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Drumming up talent

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in Ready, Aim, NewHire

If you were looking for a monument to good hiring decisions in a crisis, the sleepy lake country of northern New York State is probably one of the last places you'd go to find it. Indeed, the area known as the 'Thousand Islands' is about 100 years past its hey-day, when Teddy Roosevelt vacationed here and someone named a salad dressing after it. But amidst the hills and trees and little towns, one of the most important personnel decisions in history is ironically commemorated.

In difficult times, the importance of having the very best people in the right places is magnified. And in the annals of all "difficult times," 1942 must rank near the top. The United States had stumbled from a crippling Depression into a war. The free world was suffering defeats at every turn. We needed guns, ships, planes… Most of all, we needed someone to lead our allied forced in Europe.

That job obviously belonged to Lt. Gen. Hugh Aloysius Drum. One of the most adept climbers in the services, Drum had political influence on his side, not to mention seniority. He had all the best-connected people in Washington behind him. Drum was confident that he would be the one to lead the forces in Europe to victory.

So confident was Drum, in fact, that he had already picked his staff, some fifty officers strong. When the anticipated call came to visit Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, Drum strode into the meeting with his entire staff in tow and declared his readiness to do his duty.

His duty, as it turned out, would not include the European Command. That was being given to a young unknown who had been a mere Lieutenant Colonel little more than a year before. In time of crisis, the erstwhile Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower's amazing skill in the field had propelled him past Drum's more mundane skill in the bureaucracy. Eisenhower got fame and glory as the savior of Europe—Drum got an offer to go to China, which he rejected. But there was another consolation prize in Drum's future...

So the next time you're in upstate New York near Lake Ontario, just south of the St. Lawrence seaway, maybe on your way through little Watertown, look at the signs pointing the way to Ft. Drum and smile. If old George Marshall hadn't answered the many challenges of 1942 by astutely replacing the dead wood in his organization with bright new timbers, those signs might point the way to Ft. Eisenhower... and the rest of the sign might read distinctly German, too.

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