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Frank Sinatra gets with the Basie Program – 3 albums/3reviews Posted - Nov 25, 2019
When Frank Sinatra formed his own record label, he planned to continue his fruitful association with Nelson Riddle; there was one insurmountable problem, however: Riddle was under exclusive contract to Capitol Records. Sinatra went looking for an arranger with Riddle's versatility and found journeyman Neal Hefti, known for his swing arrangements for the Count Basie Orchestra. No problem as Sinatra planned to record several swing albums, one or two with the esteemed Basie.

(1) SINATRA & SWINGIN' BRASS (released July 1962)

This exuberant song collection is a warmup for what was to come–two collaborative albums with the Count Basie Orchestra. On this recording Sinatra pays tribute to the music of the big-band era, with tunes associated with Benny Goodman (“Goody, Goody”), Duke Ellington (“I’m Beginning to See the Light”), Jimmy Dorsey (“Tangerine”) and Glenn Miller (“Serenade in Blue”). The recording sessions were originally scheduled for three nights, but Sinatra was in such fine voice that he cancelled the third session, and recorded all twelve songs in two revved-up evenings. Standout cuts are by three of Sinatra's favorite songwriters: Cole Porter (“At Long Last Love,” “I Get A Kick out of You,” and “I Love You”), George Gershwin (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) and Jerome Kern (“Pick Yourself Up”). In an era when albums were getting shorter and shorter (30 minutes at best), Sinatra and Hefti cut loose for 40 minutes. As Sinatra was wont to say at the time, Ring-a-ding, ding!

(2) SINATRA -BASIE (December 1962)

“I’ve waited 20 years for this moment,” Sinatra said of making a record with Count Basie. It would be the first of three team-ups with jazz’s preeminent swing orchestra that finds the singer getting with the Basie program in a big way. Indeed, working with Sinatra took Basie's drummer Sonny Payne to a higher level: “Sinatra is the only singer who makes me want to swing,” he said afterward. Most of the tunes were remakes of songs Sinatra had previously recorded for Capitol Records. No matter—with the Count's inspired players at maximum tilt, the songs sounded fresh and new all over again. Neal Hefti, who did the charts for “Sinatra & Swingin’ Brass,” wrote the uptempo arrangements. The downside was the album's relatively short length, having only ten cuts at a time when 12 songs was the industry norm. Those wanting more Sinatra-Basie would have to wait another two years for the next Sinatra-Basie installment, “It Might As Well Be Swing.” The third and final Sinatra-Basie meeting would be captured live in Vegas, in 1966, entitled “Sinatra at the Sands.”

(3) SINATRA-BASIE: IT MIGHTS AS WELL BE SWING (August 1964)

A lot had happened since the first Sinatra-Basie meeting, made evident on this album, which is comprised of covers of other singers’ recent hits, and with the addition of strings on four cuts, to give a more commercial feel to the album. Making records is an art but first and foremost it is a business. The record label must make money, and the profit-loss statement at Sinatra’s record label was bleeding red ink. If Reprise Records was going to stay in business it needed to worry less about art and more about sounding commercial. Thus, when Frank Sinatra and arranger Quincey Jones sat down to create a playlist, the song selection boiled down to 10 songs that were top-ten hits by other artists: among them, “Wives and Lovers” (Jack Jones), “More” (Steve Lawrence), “Hello, Dolly” (Louis Armstrong), “Fly Me to the Moon” (Joe Harnell), “I Wish You Love” (Keely Smith), “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (Ray Charles), and three that were hits for Tony Bennett (“I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life” and “The Best is yet to Come”).

Like so many other arrangers employed by Sinatra, Jones was under the gun to come up with the charts in a big hurry and needed help; he recruited Billy Byers who’d helped him a year earlier with “This Time By Basie.” Who composed what isn’t entirely clear, but the results suited the Sinatra-Basie II project perfectly. The first of the three sessions—the only one without strings—was the strongest and resulted in the most satisfying cuts, notably “Fly Me to the Moon,” “The Best is yet to Come,” “Wives and Lovers," "I Believe in You," and "I Wanna Be Around." (The tasty trumpet flourishes that are so much a part of this and other Sinatra swing albums are by sly, artful Harry "Sweets" Edison). The rest of the LP is more commercial sounding but no less hard swinging. “It Might As Well Be Swing” was the first Sinatra album comprised entirely of hits by other recording artists, and a sign of things to come, with Sinatra turning more and more to new, youth-oriented songs to sell records. That said, this swingin' set of covers is the only one to rate as a Sinatra classic.

