Archive for the ‘patton’ Category

NANO The Essentials

December 9, 2008

In his insightful memoirs, War As I Knew It, General George S. Patton, one of history’s most charismatic, famous and successful generals, gifted us an priceless gem of his human resource management wisdom: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity”.

 

Ever since I read this illuminating book more than thirty years ago, I have followed this adage with great success in my multifarious avatars as a Human Resource Manager, a Project Manager, a Design Engineer, a Teacher and a Mentor.

 

A few days ago, a young lady, Prachi A Deshmukh, a fresh engineering graduate, joined our department as a research fellow; and I gave her a book from my bookcase, told her to review it and email me her book review by the end of the day. [As per my style, I just curtly told her what to do, not how to do it].

 

When I opened my email early next morning, the book review was there, waiting for me, and yes, Prachi Deshmukh had indeed surprised me with her ingenuity. I am truly proud of my young colleague and mentee.

 

A delight to read, written in a refreshingly youthful vibrant style, breathtaking in its simplicity, I liked the book review so much that I am placing it below as it is, with minimal editing, for you to read. We look forward to your comments and feedback; do tell us if you enjoyed reading the review, and the book. 

                                                                             

Name of the book: Nano: The Essentials – Understanding Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Author:  T. Pradeep

Publication: Tata McGraw-Hill, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0-07-061788-9

ISBN-10: 0-07-061788-0

 

[Reviewed by Prachi A. Deshmukh]

 

At the root of every invention, there is a seed of a thought which was unbelievable at that time. Yesterday’s dream is today’s truth; yesterday’s imagination is today’s reality. Let us take an example of ATM. Today we use ATM as if its ‘Any Time Money’ machine; but if we had told about this to somebody in the last century, he might had thought that we have gone mad! The same thing happened in December 1959, when Richard Feynman gave an after dinner speech at the annual meeting of the ‘American Physical Society’. He took the audience in the amazing world of his imagination. He was telling about the future where everything will be so small that there will be machines smaller than the tip of a needle. People were laughing, enjoying his ideas but no one knew the real meaning of his words-“There is plenty of room at the bottom.” Feynman is now credited for his great foresight which made him the first prophet of nanotechnology.

 

21st century is the era of great revolution in technology. Information Technology, Bio Technology and Nano Technology are some of the great windows which have tremendous capabilities to change the world around us. Especially Nanotechnology is a promising field in the near future which will provide us with many breakthroughs in a wide range of applications. It has been predicted that by the year 2015 the market share of nanotechnology and nanoscience will be worth 350 billion dollars. This calls for new investments in human resource development. These people must have strong foundation to build strong building. For those who are interested in this new technology, the book ‘Nano: The Essentials’ will prove to be a true guide.

 

The author of this book- Prof. T. Pradeep is with the IIT – Madras [Chennai]. Being a professor, he has structured this book so nicely that the reader gets his concepts clear right from the beginning. Starting from the preface we get more and more interest in this amazing world of nanotechnology and nanoscience.

 

The content of the book is well organized into five parts. In the first introductory part the author takes us in the world of nanotechnology with its relation with the nature. This part is enriched with the details of the technological inventions of 20th and 21st century.

 

In second part, we move towards the experimental methods. The author introduces us with the different types of microscopies . The neat diagrams, graphs and pictures in this part make it easier to understand the different experimental methods.

 

In the third part, we enter into the world of fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, gas phase clusters, nanoshells etc. In this section also, author addresses us with his simple language. There are sufficient diagrams and graphs to understand the concept properly.

 

In fourth part we become familiar with nanobiology, nanosensors,  nanomedicines , nanotribiology and molecular nanomachines.

 

Whenever some new technology comes into picture it’s the duty of every conscientious technologist to study the societal implications of it. In the fifth part we go through the relationship between nanotechnology and the society.

 

The most appreciable thing in this book is I think the ‘History of nanoscience and nanotechnology’ which tells us about all the important events in the development of Nanotechnology. Hats off to the author for this effort. The glossary of nanoterms at the end of this book summarizes all the important terms used throughout the book.

 

The author has given the references and additional related reading books at the end of every chapter for the keen readers to know more about the things.

