USAHEC Lecture Examines Three Decades of American Military Leadership

 Mr. Thomas Ricks will present a lecture entitled, "The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today," on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) is pleased to announce the next Perspectives in Military History Lecture at USAHEC.  Mr. Thomas Ricks will present a lecture entitled, "The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today," on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm in USAHEC's Visitor and Education Center. This lecture is free and open to the public, and USAHEC's main exhibit, "The Soldier Experience," will be open beforehand.

History has been kind to the American generals of World War II—Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley—and less kind to the generals of the wars that followed.  During the Second World War, scores of American generals were relieved of command simply for not being good enough. Today, as one American colonel said bitterly during the Iraq War, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

Marshall and Eisenhower cast long shadows over this story, as does the less familiar Marine General O. P. Smith, whose fighting retreat from the Chinese onslaught into Korea in the winter of 1950 snatched a kind of victory from the jaws of annihilation.  But Korea also showed the first signs of an army leadership culture that neither punished mediocrity nor particularly rewarded daring. During the Vietnam War, the problem grew worse until, finally, American military leadership bottomed out.  In the wake of Vietnam, a battle for the soul of the U.S. Army was waged with impressive success. It became a transformed institution, reinvigorated from the bottom up. But if the body was highly toned, its head still suffered from familiar problems, resulting in tactically savvy but strategically obtuse leadership that would win battles but end wars badly from the first Iraq War of 1990 through to the present.  This close study of America’s military leaders resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails.

Thomas E. Ricks is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the prize-winning blog, The Best Defense. Ricks covered the U.S. military for The Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. Until the end of 1999, he had the same beat at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for seventeen years. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams, he covered U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of several books, including The Gamble and the #1 New York Times bestseller, Fiasco, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

For directions to USAHEC, and general information about USAHEC and upcoming events, please visit  For questions, please call: 717-245-3972.