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Book Review: The Second Founding
Posted - Nov 16, 2019
During the fateful years of 1860 and 1861, future U.S. president James A. Garfield, then a representative in the Ohio legislature, corresponded with his former student at Hiram College, Burke Hindsdale, about the alarming developments in national political affairs.They agreed this "present revolution" of southern secession was sure to spark a future revolution of freedom for the slaves.The Civil War came and with it Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation", issued on January 1, 1863, which freed some but not all slaves. Because it was a wartime measure, more was needed if slaves were to be made truly and lastingly free, and it came in the form of three amendments to the U.S. Constitution.These became known as the Reconstruction Amendments: the 13th Amendment, in 1865, which irrevocably ended slavery; the14th Amendment, in 1868, which promised full citizenship to former slaves, including all the rights and privileges enjoyed by whites; and the 15th Amendment, in 1870, which granted black men the right to vote. How these amendments were written and the impact they would have on the nation in general and in the South in particular is the subject of "The Second Founding," by Eric Foner, professor emeritus of history at Columbia University in New York City. At 176 pages the book is not long but as a scholarly work it requires careful reading.

The Reconstruction Amendments, says the author, “greatly enhanced the power of the federal government, transferring much of the authority to define citizens’ rights from the states to the nation.They forged a new constitutional relationship between individual Americans and the national state and were crucial in creating the world’s first biracial democracy, in which people only a few years removed from slavery exercised significant political power. All three amendments end with a clause empowering Congress to enforce their provisions, guaranteeing that Reconstruction would be a process, not a single moment in time. This in itself was a significant innovation.The Bill of Rights said nothing about how the liberties it enumerated would be implemented and protected. Introducing into the Constitution the word ‘equal protection of the law’ and ‘the right to vote (along with the qualifying ‘male,’ to the outrage of the era’s women’s rights activists), the amendments both reflected and enforced a new era of individual rights consciousness among Americans of all races and backgrounds.

“So profound were these changes,” he continues, “that the amendments should be seen not simply as an alteration of an existing structure but as a ‘second founding,’ a ‘constitutional revolution’ . . . that created a fundamentally new document with a new definition of both the status of blacks and the rights of all Americans.”

Alas, for black Americans it was not to be, not in the 19th century, anyway, and, perhaps, not even now. Yes, the Civil War put an end to the evil of slavery, but who could have foreseen that an even greater evil–white supremacy–lay in waiting to replace it? The three amendments promised a bright shiny future for African Americans, but neither the federal government nor the state governments could deliver on the promise. At first, the federal government sent the U.S. army down to the Southern states to enforce the new laws: elections were held and a few blacks were elected to office; in time Reconstruction ended, the troops were withdrawn, and in the very next election those few elected black officials were swept from office.

For their part the southern states did little or nothing to guarantee blacks equality before the law; they opposed the amendments and resented the federal government's interference.Their resentment took form in white supremacy groups such as the Ku Klux Klan which used violence and fear to keep black Americans in their place–on the bottom rung of the social order, as ignorant, low-wage, unskilled labor. Out of this arose the Jim Crow south which was outright hostile to African Americans, that continued for the next 100 years.

Those few black Americans who turned to the courts for redress discovered that local judges were unsympathetic to their cause and had absolutely no desire to uphold the law. Fewer still who appealed their cases up the ladder to the U. S. Supreme Court, discovered the nation’s highest court was for the most part equally unsympathetic. Among the most blatant court cases was “Plessy v. Ferguson” in which the high Court ruled that the fiction of the “separate but equal” doctrine was valid and therefore within the spirit of the Constitution.

