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The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II

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On September 1, 1939, the day World War II broke out in Europe, Gen. George Marshall was sworn in as chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Ten months later, Roosevelt appointed Henry Stimson secretary of war. For the next five years, from adjoining offices in the Pentagon, Marshall and Stimson headed the army machine that ground down the Axis. Theirs was one of the most consequ On September 1, 1939, the day World War II broke out in Europe, Gen. George Marshall was sworn in as chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Ten months later, Roosevelt appointed Henry Stimson secretary of war. For the next five years, from adjoining offices in the Pentagon, Marshall and Stimson headed the army machine that ground down the Axis. Theirs was one of the most consequential collaborations of the twentieth century. A dual biography of these two remarkable Americans, The Partnership tells the story of how they worked together to win World War II and reshape not only the United States, but the world. The general and the secretary traveled very different paths to power. Educated at Yale, where he was Skull and Bones, and at Harvard Law, Henry Stimson joined the Wall Street law firm of Elihu Root, future secretary of war and state himself, and married the descendant of a Founding Father. He went on to serve as secretary of war under Taft, governor-general of the Philippines, and secretary of state under Hoover. An internationalist Republican with a track record, Stimson ticked the boxes for FDR, who was in the middle of a reelection campaign at the time. Thirteen years younger, George Marshall graduated in the middle of his class from the Virginia Military Institute (not West Point), then began the standard, and very slow, climb up the army ranks. During World War I he performed brilliant staff work for General Pershing. After a string of postings, Marshall ended up in Washington in the 1930s and impressed FDR with his honesty, securing his appointment as chief of staff. Marshall and Stimson were two very different men who combined with a dazzling synergy to lead the American military effort in World War II, in roles that blended politics, diplomacy, and bureaucracy in addition to warfighting. They transformed an outdated, poorly equipped army into a modern fighting force of millions of men capable of fighting around the globe. They, and Marshall in particular, identified the soldiers, from Patton and Eisenhower to Bradley and McNair, best suited for high command. They helped develop worldwide strategy and logistics for battles like D-Day and the Bulge. They collaborated with Allies like Winston Churchill. They worked well with their cagey commander-in-chief. They planned for the postwar world. They made decisions, from the atomic bombs to the division of Europe, that would echo for decades. There were mistakes and disagreements, but the partnership of Marshall and Stimson was, all in all, a bravura performance, a master class in leadership and teamwork. In the tradition of group biographies like the classic The Wise Men, The Partnership shines a spotlight on two giants, telling the fascinating stories of each man, the dramatic story of their collaboration, and the epic story of the United States in World War II.


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On September 1, 1939, the day World War II broke out in Europe, Gen. George Marshall was sworn in as chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Ten months later, Roosevelt appointed Henry Stimson secretary of war. For the next five years, from adjoining offices in the Pentagon, Marshall and Stimson headed the army machine that ground down the Axis. Theirs was one of the most consequ On September 1, 1939, the day World War II broke out in Europe, Gen. George Marshall was sworn in as chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Ten months later, Roosevelt appointed Henry Stimson secretary of war. For the next five years, from adjoining offices in the Pentagon, Marshall and Stimson headed the army machine that ground down the Axis. Theirs was one of the most consequential collaborations of the twentieth century. A dual biography of these two remarkable Americans, The Partnership tells the story of how they worked together to win World War II and reshape not only the United States, but the world. The general and the secretary traveled very different paths to power. Educated at Yale, where he was Skull and Bones, and at Harvard Law, Henry Stimson joined the Wall Street law firm of Elihu Root, future secretary of war and state himself, and married the descendant of a Founding Father. He went on to serve as secretary of war under Taft, governor-general of the Philippines, and secretary of state under Hoover. An internationalist Republican with a track record, Stimson ticked the boxes for FDR, who was in the middle of a reelection campaign at the time. Thirteen years younger, George Marshall graduated in the middle of his class from the Virginia Military Institute (not West Point), then began the standard, and very slow, climb up the army ranks. During World War I he performed brilliant staff work for General Pershing. After a string of postings, Marshall ended up in Washington in the 1930s and impressed FDR with his honesty, securing his appointment as chief of staff. Marshall and Stimson were two very different men who combined with a dazzling synergy to lead the American military effort in World War II, in roles that blended politics, diplomacy, and bureaucracy in addition to warfighting. They transformed an outdated, poorly equipped army into a modern fighting force of millions of men capable of fighting around the globe. They, and Marshall in particular, identified the soldiers, from Patton and Eisenhower to Bradley and McNair, best suited for high command. They helped develop worldwide strategy and logistics for battles like D-Day and the Bulge. They collaborated with Allies like Winston Churchill. They worked well with their cagey commander-in-chief. They planned for the postwar world. They made decisions, from the atomic bombs to the division of Europe, that would echo for decades. There were mistakes and disagreements, but the partnership of Marshall and Stimson was, all in all, a bravura performance, a master class in leadership and teamwork. In the tradition of group biographies like the classic The Wise Men, The Partnership shines a spotlight on two giants, telling the fascinating stories of each man, the dramatic story of their collaboration, and the epic story of the United States in World War II.