 

In simple words, the book ‘Nano: The Essentials’ is really essential for those who are keen to know about nanotechnology and nanoscience . With his simple language the author has maintained the flow throughout the book. There are plenty of diagrams, graphs, tables and pictures which make the study more meaningful. If you are really serious about nanotechnology, then I will insist you to have a copy of this book. It’s easier for understanding if you have enough base of science and technology. I recommend this book to students, engineers, teachers and technologists who are willing to enter in this amazing world of nanotechnology and nanoscience.

My Favourite Military Autobiography – A Soldier’s Story by Omar N Bradley

May 10, 2007

MY FAVORITE MILITARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY  

A SOLDIER’S STORY BY OMAR N. BRADLEY 

 

[Book Review by Vikram Karve] 

 

 

 

I love reading autobiographies, as there is nothing more inspiring and authentic than learning about the life, times, thoughts and views of a great person in his own words.  

It’s a lazy hot Sunday afternoon. I browse through my bookshelves and pick out A Soldier’s Story by General Omar Nelson Bradley, one of my favorite autobiographies, and certainly my all time favorite military autobiography. Come Dear Reader, sit with me for a while, and let’s leaf through and peruse this fascinating book. 

General Bradley (1893-1981) known for his calm and resolute leadership and affectionately called the “Soldier’s General” commanded the largest American combat force in history and rose to be the first Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

This is a story, not of my life, but of a campaign…I have sought… to tell a story of how generals live and work at their chosen profession the author says at the beginning of his memoirs which focus on his participation in World War II. 

Candidly written with remarkable humility in beautiful expressive language it is a wonderful memoir embellished with interesting episodes and lucid characterizations of many renowned military personalities. 

 In this book I have tried to achieve one purpose: To explain how war is waged on the field from the field command postTo tell a story of how and why we chose to do what we did, no one can ignore the personalities and characteristics of those individuals engaged in making decisions…..Where there are people, there is pride and ambition, prejudice and conflict. In generals, as in all other men, capabilities cannot always obscure weaknesses, nor can talents hide faults…General Bradley writes in his preface which concludes…I could not conscientiously expurgate this book to make it more palatable…if this story is to be told, it must be told honestly and candidly… 

The author writes in a wonderfully readable storytelling style and starts his riveting narrative on September 2, 1943, driving to Messina along the north coast of Sicily when, suddenly, General Eisenhower summoned him to tell him that he had been selected to command the American Army in the biggest invasion of the war – the liberation of Europe from the Germans. He then goes back in time and starts his story with vignettes from his early formative days of soldiering. He describes how, from General Marshall, he learnt the rudiments of effective command which he himself applied throughout the war: “When an officer performed as I expected him to, I gave him a free hand. When he hesitated, I tried to help him. And when he failed, I relieved him”  – isn’t this leadership lesson valid even on today’s IT driven world where delegation seems to be taking a back- seat and excessive monitoring, interference and intervention seem to be on the rise. 

Rather than encourage yes-men, ego-massage, sycophancy and groupthink, General Marshal sought contrary opinions: “When you carry a paper in here, I want you to give me every reason you can think of why I should not approve it. If, in spite of your objections, my decision is to still go ahead, then I’ll know I’m right”. 

When it was suggested to General Marshall that a corps commander who had an arthritic disability in the knee be sent home rather than be given command of a corps in the field in war, he opined: “I would rather have a man with arthritis in the knee than one with arthritis in the head. Keep him there”. 

“For the first time in 32 years as a soldier, I was off to a war” he writes on his assignment overseas in February 1943 to act as Eisenhower’s “eyes and ears” among American troops on the Tunisian front in
North Africa.
 

He vividly describes the chaos after the American defeat at Kasserine, the arrival of Patton on the scene who growled “I’m not going to have any goddam spies running around in my headquarters” and appointed Bradley as his deputy, a defining moment which was the first step of Bradley’s illustrious combat career. 

This is easily the best book on Patton’s stellar role in World War II, complementing General Patton’s Memoirs War As I Knew It and Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago. Though his admiration for Patton is evident, General Bradley writes about his long association with Patton with fairness and honesty and reveals unique and remarkable facets of Patton’s leadership style and character. 

Sample this – Precisely at 7 Patton boomed in to breakfast. His vigor was always infectious, his wit barbed, his conversation a mixture of obscenity and good humor. He was at once stimulating and overbearing. George was a magnificent soldier. (Can there be a better description?) 