However, black Americans had a friend on the Supreme Court who wrote a scathing dissent, one that would prove prophetic and be quoted when the “separate-but-equal” doctrine was ruled unconstitutional in “Brown v. Board of Education” over a half a century later. The justice was John Marshall Harlan of Kentucky. In his dissent he wrote: “The white race was undoubtably the dominant race (in wealth, power, prestige and achievements). But in view of the Constitution, in the eyes of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant ruling class of citizens. . . .Our Constitution is color-blind." What was at stake was not an illusory social equality but “personal liberty, and thus the (state) law violated not only the Fourteenth Amendment but the Thirteenth as well. The thin disguise of equal facilities (schools, public transportation, etc.) could not obscure the fact that enforced segregation was not an innocuous separation of races but an expression of racial dominance rooted in slavery. The law assumed that blacks were so inferior and degraded that they cannot be allowed to sit in proximity to white citizens." “In my opinion,” Harlan added, “the judgement this day rendered will in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the ‘Dred Scott case.’”

How right he was.

A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM

The Reconstruction Amendments were in harmony with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in which he said "this government, under God, shall have a New Birth of Freedom . . . ."

The jury is still out as regards equality for Black Americans; however, the Fourteenth Amendment, with its equal protection clause would, in the latter half of the 20th century, delivere a new birth of freedom for many Americans in a series of ground-breaking Supreme Court decisions, decisions upholding freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the protection of individual liberties, beginning in 1954 with "Brown v. Board of Education."

Concludes the author: “A century and a half after the end of slavery, the project of equal citizenship remains unfinished. However flawed, the era that followed the Civil War can serve as an inspiration for those striving to achieve a more equal, more just society. . . . And because the ideals of freedom, equality, and democracy are always contested, our understanding of the Reconstruction Amendments will forever be a work in progress. So long as the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow continues to plague our society, we can expect Americans to return to the nation’s second founding and find new meanings for our fractious and troubled times.”

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Frank Sinatra: 3 albums/3 reviews
Posted - Nov 09, 2019
(1) September of My Years (September 1965)

What do you do when you turn 50? If you’re Frank Sinatra you record an album of songs reflecting on your life, past loves, and heartbreaks. Released shortly after “Sinatra ’65,” “September of My Years” was a return to the thematically cohesive albums of the Capitol years. Up against the burgeoning youth market spear-headed by the Beatles, the LP somehow struck a chord with record buyers of all ages and became Frank’s most artistically and commercially successful album since starting Reprise Records five years earlier. It stands as both a poignant reflection of a life lived to its fullest, while at the same looks forward to the future with self-assurance. As Sinatra intended, the LP summarizes his highly public, jet-propelled life. By Frank’s standards, many of the songs he chose were new and not standards at all, but in Frank’s knowing hands they become standards. Arranged by string-master Gordon Jenkins, the album is an appealing and hypnotic synthesis of their romantic notions, a sort of time capsule of bitter-sweet emotions. The settings allow Sinatra to be totally open with his feelings, illustrating what he told Playboy Magazine in 1963: “When I sing, I believe, I’m honest. If you want to get an audience with you, there’s only one way. You have to reach out to them with total honesty and humility.”

Like many hit albums of the time, a hit single helped helped pull the record up the charts. The single was “It Was a Very Good Year,” a powerful, life-affirming statement. The composer, Ervin Drake, was moved by Sinatra’s conviction with the lyrics, and with the hauntingly beautiful string arrangement by Jenkins. The critics agreed. The song earned Sinatra a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance, garnered Jenkins a Grammy for Best Arranger, while the album itself won a Grammy for Album of the Year. The album stayed on the charts for over a year—63 weeks in all.

(2) Moonlight Sinatra (March 1966)

A concept album in which all 10 songs are united by mood, tempo and subject–the moon. Leave it to Sinatra to record an album of moony-tunes introduced by others (all but one popularized by Bing Crosby or Glenn Miller) and make them completely his own. And leave it to arranger Nelson Riddle to come up with the perfect set of orchestral arrangements, symphonic yet rhythmic, dark yet warm. Styles range from the Count Basie-like "Oh, You Crazy Moon" to the grandly symphonic "Moon Love" (based on the second movement of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony) to the Brazilian flavored "Moonlight Becomes You." It's all sensitivity and passion but never smarmy or mushy. "The Moon was Yellow" opens with flute and guitar and has a decided Spanish feel. "Reaching for the Moon" and "I Wished on the Moon" are achingly romantic. Sadly, this was Sinatra's last great ballad album with Nelson Riddle. Bottom line: if you want love songs that recall moonlit drives on soft summer nights, "Moonlight Sinatra" delivers.

