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Army & Navy – HIGH COMMAND: Second-Front Man

3 minute read

Like Lieut. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, brilliant commander of U.S. Forces in the European Theater, sandy-haired Major General Thomas (“Tom”) Handy has a “star in his pocket” (Army phrase for being a man to watch). General Handy, 50-year-old Tennessean, who succeeded Eisenhower as Chief of the Operations Division on the General Staff in Washington, is almost unknown to U.S. citizens. Yet last week (as every week since his appointment) he worked about twelve hours a day for seven days on problems that worry U.S. citizens more than death & taxes: the second front and fronts all over the world.

To his plain office in the Munitions Building come reports of military operations in all theaters of combat. Every day he discusses the progress of the war with his chief and fellow V.M.I, alumnus, General George Catlett Marshall. About three times a week he talks over grand strategy with Admiral William D. Leahy, the President’s war effort coordinator. (General Eisenhower used to confer secretly with the President himself.) It is up to General Handy and his Division to make plans for U.S. moves, decide where forces should concentrate, where the bombers should strike. When a plan gets the Army and Presidential go-sign, General Handy’s Division prepares the appropriate orders for Chief of Staff Marshall to send to the commanding general in the field. His Division makes sure that Brehon Somervell’s Services of Supply is all set to do its part and that no other Army action interferes with the plan. Men around the War Department think General Handy is the man for the job. He has sandwiched much careful study between many field assignments. Artillery was his branch in World War I and is still his hobby. When World War II was getting under way he had already done a lick in the War Plans Division as head of the planning group. Army men say he has “a combination of brains and common sense, a phenomenal memory and a keen knowledge of human psychology,” that he is a “damned good soldier whom soldiers like to serve.”

At war’s end, when temporary stars fall from generals like Cinderella’s finery at midnight, Lieut. General Eisenhower (who became a brigadier general only a year ago) and Major General Handy will revert to lieutenant colonel and major respectively, with the right to run a regiment and a battalion. Until then, they have their turn at making history and making their stars stick.

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