by Hank H. Cox
Lincoln: Potomac Books, 2018. Pp. xxii, 262.
Illus., notes, biblio. $32.95. ISBN: 1612349633
An Arrogant, Self-Indulgent Logistical Genius
Cox, an author and journalist, gives us an account of the life and work of the enigmatic John. H. C. Lee (1887-1958), who was among the most arrogant and self-indulgent of American generals in World War II, the “six stars” of the title referring to his penchant for wear his lieutenant general’s insignia on both the front and the back of his helmet, and on pretty much everything else. Yet Lee was the logistical genius behind victory in Europe, and a man of remarkably progressive views for his background and times.
Charged with building and sustaining the logistical base for Overlord, Lee had legitimate problems with Army policy over the persistent shortage of trained supply personnel, since the best and brightest officers were generally shunted into the Air Forces or other technical branches. At the same time, he built up a little personal empire in England, and later France, with a bloated headquarters, a private train (at a time when only Britain’s Royal Family had one!), and high living.
But Less did manage to get the goods to the front, despite diversions to other theatres, trans-oceanic bottlenecks, and bureaucratic obstacles, not to mention the work some crooks-in-uniform who managed to support a widespread black market in American goods, notably cigarettes.
Lee was also, despite his own Southern, slave-holding roots, a champion of the African American soldier, which put him distinctly on the wrong side of prevailing social norms. While telling Lee’s story well, warts and all, Cox gives us a great deal of information on how the logistical system operated.
Although heavily reliant on secondary sources, The General Who Wore Six Stars will probably serve as the standard biography of Lee for some time.
Note: The General Who Wore Six Stars is also available in several e-formats.