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Larrabee, COmmander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War

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Context: Larrabee served in World War II as an intelligence specialist and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Thesis: This book is concerned with FDR as a war leader and with the subordinates through whom he exercised command. It describes FDR and his major subordinates: backgrounds, characteristics, and relation to the overall conduct of the war. It also focuses on their relationships to each other and that impact on the war itself.

Argument: Through exploring the personal relationships with different subordinates, the author attempts to highlight FDR’s leadership in war. The emphasis throughout is on the relationships, direct and indirect, these officers had with the president.

  • FDR’s Characteristics (New Deal, people in work and create source of hope with gov money)
    • Uniquely ready to exercise the constitutional power of Commander and Chief in a world war
    • Kept a close control over political and military power. Was Sec of Navy in 31, gave unique insight
    • Was willing to act against the advice of military leaders when appropriate
    • He trusted his subordinates but checked their actions and decisions
    • Fostered a shared sense of duty among his subordinates and the nation
    • Set up a working relationship with his subordinates that encouraged conflicting opinions
    • Was a realist and believed that the US should wait to take action until fully ready – strategic patience
  • Marshall’s Characteristics (Army Chief of Staff)
    • Was held in highest esteem by FDR – fostered his trust and respect
    • Boldly disagree with FDR when needed – stood up for what was right even if it meant career harm.
    • He sought subordinates that would act independently
    • Produces a substantial Army – well-trained, equipped, and massive
    • He was a great liaison to the press and Congress – this characteristic convinced FDR of his need to keep Marshall in DC instead of Europe – Marshall accepted this graciously
  • King’s Characteristics (CINC, US Fleet)
    • Had a brilliant military mind. (Opposed convoys, learn it effectiveness slower than GB).
    • Was opinionated and not afraid to stand up to FDR – fully supported his ultimate decisions
    • Harsh to those that didn’t live up to his standards – kind and helpful to those who did
    • Demanded recent operations experience from his staff and rotated people appropriately
    • Understood and executed FDR different strategies in the Pacific and Europe
  • Arnold’s Characteristics (Commanding General US Army Air Forces)
    • Liked independent action and acted independently himself – willing to take chances
    • Benefited from FDR’s belief in the necessity of airpower
    • Hired subordinates that could translated his idealist views into reality – fashioned an Air Force from practically nothing. An organization builder.
    • Had an open mind and sought technological solutions
  • Eisenhower’s Characteristics (Supreme Commander in Europe)
    • Cultivated relationships with various people and learned from them – listened to his troops – coordinated Allies to work together
    • Balanced a political and a military view of the world
    • Demanded confidence and optimism from those around him
    • Was willing to stand up to Marshall, FDR, and Churchill when needed

Implications for Strategy:

  • Great people cannot do everything alone. Instead, they must build strong relationships, chose and empower outstanding subordinates, invite diversity and dissenting opinions, and maintain control.
  • Individuals’ matters, but the relationship is even more important.
  • Organizational behavior and governmental politics is very intermixed, FRD understood this.

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