(3) Sinatra & Company (March 1971)

I can’t tell you the sensation this album made when it was released in 1971. It signaled Frank Sinatra was back. The album cover told the story—Sinatra in profile, looking cool and self-assured, blue sky at his back to match the blue of his eyes. The title was equally cool—“Sinatra & Company,” recalling titles from earlier and less hectic days—“Sinatra & Strings” and “Sinatra & Swingin’ Brass”—great albums both, recorded before Beatlemania changed everything, and at a time when Sinatra was at the top of his game–with his very own record label, and the envy of the entertainment industry. That was in the early1960s. How things had changed by the early 1970s—Sinatra confronted with dismal record sales, and no longer in control of his record label, less self-assured perhaps, and striving, always striving, to be relevant again, recording albums that did not always suit him, made with an eye on capturing the lucrative youth market, lukewarm music by a man who was anything but.

“Sinatra & Company” seemed to signal that things were different this time. Sinatra was in charge again—that seemed to be the message. How different were things? For one, the usual liner notes by company shill Stan Cornyn had been jettisoned and replaced with an essay by respected media critic Charles Chaplin of the Los Angeles Times. Chaplin was paying tribute to a legend. How appropriate—and classy. And then there were the names on the album jacket, like the names of some international law firm: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Don Costa, and Eumir Deodato. And 14 songs rather than the usual 10. Half the album was the gentle Bosa Nova of Jobim, arranged by Deodato, and the other half was contemporary fluff arranged by "the Puccini of pop" Don Costa. Sinatra was back. But for how long? Sometime thereafter, the former boy singer of the Dorsey band, the self-titled saloon singer with his name on Hollywood Boulevard, decided to call it quits. "Sinatra & Company" was his proud last statement. Until next time, after he emerged from retirement, and recorded "Old Blue Eyes is Back".

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General Marshall: Defender of the Republic
Posted - Nov 04, 2019
In an age of political cynicism, name calling, and deep political division (where political opponents are routinely demonized), and too often hatred is given voice by our president, it's reassuring to read a book about a leader of integrity and basic human decency. The leader is five-star general George Marshall, the supreme allied commander of World War II, architect of the Marshall Plan that spurred Europe's miraculous post-war economic recovery, and a leading voice in the creation of NATO. The book is "George Marshall: Defender of the Republic", by Washington lawyer David L. Roll. At 605 pages, reading it is no stroll in the park, but requires commitment and dedication. Nonetheless, the experience is refreshing and richly rewarding.

In his day, Marshall won the trust of Republicans and Democrats alike, unionists and business leaders, isolationists and internationalists by forthright talk and the assumption that all sides acted in good faith (and in the best interest of their country). Asked about his party affiliation, Marshall invariably said, "Episcopalian."

Marshall (1888-1959) lived by a moral code that emphasized self-control, perseverance, truth, honor, duty and a deep desire to serve his country. On top of that, he was humble man. The instructions he left for his funeral reflect this: "Bury me simply, like any ordinary officer of the U.S. Army who has served his country honorably. No fuss. . . . And above all, do it quietly."

Marshall had a gift for spotting talent–including Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and George Patton. He spoke about how improvements in education and the spread of democracy would lead to peace. He also said that America has a built-in "advantage in the quest for peace." What was that advantage? Immigration. "Immigrants," he said, "now constitutes an organic portion of our population." As a consequence, he argued, Americans have acquired a "concern for the problems of other peoples," a "deep urge to help the oppressed," and a "readiness fo cooperate" with other nations in preserving peace. This cooperative attitude, he declared, "is one of the great and hopeful factors in the world today."

Curiously, Marshall's father did not expect much from his son, whose school grades were mediocre. When young George expressed interest in attending VMI (Virginia Military Institute), his older brother was strongly against it. "He will embarrass the family," he said. Rather, the experience brought out the best in Marshall, and taught him how to control his explosive temper. About his VMI experience, Marshall told an interviewer in 1957, it "ground into (me) self-control" and "discipline," and "loyalty," especially to his superior officers. According to the author: "Marshall (as a cadet leader) willed himself to exercise, or appear to exercise, authority without causing resentment, and he came to know when to confer a compliment, when to discipline with a few carefully chosen words, and when to be silent."