Bradley vividly describes how Patton transformed the slovenly and demoralized II Corps into a fighting fit formation. “The news of Patton’s coming fell like a bombshell on Djebel Kouif. With sirens shrieking Patton’s arrival, a procession of armored scout cars and half-tracks wheeled into the dingy square opposite the schoolhouse headquarters of II Corps…In the lead car Patton stood like a charioteer…scowling into the wind and his jaw strained against the web strap of a two-starred steel helmet.” 

General Bradley writes superbly, as he describes how Patton stamped his personality upon his men and by his outstanding charismatic leadership rejuvenated the jaded, slovenly, worn-out, defeated and demoralized II Corps and transformed it into a vibrant, disciplined, fighting fit organization that never looked back and went on winning victory after victory in most difficult circumstances and against all odds. 

There are bits of delightful humor in this book. Commenting on the ingenuity and improvisation abilities of Patton’s staff, the author writes: “…Indeed had Patton been named an Admiral in the Turkish Navy, his aides could probably dipped into their haversacks and come up with the appropriate badges of rank…” Though, at times, the author appears to be in awe of and enamored by Patton’s larger than life charisma, he is candid, dispassionate and, at times, critical when he describes how he was bewildered by the contradictions in Patton’s character and concludes: “At times I felt that Patton, however successful he was as a corps commander, had not yet learned how to command himself.” 

Their techniques of command varied with their contrasting personalities. While the soft-spoken unassuming Bradley preferred to lead by suggestion and example, the flamboyant Patton chose to drive his subordinates by bombast and threats, employing imperious mannerisms and profane expletives with startling originality; and both achieved spectacular results.   

Many of us are at a loss for words when asked to qualitatively appraise our subordinates. See how easily General Bradley lucidly evaluates his division commanders, bringing out their salient qualities, in so few words with elegant simplicity and succinctness: “…To command a corps of four divisions, toughness alone is not enough. The corps commander must know his division commanders, he must thoroughly understand their problems, respect their judgment, and be tolerant of their limitations…among the division commanders in
Tunisia, none excelled the unpredictable Terry Allen in the leadership of troops…but in looking out for his own division, Allen tended to belittle the role of others… Ryder had confirmed his reputation as that of a skilled tactician…his weakness, however, lay in the contentment with which he tolerated mediocrity…the profane and hot-tempered Harmon brought to the corps the rare combination of sound tactical judgment and boldness… none was better balanced nor more cooperative than Manton Eddy…though not timid, neither was he bold; Manton liked to count his steps carefully before he took them.”
 Aren’t the author’s understanding, observation and articulation remarkable?
 

 

Throughout the book, we find honest, frank and incisive appraisals of characters in this story – superiors, peers and subordinates – most of them renowned and famous personalities. He writes with candor about the problems of command during the planning of the invasion of
Europe.
 From then on the story gathers speed and moves so captivatingly that one is spellbound as one reads the author fluently narrate the events of the campaign with remarkable preciseness and detail, one realizes what an engaging and compelling book this is – it’s simply unputdownable! 

All important events, turning points, and personalities are vividly described with the aid of maps, charts, pictures and appendices; from D Day (the Normandy Invasion) to the surrender of the German forces. Towards the end of his memoirs General Bradley reflects “Only five years before…as a lieutenant colonel in civilian clothes, I had ridden a bus down Connecticut Avenue to my desk in old Munitions Building… I opened the mapboard and smoothed out the tabs of the 43 US divisions now under my command…stretched across a 640-mile front of the 12th Army Group…I wrote in the new date: D plus 335…outside the sun was climbing in the sky. The war in
Europe had ended.”
 

While this autobiography is a “must read” for military men and students of military history, I am sure it will benefit management students and professionals for it is an incisive treatise on Soft Skills encompassing aspects of Leadership, Communications, and most importantly, the Art of Human Relations Management in the extremely complex and highly stressful scenario of War where achievement of success (victory) is inescapably paramount. It is a primer, a treasury of distilled wisdom, on all aspects of management, especially human resource management.  One can learn many motivational and management lessons from this book. 

There is nothing to surpass the experience of learning history first hand from a man who lived and created it rather than a historian who merely records it. The Art of Leadership is better learnt from studying Leaders, their lives, their writings, rather than reading management textbooks pontificating on the subject and giving how-to-do laundry lists.   

