This is a study of five specific generals in WWII chosen
for their success as military leaders, so that a conclusion may be drawn about what factors contribute to a successful career
as a military leader.
Leonard Townsend Gerow, Lieutenant-General
Leonard Townsend Gerow graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1911. During 1918-1920 Lieutenant-General Gerow was
in charge of buying radio equipment for the AEF. As a result, he received the Distinguished Service Medal and the
French Legion of Honor. Shortly after, he was promoted to the rank of major, and attended U.S. Army Infantry School,
and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School where he learned of modern war technologies. In the late 1930's
he worked in Shanghai and was promoted to Colonel and later to Brigadier-General in 1940. Some historians believe
that Gerow may have been one of the men who received several messages regarding the attack of pearl harbor and as a result
has been blamed for not warning the people stationed at Pearl Harbor about the eminent attack.
Later, he was promoted to major-general and he
assumed command of the V Corps, the largest unit in Europe during the war, in July 1943. He played a major role in
the strategic planning for the invasion in Europe. He was the first corps commander to land in Normandy on D-day (June
6, 1944) and the first major general to enter Paris after it was liberated from German control. Gerow was awarded
the silver star for his work in WWII. He was given control of the U.S. 15th Army on the 15th of January, 1945, and
in turn promoted to Lieutenant-General on the 6th of February 1945. After the conclusion of the war, Gerow was in charge
of a board which studied how Army colleges should function during a post-war period and recommended there be 5 separate
colleges. He retired in July, 1950.
Thomas Eugene Watson, Major General
In February 1944, Thomas Eugene Watson
led the Tactical Group-1 into battle on one of the Marshall Islands, the Eniwitok Atoll, which led to his recieving a Distinguished
Service Medal, and the 22d Marines got a Navy Unit Commendations. Later, in April 1944, he took command of the 2d
Marine Division. In June, he led this division in Saipan and Tinian, and recieved another Distinguished Service Medal
for his work. He was later promoted to lieutenant-general, and retired in 1950.
His nickname was "Terrible Tommy" because
he was notoriously impatient with others. He was unwilling to tolerate even the slightest amount of laziness, stupidity,
incompetence, or failure in leadership, and was known to deal with people exhibiting these traits in a fiery manner.
Harold Roe Bull, Lieutenant General
Harold Roe Bull, whose nickname was “Pinky,” graduated from West Point in 1914. He served in the AEF in
France in World War I, and afterwards returned to West Point and got a job as an instructor. Later, he attended in
the Army War College and General Staff School and graduated in 1938. He worked as a secretary of the War Department
General Staff from 1938-39. He was promoted to Brigadier General and became the assistant division commander of the
47th division. In march 1942, Bull was promoted to Major General, then in June-September 1943 he commanded the III
Corps. He played a major role in planning Operation Overlord, and had a significant influence of the outcome of the
war in Europe. He was chief of operations for General Dwight Eisenhower at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
As a Major-General, he retired in 1952.
James Maurice Gavin, Lieutenant General
Maurice Gavin enlisted in the army in 1924, and got a special appointment to West Point. He graduated in 1929. He
joined the 505th parachute infantry division in 1942, which soon after joined Major General Matthew Ridgeway’s 82nd
Airborne Division. He was part of the regiment that led the invasion of Sicily, and he jumped into the Salerno beachhead.
After being promoted to Brigadier General, he became an assistant division commander and also participated in the
planning process of Operation Overlord. In the night between the 5th and 6th of June 1944, he jumped into Normandy
and took command of the 82nd. He led the 82nd during operation Market-Garden and captured the Nijmegen Bridge, for
which he was promoted to Major-General. Afterwards, he fought with the 82nd in the Battle of the Bulge, and crossed
the Elbe in April, 1943.