36 review for The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II

  1. 5 out of 5

    David Shaffer

    Just finished The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II by Edward Farley Aldrich, a dual biography on two extraordinary men who devoted their lives to the service of the United States. A weakness of multi person biographies is that tendency to get lost between the transition from one subject to the next, an issue that I noticed when recently reading Scott Anderson’s The Quiet Americans. Unlike The Quiet Americans which dealt with fou Just finished The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II by Edward Farley Aldrich, a dual biography on two extraordinary men who devoted their lives to the service of the United States. A weakness of multi person biographies is that tendency to get lost between the transition from one subject to the next, an issue that I noticed when recently reading Scott Anderson’s The Quiet Americans. Unlike The Quiet Americans which dealt with four subjects though Aldrich is only addressing two main subjects and he does it impeccably. When looking back at their lives one can’t help but notice the similarities between two men who came from vastly different backgrounds. Henry Stimson had a patrician background trained as a lawyer who served as an artillery officer in World War I. He also served as a United States Attorney for the Southern District, a two time Secretary of War, Secretary of State and the original wiseman who drifted between private practice, public service and trusted advisor to multiple presidents. George Marshall a man of a simple background from Uniontown, Pennsylvania who attended both VMI and West Point. Commissioned as a lieutenant who served on General Pershing’s Staff in World War I, numerous staff and training positions who ultimately served as Chief of Staff during the entirety of World War II and finished his career as Secretary of State, with his career highlight in this role being as the author of the European Recovery Act better known as The Marshall Plan and The Secretary of Defense. Both men dedicated their lives to the United States giving some of their best efforts to successful creation of the military that successfully prosecuted a two theater war. A cradle to grave biography that spends sufficient time on the lives of these men both before and during World War II. An impeccably interesting and readable book 5 star book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    America’s Two Remarkable Leaders in World War II Nearly all histories of America’s involvement in World War II examine the great air, land, and naval battles in the European and Pacific theaters of war. To the extent that historians have addressed Western alliance decisions at the top, they have chronicled these taken by Roosevelt, Churchill and, regarding the decision to drop the atomic bomb, Truman. This book by Edward Aldrich breaks ground that will be new to most readers, including those who h America’s Two Remarkable Leaders in World War II Nearly all histories of America’s involvement in World War II examine the great air, land, and naval battles in the European and Pacific theaters of war. To the extent that historians have addressed Western alliance decisions at the top, they have chronicled these taken by Roosevelt, Churchill and, regarding the decision to drop the atomic bomb, Truman. This book by Edward Aldrich breaks ground that will be new to most readers, including those who have read a great deal about World War II. As such, the author sheds light on the leadership and administrative genius of two personalities, General George Marshall, chief of staff to the army, and Henry Stimson, secretary of war. These two men had to shoulder enormous responsibilities from 1939 to war’s end, and to navigate the politics not only within their own country but also with the British. Throughout the war, Stimson and Marshall had adjoining offices and kept the door between them always open. This sent a message to staff that they had no secrets from one another, and facilitated numerous one-on-one consultations during the day. For historians, the downside of this arrangement was that it reduced the historical record of the debates and decisions taken by the two men. In researching the book, Aldrich realized that a relatively untapped source was found at Yale, which held Stimson’s wartime diary. Stimson recorded daily his thoughts during his five years working with Marshall — and these ran to more than 4,000 pages. A first problem facing the two men related to America’s weak military position in 1940. In 2 ½ years, under their leadership, America’s military went from 170,000 to 2.5 million. In 18 months, barracks were built in 250 locations to house 1.2 million men. New weapons had to be adopted and manufactured including the Garand rifle and the jeep. One of the great challenges: the need to ship men and material to distant overseas battlegrounds.   Both men had to recruit senior talent as well. Stimson knew and tapped accomplished men of the establishment from major law firms, financial institutions such as Brown Brothers, and from the Fed in New York. Marshall had kept a little black book over the years, in which he noted officers who had impressed him. Eisenhower was one such officer. Of Patton, for example, Marshall noted words to the effect that he was a little crazy, was likely a good tank commander, but needed to be controlled.   