The Art and Science of Management owe its genesis and evolution to the military. Modern Management theories, concepts, techniques and practices emerged from the experiences and lessons learnt during World War II [particularly in The United States of America].  

It’s ironic isn’t it? It was the military that gave modern management principles to the civilian corporate world, and today we see military men running to civilian management institutes to “learn’ management and get the coveted MBA which the sine qua non and all important passport for entry into the corporate world. 

I love reading stories, all kinds of stories, fiction, fantasy, parables, fables, slice of life. I like Life Stories, biographies, particularly autobiographies, as there is nothing more credible, convincing and stimulating than learning about the life, times and thoughts of a great person from his own writings. It’s called verisimilitude, I think. 

‘A Soldier’s Story’ is a magnificent book. A masterpiece, a classic! It’s enjoyable, engrossing and illuminating. Read it. 

 

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE 

 

vikramkarve@sify.com 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

 

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve 

 

http://www.ryze.com/go/karve 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

19 Stars – A Study in Military Leadership – Book Review

March 15, 2007

AN INSPIRING BOOK ON LEADERSHIP 19 STARS: A STUDY IN MILITARY LEADERSHIP 

By EDGAR F. PURYEAR Jr. 

  (Book Review by Vikram Karve) 

    

         It was indeed a pleasant surprise to chance upon this engrossing treatise buried in the books that adorn the shelves of my bookcase, last Sunday evening.  I had read this book long back, maybe fifteen years ago. I read it again. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and found it inspiring, educative, enjoyable and stimulating.                                                               

        “19 Stars” is a comparative study of the contrasting styles of leadership by four of the most outstanding American generals of World War II. The book attempts to capture those elusive qualities that have made great leaders of Generals Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton. The title of the book symbolizes the total number of ‘stars’ these four Generals wore on their collars.           The book starts with a lucid description of their early years as Cadets and traces their diverse backgrounds. It is revealed that whereas MacArthur and Patton, belonged to families with rich military heritage, Eisenhower grew up with no knowledge of, or any inclination towards, a military career. He could not afford to go to college, qualified for entrance to Naval Academy, Annapolis, but was overage, so opted for West Point, which had a higher entering age.


Marshall just decided to follow his elder brother into the Army. MacArthur’s career as a cadet was brilliant. Patton distinguished himself in the qualities of a soldier and athletic skills but faced difficulty in academics. Eisenhower has been depicted as indifferent, carefree and careless.
    

         An absorbing narrative encompassing World Wars I and II and the interregnum is the highlight of the book. It is a thoroughly researched analysis interspersed with a large number of anecdotes and reminiscences. The author avoids platitudes and presents his analysis with remarkable candor. Whether it be the ‘flamboyant’ Patton, ‘imperious’ MacArthur, ‘genial’ Eisenhower or ‘austere’ Marshall, a pattern of common leadership qualities emerges despite their contrasting temperaments It is revealing that these intrepid men were groomed under the tutelage of various patrons who not only furthered their careers but also bailed them out of professional crises on a number of occasions. The numerous first person reminiscences of eminent personalities, lucidly illustrate the universal respect and honest relationships, totally devoid of sycophancy that they developed and loyally sustained. Decisiveness, sometimes based on a “Sixth Sense”, Outspokenness, and an uncanny knack of spotting the right man for the right job are highlighted in various episodes, as also their inner strength and courageous attitude towards reversals and adversities, over which they invariably triumphed.   

        The author has succeeded in organizing and presenting his analysis in an extremely streamlined and readable manner. This is an enjoyable book which inspires; once you start reading it, it’s unputdownable.   

    

Reviewed by VIKRAM KARVE 

vikramkarve@sify.com  

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com 

  

                 

Musings on The Art of Living

March 1, 2007

MUSINGS BY VIKRAM KARVE ON THE ART OF LIVING

 

My name is Vikram Karve. I’m 50 and live in
Pune, India. I love reading, writing and blogging and have a philosophical attitude towards life. Here are a few links to my musings on various aspects of the art of living. I trust you will enjoy and derive benefit by reading them. Do send me your comments and feedback to:

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

TEACHING STORIES

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/two-teaching-stories.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/the-sweet-chillies.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/10/a-room-with-a-variable-climate.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/teaching-stories-part-4-by-vikram-karve-on-teachers.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/teaching-stories-part-3-by-vikram-karve.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/08/teaching-stories-part-2-by-vikram-karve.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/08/teaching-stories.htm