Gavin remained commander of the 82nd
until 1948 when he served as chief of staff, Fifth Army; chief of staff, Allied Forces of the South; commanding general
of VII Corps; and deputy chief of staff of the U.S. army. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General in March 1955, and
was slated for promotion to General in 1958 when he retired. He retired because he had some major disagreements
withe Eisenhower administration’s defense policy, most notably, its reliance on nuclear weapons. He was the
ambassador to France in 1961-62 and strongly opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Richard Quesada, Major General
Elwood Richard Quesada attended the
University of Maryland and afterwards, Georgetown University. He enlisted in the army and became a flight cadet
in 1924. In 1929 he helped in a test of refueling techniques and aided in setting a world record of 151 straight
flight hours. He worked up the command structure and helped create the general headquarters staff of the Army Air
Corps. In 1840, he became the foreign liaison chief for General Henry “Hap” Arnold and helped him to
London in April 1941 to commence Lend-Lease there.
At the beginning of WWII, Quesada was a major commanding the 33rd Pursuit Group.
He was promoted to Brigadier-General in late 1942, and beginning in 1943, he led the XII Fighter Command in Tunisia,
Sicily, and Italy. He then commanded the IX Tactical Air Command in England, and subsequently was promoted to Major-General
in April 1944. Afterwards, Quesada took over the 9th Tactical Air Command and supported the invasion of France. He
had the idea to use FM radios over AM in the airplanes, and he thought of installing radios in all the tanks. He
also participated in the Battle of the Bulge, and soon afterwards became the air force chief of intelligence. He
then directed the Entiwetok hydrogen bomb tests while he was the head of the Tactical Air Command in 1946-48. He
retired in 1951, but returned and worked in the government as first director of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The first common trait that I observed
among the generals is an education at a high quality military institute. Two of the five generals, Bull and Gavin,
graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point, arguably the finest military institue in the United States
of America. It is interesting to note that Gavin did not originally enroll at West Point, he began his career in the military
when he enlisted in the army, and the only reason he ended up at West Point was because he got a special appointment. After
graduation, he was a very successful leader; whoeverer gave him that special appointment must have noticed something about
Gavin that made him so promising. Gerow, on the other hand, graduated from Virginia Military Institute, which is also
a fine college dedicated to producing military leaders. Quesada was unlike the others in the sense that he graduated
from a non-military college, then joined the Air Force. It is clear the Quesada recieved a good education because
he participated in various scientific and technological military advancements during his career. It is evident that
a high quality college education is vital to success as a military leader. It also seems as if many of the generals participated in a
major battle during their careers. Quesada was promoted to Major-General only after his major commands in Tunisia,
Sicily, Italy, and Britain. Gavin led the 82nd during operation Market-Garden, and was subsequently promoted to Major-General.
Gerow commanded the largest unit in Europe during the war, and was the first major general to enter Paris after it
was taken back from the Germans. These feats lead to his gaining more commands, and soon after, a promotion to Lieutenant-General.
Watson was promoted to Major-General for his leadership in the invasions of Tinian and Saipan. Bull contributed
to the planning of operation Overlord, although it did not lead to any promotion; he reached his highest rank of Major-General
in 1942. Clearly participation in major battles is necessary in successful military leadership careers. Another important aspect of successful
military careers is success outside of the warzone. Each of the five generals held important positions that did not
involve combat or leading troops or vehicles. Gerow recieved his promotion to Brigadier-General for his non-combat
work in Shanghai, and made important contributions to improving the military education system. Gavin did important
work in the planning of operation Overlord, and became the U.S. ambassador to France after his retirement. Bull was
promoted to Brigadier-General for his work as a secretary of the War Department General Staff. Quesada did important
non-combat work on refueling techniques in which he participated in the setting of a world record for flight duration. He
also directed hydrogen bomb tests after his commands in Europe, and after retirement, he became the first director of the
Federal Aviation Administration. Excellence in and out of combat is important for a successful military leadership.
Chapin, John C. Breaching the Marianas: The Battle for Saipan.
Diane Pub, 1994. Print.
"Leonard Townsend Gerow." Arlington National Cemetary Website.
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London: Routledge, 2001. Print. pg. 40, 111, 113, 263
Tucker, Spencer C. Who's Who in Twentieth Century Warfare.
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