Flamboyance in itself is worth nothing

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

This Kind of War by T.R. FehrenbachT. R. Fehrenbach discusses leadership (in This Kind of War):

But the one thing a democracy has in common with a dictatorship is that when there is military failure, heads must roll. Perhaps, as Voltaire remarked, it is not a bad policy, since it tends to encourage the remaining leaders.


History has tended to prove that, like bishops, generals need a certain flamboyance for public success. Walker had none; he could never have been a public figure, win or lose.

Flamboyance in itself is worth nothing, but when it is coupled with genuine ability, history records the passage of a great leader across the lives of men. It is no accident that the names of Clausewitz, Jomini, von François, or Gruenther — brilliant minds all — are known only to students of warfare, while all the world remembers Ney and his grenadiers, Patton’s pearl-handled pistols, and Matt Ridgway’s taped grenades.

Ridgway was brave:

He was possessed of such personal courage that, caught in artillery shellfire, he was always the first man out of the ditch — a habit that caused his aide, a Medal of Honor winner, once to remark, “Oh, Jesus, I wish the Old Man would wait a little longer!”


  1. Andreas says:

    Patton carried ivory handled pistols. Just sayin’.

  2. Redan says:

    Only a pimp from a cheap New Orleans whorehouse would carry a pearl-handled pistol.

  3. VXXC says:



    Our host put that there as clickbait.

  4. Ezra says:

    Ridgway, the only senior officer emerging from Korea with his reputation intact.

  5. Isegoria says:

    I wish I could take credit for the pearl-handled pistols as clickbait, but I must confess that it snuck right past me. I’m glad my eagle-eyed commenters caught it.

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