D'Este, Carlo 1936-
D'ESTE, Carlo 1936-
PERSONAL: Born 1936. Education: New Mexico Military Institute's junior college, graduated 1956; Norwich University, graduated 1958.
CAREER: Military historian and biographer, 1978—. United States Army, completed tours of duty in Germany and Vietnam, retired as lieutenant colonel, 1978. Lecturer at School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College; cofounder of the William E. Colby Military Writer's Symposium; served as advisor to President Clinton for his visit to Italy, England, and Normandy in commemoration of fiftieth anniversary of World War II, 1994.
MEMBER: Department of the Army Historical Advisory Committee.
AWARDS, HONORS: Received Legion of Merit, Bronze star, Meritorious Service Medal, and Commendation Medal, United States Army; inducted into Hall of Fame, New Mexico Military Institute, 2002.
Decision in Normandy: The Unwritten Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983.
Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943, Dutton (New York, NY), 1988.
World War II in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945, Algonquin (Chapel Hill, NC), 1990.
Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Patton: A Genius for War, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, 1890-1945, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
Author of introduction, Battle, the Story of the Bulge, John Toland, Random House (New York, NY), 1959; contributor to Few Returned: Twenty-eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943, edited by Eugenio Corti, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1997.
ADAPTATIONS: Patton: A Genius for War was adapted for television by the Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) for the A&E Biography series, 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: A retired U.S. Army colonel, Carlo D'Este is considered one of the leading historians of Allied operations in the European theater during World War II. Beginning with Decision in Normandy: The Unwritten Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign, he has written several considerations of strategy, tactics, and command in such pivotal battles as the Normandy invasion and the amphibious assault on Anzio in southern Italy.
Decision in Normandy critiques the performance of British commander Bernard L. "Monty" Montgomery in the planning and execution of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy that took place in June of 1944. D'Este maintains that Montgomery falsified accounts of the battle and revised his strategy for the campaign when Allied troops were unable to wrest the key city of Caen from German control. A Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the book "controversial" due to its sharp criticism of British troops involved in the assault, and highlighted D'Este's "dramatic account of the development of ill feeling between Montgomery and the American generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton." According to David Fraser in the London Review of Books, D'Este's examination of the invasion and the ensuing two-and-a-half-month battle is "carefully researched, militarily perceptive and lucidly written." Military correspondent Drew Middleton agreed, hailing the book as "the best-researched, best-reasoned, best-written account of [the Normandy] campaign that I have read," in his review for the New York Times Book Review.
Bitter Victory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943 "fills an important gap in the history of the Second World War," according to Michael Carver, who reviewed the volume for the Times Literary Supplement. In this work D'Este focuses on Operation Husky, the little-studied battle that gave rise to rivalries between such Allied commanders as Alexander, Bradley, Patton, Montgomery, and Eisenhower and which established a foothold for Allied forces in retaking Occupied Europe. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the author's criticism of "the committee system of coalition warfare during this formative stage of the Allied partnership," and New York Times Book Review critic Walter Lord called Bitter Victory "a splendid campaign history."
D'Este's World War II in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945 was published as the second volume in a series entitled "Major Battles and Campaigns." His analysis of strategy in the North African and Italian campaigns received critical praise; P. L. De Rosa remarked in Choice, "Although [the] book covers all levels of the conflict, D'Este is at his best analyzing the Allied and Axis leadership."
In Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, D'Este examines Operation Shingle, code name for the invasion of Anzio, Italy. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the study "well researched and vividly told" in its account of the strategic and tactical errors that ultimately resulted in a bloody five-month-long deadlock. The assault occurred in January, 1944; it would be May before Allied forces could finally break out from the beach. In the American Historical Review, historian Alan F. Wilt praised the book's "fastpaced narrative that features descriptive and interpretive passages as well as telling anecdotes," and Michael Howard in the Times Literary Supplement called Fatal Decision "a definitive account of this tragedy." He continued, "The comprehensiveness of [D'Este's] research, the clarity and compassion of his writing, and above all the scrupulous fairness of his judgments have already marked him out as a superb military historian, and here he has found a subject that gives full scope to his talents."