The VMI experience fostered his interest in making military life a career choice. In 1901, two months before he was to graduate from VMI and eight months shy of his twenty-first birthday, the Pittsburgh-native made a bold move to seize control of his future. Armed with letters of recommendation from the superintendent of VMI and a Republican close to the president, Marshall boarded a train to Washington D.C., where he lobbied Attorney General Philander Knox, his father's acquaintance from nearby Brownsville, Pennsylvania, and scored an interview with John A. T. Hull, chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee. Then, without an appointment, Marshall simply strolled into the White House, joined a procession upstairs, and eventually found himself alone with the president of the United States. "Mr. McKinley in a very nice manner asked what I wanted," recalled Marshall, "and I stated my case." Several days later, Marshall's name appeared on the secretary of war's list of Pennsylvania candidates selected to sit for a competitive examination that was required in order to receive a commission.

Marshall sat for a three-day examination in late September at Governors Island in New York Harbor. Despite poor performances in math and grammar, he received one of the highest average scores, including perfect marks for physics, moral character, and "antecedents," (meaning distinguished relatives, notably former Supreme Court chief justice John Marshall). His commission was delayed until after the age of twenty-one.

Instead of the Artillery Corps, his first choice, he was assigned to the infantry. Second Lieutenant Marshall shipped out of San Francisco aboard an army transport to join the 30th Infantry in the Philippines. Marshall's ascent to power and military prominence began about a decade later. By then he was a thirty-one-year-old First Lieutenant, in charge of nearly five thousand U.S. Army soldiers. His first task was to prepare his force against a possible invasion of the Philippines by Japan. The exercise he was assigned was a mock attack designed to test Marshall's ability to maneuver infantry, calvary, field artillery, signal corps, Filipino scouts, field kitchens, surgical tents, wagons and hundreds of pack animals through jungle terrain and over mountain passes. Over eight days and nights, Marshall's invading "White Force" outwitted the enemy "Brown Force" and captured successive objectives on the road to Manila. Marshall so proved himself that word began to spread throughout the officer ranks that Marshall was a military genius, one of the most promising future wartime leaders in the army. One superior officer wrote in Marshall's efficiency report that he was the best leader of large bodies of troops in the entire American army. His reputation would soon be tested on the killing fields of Belgium and France in what would be known as World War I.

In early 1918, Marshall was promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in charge of the 1st Infantry Division (a.k.a. "The Big Red One"). American forces had just arrived in Europe, and Marshall's 1st Infantry Division was scheduled to become one of the first U.S. Army divisions to be engaged in battle. Up to this point French and British forces had suffered heavy casualties in a losing cause. Marshall's commanding officer (and soon to be mentor) was Army Chief of Staff General John Joseph Pershing, who advised him the world was watching and that he better not fail. In order to study the battlefield up close, Marshall risked being captured by venturing out alone at night. Having achieved mastery of the terrain, he led his first command into battle. After several days of intense fighting "The Big Red One" prevailed in what was the Battle of Cantigny.

Marshall's next assignment involved several army divisions and far more planning and coordinating on his part. This was the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that stretched along the entire Western Front and involved 1.2 million American soldiers. It was destined to be the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I with an outcome so decisive that it brought the war to an end.

Having served with distinction under General Pershing, Marshall was now recognized as a great military leader in waiting, should another war break out. Marshall learned a great deal from serving under Pershing. He never forgot how under pressure the great general always "radiated determination and the will to win." It wasn't so much what General Pershing said that impressed Marshall, but rather how his manner and expression fired up officers and the infantry. He also learned that the qualities to look for in promoting officers were common sense, physical strength, marked energy, determination, and cheerful optimism. Marshall also learned to value character over intellect, conservatism over flamboyance, and the loyal team player over the adventurous individualist. He avoided yes-men and conformists, preferring those who, like Pershing and himself, were unafraid to express dissent and were open to criticism without taking offense.

Marshall's military education continued with a three-year stint in China. The experience would prove helpful later. In China he saw enough to gain an understanding of the complex problems posed by the sheer enormity of the country and the bitter hatred that seethed in the hearts of the people. There was no way, he believed, that Western military power, or diplomatic efforts for that matter, could control the deep divisions and murderous politics of the parties vying for dominance.

