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Politics of Command: Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton and the Canadian Army, 1939-1943 [Hardcover]

John Nelson Rickard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 20 2010

In December 1943, Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton resigned from command of the 1st Canadian Army amidst criticism of his poor generalship and of his abrasive personality. Despite McNaughton's importance to the Canadian Army during the first four years of the Second World War, little has been written about the man himself or the circumstances of his resignation.

In The Politics of Command, the first full-length study of the subject since 1969, John Nelson Rickard analyzes McNaughton's performance during exercise SPARTAN in March 1943 and assesses his relationships with key figures such as Sir Alan F. Brooke, Bernard Paget, and Harry Crerar. This detailed re-examination of McNaughton's command argues that the long-accepted reasons for his relief of duty require extensive modification.

Based on a wide range of sources, The Politics of Command will redefine how military historians and all Canadians look not only at "Andy" McNaughton, but the Canadian Army as well.


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Review

John Nelson Rickard has written an impressive, nuanced work that aptly demonstrates the challenges facing Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton's command and his creative responses to them. A classic example of the conflict between character and circumstance, The Politics of Command portrays McNaughton as a rational, well-informed decision maker constrained by events and personalities over which he has no control. (Terry Copp, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University and author of Fields of Fire and Cinderella Army)

About the Author

John Nelson Rickard is a Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces and has a PhD in military history from the University of New Brunswick.


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Canadian Patriot and Complex Personality Aug. 24 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Brilliant, innovative, articulate, loved, energetic, compelling, charismatic, tenacious...these are just a few of the laudatory descriptors applied to General the Honourable Andrew George Latta McNaughton, PC, CH, CB, CMG, DSO, CD, MSc, DEng, DCL, LLD, psc, IDC. A man whose career saw him a soldier, scientist, and statesman.

"Andy" served in World War 1, invented the cathode ray direction finder (forerunner of radar), served as Chief of the General Staff in the inter-war years, became President of the National Research Council, led critical elements of Canada's war effort both as serving soldier and as Minister of National Defence, and represented Canada in the UN and on the Security Council.

A small portion of such a resume is impressive. Yet, McNaughton's operational command performance of the 1st Canadian Army has been deemed lacking by historians and cast a pall over his legacy. This view has largely gone uncontested until the publication of Rickard's book. The author examines three key factors that have contributed to the longstanding critique of McNaughton: his stubborn defence of Canada's national priorities and obsession with keeping the entire Canadian army intact; poor operational abilities in command of large forces specifically training; and his personality. The latter is the most gripping aspect of this history.

It seems that as brilliant and charming as the man was, he may also have been "abrasive and inflexible, as quick to form judgements, and as totally lacking diplomatic skills". One only has to think of Eisenhower to realize how important personality was to leadership within the Allied leadership. Unfortunately, McNaughton clashed with those of whom he needed to build consensus: Sir Alan F.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Politics of Command Jan. 13 2011
Format:Hardcover
The Politics of Command is a fascinating read. Coherent, interesting, structured and persuasive, this book is teeming with new information and lively debate about a mostly forgotten aspect of the Canadian military commitment in the Second World War. I was greatly impressed by the manner in which, the author has interwoven personalties and politics, strategy with individuals and drama with facts. The people, under pressure to deliver, come alive against the background of war.

His research has mined a mountain of military and political coal, which burns warmly throughout the book. His views on Brooke place another perspective on this famous British Soldier, whilst his examination of formation training during the war is very instructive. His assessment of Canadian higher commanders, and in particular their selection and training (or sometimes lack of it!) is most educational and repays study.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it from from cover to cover because of its compelling style and gripping content and, although it will not be everyone's cup of tea, I most thoroughly commend it. John Rikard has written a fine book and it deserves wide exposure.
Was this review helpful to you?
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Canadian Patriot and Complex Personality Aug. 24 2011
By Jeffrey Swystun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Brilliant, innovative, articulate, loved, energetic, compelling, charismatic, tenacious...these are just a few of the laudatory descriptors applied to General the Honourable Andrew George Latta McNaughton, PC, CH, CB, CMG, DSO, CD, MSc, DEng, DCL, LLD, psc, IDC. A man whose career saw him a soldier, scientist, and statesman.

"Andy" served in World War 1, invented the cathode ray direction finder (forerunner of radar), served as Chief of the General Staff in the inter-war years, became President of the National Research Council, led critical elements of Canada's war effort both as serving soldier and as Minister of National Defence, and represented Canada in the UN and on the Security Council.

A small portion of such a resume is impressive. Yet, McNaughton's operational command performance of the 1st Canadian Army has been deemed lacking by historians and cast a pall over his legacy. This view has largely gone uncontested until the publication of Rickard's book. The author examines three key factors that have contributed to the longstanding critique of McNaughton: his stubborn defence of Canada's national priorities and obsession with keeping the entire Canadian army intact; poor operational abilities in command of large forces specifically training; and his personality. The latter is the most gripping aspect of this history.

It seems that as brilliant and charming as the man was, he may also have been "abrasive and inflexible, as quick to form judgements, and as totally lacking diplomatic skills". One only has to think of Eisenhower to realize how important personality was to leadership within the Allied leadership. Unfortunately, McNaughton clashed with those of whom he needed to build consensus: Sir Alan F. Brooke, Bernard Paget, Kenneth Stuart, James Layton Ralston, and Harry Crerar. The book charts McNaughton's background and accomplishments while including in-depth analysis of Operation Spartan and Montgomery's snub in Sicily both of which factored into his resignation.

This re-examination of McNaughton is absolutely fascinating, very well written, and one that I look forward to re-reading in time. Whatever conclusions you arrive at, it is clear that he was a Canadian patriot, twice wounded, and one who experienced the terrible loss of his youngest son, "killed in action as a bomber pilot and Canadian squadron leader".
5.0 out of 5 stars WWII - Canadian Command Jan. 4 2011
By C. H. Maginniss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Politics of Command is a fascinating read. Coherent, interesting, structured and persuasive, this book is teeming with new information and lively debate about a mostly forgotten aspect of the Canadian military commitment in the Second World War. I was greatly impressed by the manner in which, the author has interwoven personalties and politics, strategy with individuals and drama with facts. The people, under pressure to deliver, come alive against the background of war.

His research has mined a mountain of military and political coal, which burns warmly throughout the book. His views on Brooke place another perspective on this famous British Soldier, whilst his examination of formation training during the war is very instructive. His assessment of Canadian higher commanders, and in particular their selection and training (or sometimes lack of it!) is most educational and repays study.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it from from cover to cover because of its compelling style and gripping content and, although it will not be everyone's cup of tea, I most thoroughly commend it. John Rikard has written a fine book and it deserves wide exposure.
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