Thursday, May 21, 2009





[Book Review by Vikram Waman 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 evening.

I had first read this book long long back, maybe fifteen years ago. I read it again. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and found it inspiring, educative, enjoyable and stimulating, and decided to tell you, dear reader, about it.

“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 candour.

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.

Hallmarks of leadership like 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 a very inspiring, educative and enjoyable book which is do delightfully written that once you start reading it, it’s unputdownable.


Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this review.

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