Having returned from China, he sought and was granted a teaching position at Fort Benning, Georgia. Marshall's four-and-a-half years of running the Infantry School at Benning proved remarkably advantageous to the future of the U.S. Army: 50 of his instructors and 150 of his students were destined to become generals in World War II. Marshall regarded his hand-picked instructors as "the most brilliant, interesting and thoroughly competent collection of men I have ever been associated with." Among them were: Major Omar Bradley, in charge of weapons instruction. Bradley was soon to be revered as the "GI's General" and would go on to command an army corps in France after the Normandy invasion; Lieutenant Colonel "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell whom Marshall met in China, and brought back to head tactical instructors and who would command troops in the China-Burma-India theater; Captain "Lightning Joe" J. Lawton Collins, who would earn his nickname at Guadalcanal and become a corps commander in Europe; and Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith, who would serve as Eisenhower's chief of staff and eventually as ambassador to the Soviet Union, and be number two to Allen Dulles at the CIA. Marshall's students included future combat generals such as Matthew Ridgeway, Norman Cota, James Van Fleet, Courtney Hodges, Jacob Devers, and Terry de la Mesa Allen. These strong-willed soldiers, as well as dozens of others, were all products of the so-called "Benning Revolution," and would become known as "Marshall's men," the backbone of the U.S. Army in World War II.

By 1938, Marshal was himself a brigadier (one star) general, monitoring the winds of war then gathering in Europe, and in constant touch with the White House, warning the president (and Congress) of the woeful state of the depleted U.S. military forces, and recommending that the best defense was to begin building fighter planes and bombers–lots of them–and to lend, lease, or sell them to U.S. allies who were in desperate need of them: Great Britain and Russia were the neediest; both nations were caught out in battles with attacking Germany forces and fighting for their very existence.

The problem was not with getting Congress to foot the bill, but rather with their constituents back home, who were hopeless isolationists. Convincing them was the biggest hurdle, which Marshall did with a series of radio addresses. However, Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor went a long way in changing that attitude. Not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States. Ready or not, World War II had begun. The nation needed time to gear up, but at least the country had a leader primed to direct operations. On the morning Hitler's panzers crossed the Polish frontier, Marshall replaced his mentor as Army chief of staff and was made a two-star general. His first task: turning raw recruits into well-trained soldiers, and to equip an army for combat on three fronts–in Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Mediterranean.

Over much of 1940, while the nation switched gears from a peace-time economy to war-time economy, the question was debated among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as to which invasion should come first–Europe or the Mediterranean? General Douglas MacArthur was already assigned to the Pacific Theater where, since Pearl Harbor, the need was immediately felt. Marshall strongly advocated invading Europe first, thus making Hitler fight a war on two fronts–Russian in the East and the U.S. Army in the West. However, England favored sending the U.S. Army first to the Mediterranean, where British forces had their hands full up against Rommel's tanks. Their idea was to defeat Rommel first, then to invade Europe from Italy and proceed north into France. For his part, Marshall wanted to begin with an invasion of France. Besides, American forces were already in North Africa assisting Montgomery in their tank warfare with the Germans, while an invading force in England was massed and awaiting orders to cross the English Chanel. However, getting Winston Churchill to stick with Marshall's plan wasn't easy. Every time Churchill would give the green light and a date would be set, a month or two later, he would change his mind. Part of the problem was the close friendship that had developed between Roosevelt and Churchill. Churchill had Roosevelt's ear, and without FDR's total support planning an invasion was proving futile. Finally, after two years of this, a date was set and adhered to–June 4, 1944.

The only question remaining was who would lead the invasion? Marshall was the obvious first choice. At the last moment, FDR surprised everyone by selecting Dwight Eisenhower instead. As FDR saw it, Marshall's talents were too valuable to limit to one theater of war. "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington," he told Marshall.

Eisenhower was more than up for the task. The invasion was risky and required months of planning, and ultimately was costly in lives lost, but with ample air support the invasion succeeded. At long last the allies had established a foothold in France, and from the west could begin their assault on Hitler's army.