As the war proceeded, the decisions were huge. Should Europe or the Pacific receive top priority? Why fight in North Africa or Italy since the invasion of northern Europe was essential to victory? In the Pacific, was fighting in New Guinea and the Philippines necessary or should all resources be devoted to island-hopping across the Pacific on a more direct route to the invasion of Japan? This reader gained a number of insights. Stimson first learned about the possibility of the atomic bomb about a month before Pearl Harbor, and he was the senior official responsible for the project over the next four years. During that time, he had to ask then-Senator Harry Truman, who was auditing war expenses, to cease and desist from asking about the Manhattan Project. Ironically, Roosevelt never informed his new vice president about the bomb and once Truman became president it was Stimson who told him about it. Once America entered the war, both Stimson and Marshall had to wage a constant fight with the British to keep the cross-channel invasion of France from being indefinitely postponed. Aldrich tells this part of the story dramatically and in detail. The British were right to resist such an attempt in 1942 and 1943, when American troops were unprepared and the vast resources of D-Day 1944 had not yet been assembled. But left to their own devices, the British might have delayed such an invasion until 1945 or even 1946. Had the British and Americans held off invasion that long, one is left to contemplate whether Stalin would have either made a separate peace with Hitler or whether Soviet success would have resulted in the occupation of far more than Eastern Europe. Around the world, every general wanted more. Marshall was very tough on subordinates who requested more troops or resources without making a very compelling case. Once the allies had landed in Europe, Marshall capped the number of divisions at 90. This paid off in the end but it was a very close-run thing, given casualties and the morale problem when inexperienced junior officers were placed in command of veteran troops. Only two of the 90 divisions didn’t see combat. Perhaps one of the most important lessons of the Stimson-Marshall partnership was the commitment to civilian control of the military. The book includes a poignant photo of a long line of generals paying tribute to Stimson upon his retirement. George Marshall was the last in line to receive Stimson, and the message was that civilian over military rule is what distinguishes America and makes us great. This is Aldrich’s first book. It’s readable, insightful, and breaks new ground. One hopes that this book is not his last.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the extraordinary collaboration that won World War II,” by Edward Farley Aldrich (Stackpole, 2022). A lengthy (505 pages including notes), detailed, thoroughly absorbing joint biography of two men who Aldrich argues understood what was needed to win the war, and did what had to be done to do it. Stimson was a dyed in the wool or born and bred member of the WASP Establishment: Yale (Skull and Bones), Harvard Law, all the right clubs and connec “The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the extraordinary collaboration that won World War II,” by Edward Farley Aldrich (Stackpole, 2022). A lengthy (505 pages including notes), detailed, thoroughly absorbing joint biography of two men who Aldrich argues understood what was needed to win the war, and did what had to be done to do it. Stimson was a dyed in the wool or born and bred member of the WASP Establishment: Yale (Skull and Bones), Harvard Law, all the right clubs and connections. But according to Aldrich he was always driven to do good, to help humanity, even as he became an extremely rich lawyer. Marshall’s father was in the coal/coke business in Pennsylvania, and did well until his business collapsed. So Marshall had a good life as a youth. He also wanted to be in the military (attended Virginia Military Institute), proved to be a superb organizer and leader, and began a slow climb up the ladder of promotion. Stimson was deeply involved in government, serving twice as secretary of war, and on many committees and boards. At the beginning of World War II, FDR appointed Stimson as secretary of war; meanwhile, Marshall had become Chief of Staff of the Army. The pair worked extremely well together. Several times Aldrich emphasizes that their offices were next door to one another, and the doors were always open. It's an extraordinary story. The US has often been very lucky in its leaders during times of crisis, and this was one of those times. Powerful and important book. https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-...

  4. 4 out of 5

    CASPER HILEMAN

    The partnership of George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry Stimson was responsible for the prosecution and planning of the Second World War. There have been numerous quality biographies of George marshall, but where the true new insight is found in this book are the details about the largely forgotten Henry Stimson. Well worth the time especially for those who are unaware of Stimson and his vital role in the Victory over Fascism.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Edward "Ted" Aldrich

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paula

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rae O’Shea

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dillon Saeger

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dr. L.W. Meredith

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Aldrich

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  15. 4 out of 5

    John English

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kovan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ya Hong

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Kell

  23. 5 out of 5

    William

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Branch

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robbo

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  29. 5 out of 5

    Park Ridge Public Library

  30. 5 out of 5

    Greer Hunter

  31. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  32. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  33. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  34. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  35. 5 out of 5

    John Purvis

  36. 5 out of 5

    Shanna

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