. When one thinks of that area of operations, images of fast-carrier task forces and Marine landings immediately come to mind. However, the Army deployed over 21 divisions to the theater (the Marines had six) as well as the Fifth, Seventh, Thirteenth, and Twentieth Air Forces (US Army Air Forces). Needless to say, most Americans (and quite a few Airmen) are unaware of this fact. After providing a detailed account of General Wainwright’s ordeal after the surrender of Corregidor, the book also outlines the leadership of General Krueger, Sixth Army commander, who started in Australia, fought hard-won battles in New Guinea, and then went on to liberate the Philippines. Kingseed also objectively analyzes Lt Gen Simon Buckner, who commanded Tenth Army (consisting of both Marine and Army corps-sized units) during the battle for Okinawa—where he was killed in action.
The book covers “dual-theater” commanders Alexander “Sandy” Patch, J. Lawton Collins, and Charles H. Corlett, who commanded divisions and corps in the steaming jungles of Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Kwajalein, and the freezing Aleutians before joining the campaigns in Europe. Kingseed superbly illustrates the perception of these battle-hardened professionals as “interlopers” by Army leaders in Europe. The author notes that, despite General Corlett’s expertise in amphibious warfare, senior leaders readily dismissed his suggestions (made after reviewing the Overlord plan). One can only imagine what lives might have been saved at Omaha Beach had they listened to the “outsider” with a proven record.
Kingseed spins a fascinating tale of Colonel Tibbets, who exemplifies aerial-combat leadership, before moving on to platoon and company commanders who “led the way.” One learns of Joe Dawson, among the first to clear Omaha Beach on D-day; months later, on a high ridge overlooking Aachen, Germany, Dawson’s G Company, with other parts of the 16th Regiment, held off numerous division-sized attacks—for 49 days. This is just one of the many examples of junior officers taking care of business. The author also documents the exploits of Len Lomell, first sergeant of a Ranger company at Pointe Du Hoc on D-day, and of Lyle Bouck, whose platoon held up the German advance during the Battle of the Bulge for 18 crucial hours.
Furthermore, the book explores a topic that many military historians gloss over—the leadership of African-American warriors in World War II. Although many Americans know of the Tuskegee Airmen, very few have heard of Vernon J. Baker, a platoon leader who served with great distinction in Italy and received the Medal of Honor for his exploits—52 years later. Like Maj Charity Adams, who commanded a service battalion in the European theater, Baker experienced the Army’s institutional racism. Yet, like so many others, these outstanding warriors set the example for all Americans to follow. Baker’s courage under fire and Adams’s superb leadership are inspirational; Colonel Kingseed deserves much credit for bringing their stories to light—they are the culminating chapters of the book’s second part.
Clearly, Colonel Kingseed (who earned a PhD in military history) conducted extensive research for Old Glory Stories, which is well written and well documented. He recounts the experiences of interview ing many of these heroes in person and the ways that experience inspired his writing and professional thought. The author’s expertise is evident throughout, especially his objective analysis of the subjects and his handling of the historical context. In sum, Old Glory Stories is a relevant, engaging work with lessons for today’s Airmen—including those in the senior ranks—on combat leadership, a commodity that remains in demand.
Lt Col Richard Hughes, USAF
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author
cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of
[ Home Page| Feedback? Contact the Editor ]