Six months later, with victory by no means assured, the Allies were faced with a battle that would decide the war. It began on December 16, 1944–the very day Marshall was made a five-star general. That day Hitler gave the order for a quarter-million men and more than a thousand tanks and assault guns to attack the Americans along their eighty-mile front in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. The engagement became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley had been caught by surprise, and Marshall, with no choice but to endure a nerve-splitting two weeks, had to resist the temptation to interfere. With poor weather precluding air support and the outcome of the Battle of the Bulge in grave doubt, Marshall broke his silence just once to assure Eisenhower that he had complete confidence in his handling of his forces and to offer further ground forces should they be needed. By Christmas Day, the weather cleared and the Allies were finally able to provide air support to troops on the ground. General Patton commanded a formidable mass of tanks and guns, but didn't gain the upper hand until, inexplicably, Hitler's mechanized force ran out of gasoline. After that it was on to Berlin with nothing held back. With Russian forces approaching from the East, the war in Europe soon ended with Germany's surrender.

That left the fighting in the Pacific. By 1944, Japan had all but lost the war but refused to surrender. What to do next was debated by Marshall and the joint chiefs. Invade or drop the newly-developed atomic bomb? When FDR died unexpectedly, the decision fell to his successor–Harry Truman. Marshall and the joint chiefs considered several options, and then advised the president. American troops would pay a heavy price if ordered to invade the island-nation, an estimated 193,500 casualties was the number arrived at; but in the end, there was no guarantee Japan would surrender. That information pretty much helped Truman make up his mind to drop the bomb.

It was thought that two bombs would convince the Japanese that their situation was hopeless and they would surrender: the first to demonstrate the bomb's awesome destructive power, the second to prove that there was more than one and at least to suggest the U.S. had produced and could explode many more. The strategy was as destructive as it was deadly, but it worked. On August 15, 1945 Japan surrendered unconditionally, thus putting an end to World War II.

War-weary George Marshall resigned as Army chief of staff two weeks before General MacArthur formally accepted the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Eisenhower would replace Marshall as Army chief of staff.

Marshall barely had time to rest. Within two weeks he was sent back to China, this time as ambassador, in the hope he could mediate a truce between Mao Zedong's Chinese communist army and Chiang Kai-Shek's Chinese nationalists forces. He failed and after one year returned home. The political divisions were too deep, and the influence of Stalin in nearby Russia too great, for even a man of Marshall's legendary persuasive powers to overcome.

He returned home to find Stalin's influence now dominated Europe, where the Russian leader had erected what Churchill called an "Iron Curtain," a non-physical barrier that divided Europe and, in the form of a brick wall, divided the city of Berlin. Soon after his return Marshall was appointed as Truman's secretary of state. As secretary of state he championed the European Recovery Plan (which he refused to refer to by its popular name, the Marshall Plan), and weathered the Berlin Blockade with an airlift that ensured West Berliners had enough food and gasoline to survive.

Meanwhile trouble was brewing on the Korean Peninsula, where the communists were battling the nationalists for supremacy. Marshall supported MacArthur's bold plan to retake the Peninsula, and, in turn, supported Truman when it came time to fire the popular general for insubordination. Marshall's final effort was to put his support behind the decades-old plan to create an Israeli homeland for European Jews.

In the epilogue, the author concludes: "Few individuals have thrown a larger shadow over world events than George Marshall. Yet as his shadow wanes, the depth of his moral character endures. It has been said that 'If you want to test a man's character, give him power.' By quieting his shortcomings George Marshall surely passed the test."

Finally, this. Harvard president James Conant once proclaimed that George Marshall was the only soldier-statesman in American history who was worthy of being compared favorably with George Washington.
 
Work of My Sons
 

Morning Softly - Water Echoes Movement
-Released in 2014. Bill made guitar riffs and synth tracks at home, got Lya Finston to write some lyrics and sing, and got Scott to provide some bass.

Morning Softly - Early Eerie Feeling
-Recorded in 2014. Songs written by Bill, at home. Synthesizers were added later. Some drumming done by Brendan Lenihan.

Scott Nisley - Brick City Skies
-Released in 2014. With his piano melodies and vocals, Scott entrusted the production of his album to several studio musicians.

The 45's - Roof-Hopping
-Recorded in 2010. A collaborative effort between Scott and Bill Nisley, Adam Sherman, and Zach Belka.


Oh, Yeah...
 

Richard Nisley's Brothers in Cars
Thanksgiving Day, 1967. From L to R: my brothers David, Charles, and Rob. Photo by John Nisley.
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