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2005/10/a-teaching-story-by-vikram-karve.htm

 

 

 

Book Review of THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING by LIN YUTANG

[A book that shaped my life and taught me the art of living]

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/01/the-art-of-living.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/the-art-of-living/

 

 

THE ART OF HAPPINESS

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/the-art-of-happiness-by-vikram-karve.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/11/23/the-art-of-happiness-by-vikram-karve/

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/01/happiness.htm

 

 

THE ART OF EATING

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/the-art-of-eating.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/11/08/the-art-of-eating-by-vikram-karve/

 

 

HOW I QUIT SMOKING

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/how-i-quit-smoking.htm

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/12/22/how-i-quit-smoking-by-vikram-karve/

 

THE DAY AFTER I QUIT SMOKING

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/12/29/the-day-after-i-quit-smoking-by-vikram-karve/

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/12/the-day-after-i-quit-smoking.htm

 

DO YOU WANT TO QUIT DRINKING?

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/12/22/force-field-analysis-helps-you-quit-drinking/

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/10/want-to-quit-drinking-.htm

 

 

TIME MANAGEMENT – SPEND TIME ADD VALUE

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/time-management.htm

 

 

A SENSE OF VALUES

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/11/08/a-sense-of-values-by-vikram-karve/

 

 

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2006/11/23/the-map-is-not-the-territory-by-vikram-karve/

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/the-map-is-not-the-territory.htm

 

THE SWEET CHILLIES

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/the-sweet-chillies.htm

 

 

COOSING THE RIGHT CAREER

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/11/choosing-the-right-career.htm

 

EPICTETUS – THE ART OF LIVING

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/10/the-art-of-living-a-book-review–2.htm

 

80/20 LIVING

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/10/a-book-review-80-20-principle.htm

 

A TEACHING STORY

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/10/a-room-with-a-variable-climate.htm

 

BOOK REVIEW – A SOLDIER’S STORY

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/book-review-a-soldier-s-story.htm

 

ORIENTAL STORIES – A FASCINATING BOOK

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/a-fascinating-book.htm

 

KNOW YOUR VALUES FOR HAPPINESS AND HARMONY

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/know-your-values-for-harmony-and-happiness.htm

 

HURRY SICKNESS

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/hurry-sickness.htm

 

BIBLIOTHERAPY

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/bibliotherapy.htm

 

LIFE PROCESS OUTSOURCING (LPO)

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/08/life-process-outsourcing-lpo.htm

 

BOOK REVIEW – THE PETER PRINCIPLE AND PETER PRESCRIPTION

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/08/book-review-the-peter-prescription-the-peter-principle.htm

 

 

ETHICAL FITNESS

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/07/ethical-fitness-2.htm

 

THOUGHT CONTROL

 

http://karve.wordpress.com/2007/01/05/be-happy-and-healthy/

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/06/monday-morning-rumination.htm

 

HAIKU

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/06/haiku-minerva-moment-by-vikram-karve.htm

 

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2005/12/the-art-of-eating-an-affair-to-remember-by-vikram.htm

 

MANAGEMENT OF THE ABSURD – A book review

 

http://karve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/09/management-of-the-absurd.htm

 

MAHARSHI KARVE – BOOKS ON HIS LIFE AND TIMES

 

http://karve.sulekha.com/blog/post/2006/08/maharshi-karve-books-on-his-life-and-times.htm

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these articles and look forward to your feedback. I’ll keep on posting.

 

VIKRAM KARVE

Pune
India

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

 

http://karve.wordpress.com

http://vikramkarve.blog.co.uk

http://vikramwamankarve.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review : My Favourite Autobiography – A Soldier’s Story by Omar N Bradley

February 15, 2007

Book review by Vikram Karve

 

MY FAVORITE MILITARY AUTOBIOGRAPHY

 

A Soldier’s Story by Omar N. Bradley

 

 

 

 

I love reading autobiographies, as there is nothing more inspiring and authentic than learning about the life, times, thoughts and views of a great person in his own words.

 

It’s a lazy hot Sunday afternoon. I browse through my bookshelves and pick out A Soldier’s Story by General Omar Nelson Bradley, one of my favorite autobiographies, and certainly my all time favorite military autobiography. Come Dear Reader, sit with me for a while, and let’s leaf through and peruse this fascinating book.