In D'Este's next military study, Patton: A Genius for War, the historian attempts to revise the boorish image of General George S. Patton, Jr. that was promoted by the popular 1970 film biography Patton. D'Este offers readers a complex portrayal of the general who served in North Africa, Sicily, and the Battle of the Bulge. He depicts Patton—who was killed in an automobile accident in December, 1945—as an ambitious soldier obsessed with heroism and haunted by a family legacy of military valor. According to D'Este, Patton suffered from dyslexia and depression, wrote poetry for solace, believed himself a reincarnated Viking and Roman soldier, and abhorred cowardice above all else. British biographer Alistair Horne, who reviewed Patton in the New York Times Book Review, remarked that "in sharp contrast to the imprint made by the George C. Scott film, from Carlo D'Este's excellent research emerges a deeply religious and well-read romantic, passionately caring of his soldiers." Wall Street Journal reviewer Mark Yost called the work "thoughtful" and noted that Patton "gives us a new understanding of this great and troubled man."
In Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, 1890-1945, D'Este explores Eisenhower's military career and his promotion, in four years, from a lieutenant colonel to a five-star general and commander of the Western offensive into Germany during World War II. Victor Davis Hanson, in his review in National Review, called the book "comprehensive, well researched, and clearly the result of great diligence." According to Hanson, D'Este claims that Eisenhower "developed remarkable talents" in the early years of his military career. D'Este "is quite deft in sorting out the shifting relationships of patronage and the other circumstances that explain Eisenhower's amazingly swift promotion—and also Ike's uncanny knowledge of the bureaucracy and the difficulties it would face in fighting a coalition war in Europe," wrote Hanson. D'Este also incorporates details about Eisenhower's life, including his tense marriage, his relationship with his brothers, and his alleged affair with Kay Summersby. In a Book review, Philip Gerard observed, "Eisenhower is portrayed as human—quick to anger, moody and emotionally distant, yet also charming, funny, charismatic and absolutely loyal to his duty." Reviewing the book in the New York Times Book Review, Timothy Naftali found the book "a little untidy," noting, "D'Este draws on many other historians and at times the resulting analysis is not smooth." According to Naftali, D'Este "makes little effort" to connect details of Eisenhower's personal life to his performance in his professional life. Naftali concluded that "D'Este is sharpest when he is alongside the general in the field. There he evokes the realities of command, the constraints and the unknowns. He reminds us that the Germans fought hard to the end and that no one Allied general, no matter how imaginative could have beaten them alone."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October 1992, Alan F. Wilt, review of Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, pp. 1304-1305.
Book, July-August, 2002, Philip Gerard, "A Gentleman and an Officer: Before Dwight Eisenhower Became a National Hero, He Was a Little-Known Soldier," p. 26.
Booklist, May 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, 1890-1945, p. 1489.
Choice, December 1990, P. L. De Rosa, review of World War II in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945,p. 683.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of Eisenhower,p. 632.
London Review of Books, December 22, 1983, review of Decision in Normandy: The Unwritten Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign, pp. 7-8; May 26, 1994, review of Decision in Normandy,p. 3.
National Review, August 12, 2002, Victor Davis Hanson, "Soldier of Contrasts," p. 49.
New York Times, September 8, 1988, review of BitterVictory: The Battle for Sicily, 1943, p. C21.
New York Times Book Review, January 22, 1984, review of Decision in Normandy, p. 10; November 27, 1988, Walter Lord, review of Bitter Victory,p. 18; July 21, 1991, review of Fatal Decision,p. 27; December 10, 1995, Alistair Horne, review of Patton: A Genius for War, pp. 9, 11; July 28, 2002, Timothy Naftali, "The Hardest Job in the Longest Day," p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, October 14, 1983, review of Decision in Normandy, p. 51; July 1, 1988, review of Bitter Victory, pp. 61-62; April 12, 1991, review of Fatal Decision, p. 51; April 15, 2002, review of Eisenhower, p. 49.
Times Literary Supplement, September 16, 1988, Michael Carver, review of Bitter Victory, p. 1022; September 6, 1991, Michael Howard, review of Fatal Decision, pp. 11-12; June 10, 1994, review of Decision in Normandy, p. 33.
Wall Street Journal, December 8, 1995, Mark Yost, review of Patton, p. A10; July 12, 2002, Max Boot, "Less to Like about Ike," p. W12.*