 

General Bradley (1893-1981) known for his calm and resolute leadership and affectionately called the “Soldier’s General” commanded the largest American combat force in history and rose to be the first Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

This is a story, not of my life, but of a campaign…I have sought… to tell a story of how generals live and work at their chosen profession the author says at the beginning of his memoirs which focus on his participation in World War II.

 

Candidly written with remarkable humility in beautiful expressive language it is a wonderful memoir embellished with interesting episodes and lucid characterizations of many renowned military personalities.

 

 In this book I have tried to achieve one purpose: To explain how war is waged on the field from the field command postTo tell a story of how and why we chose to do what we did, no one can ignore the personalities and characteristics of those individuals engaged in making decisions…..Where there are people, there is pride and ambition, prejudice and conflict. In generals, as in all other men, capabilities cannot always obscure weaknesses, nor can talents hide faults…General Bradley writes in his preface which concludes…I could not conscientiously expurgate this book to make it more palatable…if this story is to be told, it must be told honestly and candidly… 

The author writes in a wonderfully readable storytelling style and starts his riveting narrative on September 2, 1943, driving to Messina along the north coast of Sicily when, suddenly, General Eisenhower summoned him to tell him that he had been selected to command the American Army in the biggest invasion of the war – the liberation of Europe from the Germans. He then goes back in time and starts his story with vignettes from his early formative days of soldiering. He describes how, from General Marshall, he learnt the rudiments of effective command which he himself applied throughout the war: “When an officer performed as I expected him to, I gave him a free hand. When he hesitated, I tried to help him. And when he failed, I relieved him”  – isn’t this leadership lesson valid even on today’s IT driven world where delegation seems to be taking a back- seat and excessive monitoring, interference and intervention seem to be on the rise.

 

Rather than encourage yes-men, ego-massage, sycophancy and groupthink, General Marshal sought contrary opinions: “When you carry a paper in here, I want you to give me every reason you can think of why I should not approve it. If, in spite of your objections, my decision is to still go ahead, then I’ll know I’m right”. 

When it was suggested to General Marshall that a corps commander who had an arthritic disability in the knee be sent home rather than be given command of a corps in the field in war, he opined: “I would rather have a man with arthritis in the knee than one with arthritis in the head. Keep him there”.

 

“For the first time in 32 years as a soldier, I was off to a war” he writes on his assignment overseas in February 1943 to act as Eisenhower’s “eyes and ears” among American troops on the Tunisian front in
North Africa.

 

He vividly describes the chaos after the American defeat at Kasserine, the arrival of Patton on the scene who growled “I’m not going to have any goddam spies running around in my headquarters” and appointed Bradley as his deputy, a defining moment which was the first step of Bradley’s illustrious combat career.

 

This is easily the best book on Patton’s stellar role in World War II, complementing General Patton’s Memoirs War As I Knew It and Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago. Though his admiration for Patton is evident, General Bradley writes about his long association with Patton with fairness and honesty and reveals unique and remarkable facets of Patton’s leadership style and character.

 

Sample this – Precisely at 7 Patton boomed in to breakfast. His vigor was always infectious, his wit barbed, his conversation a mixture of obscenity and good humor. He was at once stimulating and overbearing. George was a magnificent soldier. (Can there be a better description?)

 

Bradley vividly describes how Patton transformed the slovenly and demoralized II Corps into a fighting fit formation. “The news of Patton’s coming fell like a bombshell on Djebel Kouif. With sirens shrieking Patton’s arrival, a procession of armored scout cars and half-tracks wheeled into the dingy square opposite the schoolhouse headquarters of II Corps…In the lead car Patton stood like a charioteer…scowling into the wind and his jaw strained against the web strap of a two-starred steel helmet.”

 

General Bradley writes superbly, as he describes how Patton stamped his personality upon his men and by his outstanding charismatic leadership rejuvenated the jaded, slovenly, worn-out, defeated and demoralized II Corps and transformed it into a vibrant, disciplined, fighting fit organization that never looked back and went on winning victory after victory in most difficult circumstances and against all odds.

 

There are bits of delightful humor in this book. Commenting on the ingenuity and improvisation abilities of Patton’s staff, the author writes: “…Indeed had Patton been named an Admiral in the Turkish Navy, his aides could probably dipped into their haversacks and come up with the appropriate badges of rank…” Though, at times, the author appears to be in awe of and enamored by Patton’s larger than life charisma, he is candid, dispassionate and, at times, critical when he describes how he was bewildered by the contradictions in Patton’s character and concludes: “At times I felt that Patton, however successful he was as a corps commander, had not yet learned how to command himself.” 

Their techniques of command varied with their contrasting personalities. While the soft-spoken unassuming Bradley preferred to lead by suggestion and example, the flamboyant Patton chose to drive his subordinates by bombast and threats, employing imperious mannerisms and profane expletives with startling originality; and both achieved spectacular results. 

 

Many of us are at a loss for words when asked to qualitatively appraise our subordinates. See how easily General Bradley lucidly evaluates his division commanders, bringing out their salient qualities, in so few words with elegant simplicity and succinctness: “…To command a corps of four divisions, toughness alone is not enough. The corps commander must know his division commanders, he must thoroughly understand their problems, respect their judgment, and be tolerant of their limitations…among the division commanders in
Tunisia, none excelled the unpredictable Terry Allen in the leadership of troops…but in looking out for his own division, Allen tended to belittle the role of others… Ryder had confirmed his reputation as that of a skilled tactician…his weakness, however, lay in the contentment with which he tolerated mediocrity…the profane and hot-tempered Harmon brought to the corps the rare combination of sound tactical judgment and boldness… none was better balanced nor more cooperative than Manton Eddy…though not timid, neither was he bold; Manton liked to count his steps carefully before he took them.”
 Aren’t the author’s understanding, observation and articulation remarkable?

 

 

Throughout the book, we find honest, frank and incisive appraisals of characters in this story – superiors, peers and subordinates – most of them renowned and famous personalities. He writes with candor about the problems of command during the planning of the invasion of
Europe.

From then on the story gathers speed and moves so captivatingly that one is spellbound as one reads the author fluently narrate the events of the campaign with remarkable preciseness and detail, one realizes what an engaging and compelling book this is – it’s simply unputdownable!

 

All important events, turning points, and personalities are vividly described with the aid of maps, charts, pictures and appendices; from D Day (the Normandy Invasion) to the surrender of the German forces. Towards the end of his memoirs General Bradley reflects “Only five years before…as a lieutenant colonel in civilian clothes, I had ridden a bus down Connecticut Avenue to my desk in old Munitions Building… I opened the mapboard and smoothed out the tabs of the 43 US divisions now under my command…stretched across a 640-mile front of the 12th Army Group…I wrote in the new date: D plus 335…outside the sun was climbing in the sky. The war in
Europe had ended.”
 

While this autobiography is a “must read” for military men and students of military history, I am sure it will benefit management students and professionals for it is an incisive treatise on Soft Skills encompassing aspects of Leadership, Communications, and most importantly, the Art of Human Relations Management in the extremely complex and highly stressful scenario of War where achievement of success (victory) is inescapably paramount. It is a primer, a treasury of distilled wisdom, on all aspects of management, especially human resource management.  One can learn many motivational and management lessons from this book.

 

There is nothing to surpass the experience of learning history first hand from a man who lived and created it rather than a historian who merely records it. The Art of Leadership is better learnt from studying Leaders, their lives, their writings, rather than reading management textbooks pontificating on the subject and giving how-to-do laundry lists. 

 

The Art and Science of Management owe its genesis and evolution to the military. Modern Management theories, concepts, techniques and practices emerged from the experiences and lessons learnt during World War II [particularly in The United States of America].  

It’s ironic isn’t it? It was the military that gave modern management principles to the civilian corporate world, and today we see military men running to civilian management institutes to “learn’ management and get the coveted MBA which the sine qua non and all important passport for entry into the corporate world.

 

I love reading stories, all kinds of stories, fiction, fantasy, parables, fables, slice of life. I like Life Stories, biographies, particularly autobiographies, as there is nothing more credible, convincing and stimulating than learning about the life, times and thoughts of a great person from his own writings. It’s called verisimilitude, I think.

 

A Soldier’s Story is a magnificent book. A masterpiece, a classic! It’s enjoyable, engrossing and illuminating. Read it.

 

 

VIKRAM KARVE

 

vikramkarve@sify.com

 

 

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

 

http://vikramkarve.blog.co.uk