REVIEWSrnMilitary Messiahrnby Jeffrey MeyersrnFire in the Night: Wingate of Burma,rnEthiopia, and Zionrnby ]ohn Eiemxan and Colin SmithrnNew York: Random House;rn434 pp., $29.95rnOrde Wingate (1903-44), the mostrneccentric and innovative commanderrnin World War II, was remarkablyrnlike his distant consin Lawrence of Arabia.rnBoth came from a guilt-ridden fundamentalistrn(Scots Presbyterian and PlymouthrnBrethren) background and grewrnup in an atmosphere of religious gloomrnand repression. Both were short andrnslight (5’6″ and onl’ 130 pounds), andrnhad fiiir skin, blond hair, and piercingrnblue e’es. They compensated for theirrnunimpressie physique by testing themseKcsrnand toughening their bodiesrnthrough extreme physical hardship—butrnalso luxuriated in hot baths. Lawrencernwas an exjjert rider of camels, Wingate ofrnhorses.rnDeliberately unkempt, both floutedrnmilitar regulations and were hosrile tornmindless custom and blimpish authoritv.rnBriiliantK’ learned, they paraded tlieirrnknowledge (especially about the histor}rnof warfare) and had unorthodox opinionsrnon ccrthing. Combining outrageousrnegoism w ith a sly sense of humor, theyrnhad an obsessive need to provoke and irritate,rnto indulge in exhibitionism andrnshowmanship. Lawrence dressed inrnArab rolses; Wingate wore an antiquatedrnpith helmet, carried an alarm clock withrna bell instead of a wristwatch, conductedrnmeetings and wandered aromid hotelsrnw hile naked. A comrade commented onrnWingatc’s Jekyll-and-Hyde personalit-:rn”One is charming, kind, almost deprecating.rnThe other is nothing short ofrntvrannical, overweening and despotic.rnHis energ- and forcefulness are quite incomparable.”rnOrde was related to Sir ReginaldrnWingate —High Commissioner in Cairornin the Cireat War, wlio had proided therngold that paid for Lawrence’s Arabianrncampaign —and frequently used SirrnReginald to advance his career. Lawrencernand Orde had done intelligencernwork in the Middle East; both knew Arabic,rnand Wingate also spoke Hebrew.rnThev used guerrilla tactics and, alwavsrnleading from the front, attacked railvas,rnblew up bridges, and diverted enemyrntroops from the main campaign, hicredibl’rnbrave but not vcr likable, the hadrnmanic, even messianic self-confidence.rnThey sometimes went berserk and justifiedrntheir ruthless slaughter b’ thern”moralitv’ of punishment.” Wingate, de-rnRing regulations, often struck his officersrnacross the face. Oddly enough, no onerneer hit him back.rnBoth men were hero-worshiped b’rnWinston Churchill and, when relativeUrnjunior officers, used their friendship w ithrnhim to influence high-lcel decisionsrnand change British policy in the MiddlernEast. Churchill, acting on impulse, eenrntook Wingate and his wife to the wartimernQuebec conference; Wingate’srnposthumously born son was conceixedrnon the voyage to Canada. As passionate-rn1 pro-Zionist as Lawrence was pro-Arab,rnWingate saw himself as an Old Testamentrnwarrior, like Gideon or Joshua, andrnformed a close friendship with ChaimrnWeizmann (as Lawrence had done withrnPrince Eeisal). Wingate wanted to harnessrnthe forces of Zion to the Britishrncause and built the core of the Lsraelirnarmy by leading Jewish night patrolsrnagainst Arab rebels in Palestine. Morernloyal to the Jews than to the British, hernhas always been greatly honored in Israel.rnBoth men took suicidal risks, died inrnaccidental crashes in their 40’s, and createdrnheroic legends that Hollywoodrnwanted to film. Like Lawrence, Wingaternwas (in the words of a colleague) “a militar’rngenius of a grandeur and stature seenrnnot more than once or twice in a centur-.”rnBut, unhke the more diplomaticrnLawrence, Wingate was hated b the militaryrnestablishment for “his rebelliousrnscorn, his arrogance, his paranoid touchiness,rnhis reckless rudeness, his floutingrnof convenhon, his personal scruffiness,rnhis leftish ideas and (dare one suggest it?)rnhis strange obsession with Zionism andrnthe Jews.”rnOrde Wingate was born in India inrn1903, the son of a suspicious and pcssimishcrnarmy officer. He spent four yearsrnat Charterhouse School and three at thernRoyal Militar’ Academy in Woolwich,rnand joined flic Royal Arflllery in 1923.rnAfter an intensive course in Arabic andrnservice in the Sudan, he was posted tornBritish-controlled Palestine, where hisrndaring patrols (providing rigorous trainingrnfor future generals like MoshernDayan) marched all night to fight atrndawn. In a classic “friendh’ fire” incident,rnhe was wounded fie times in thernarms and legs by rounds from a Lewisrngun that ricocheted off the flintv’ ground.rnMer two years of fighting w ith the NightrnSquads, being wounded in battle, andrnnarrowly escaping an attempt on his life,rnhe was awarded a DSO. But he was consideredrnpolitically unreliable and sent offrnto Ethiopia in the fall of 1940.rnWingate’s next sacred mission, w hiehrnhe espoused as passionateK’ as the Zionistrncause, was to lead a popular rising againstrnflie Italian occupahon of the countr” andrnrestore Emperor Haile Selassie to thernthrone. Wingate’s plan was to cut off andrnbesiege the Italian garrisons in the Gojjamrnhighlands and force them to surrender.rnThough outnumbered 20 to one, herndefeated the Italians in his first pitchedrnbattle. He eventually droc them out ofrnthe countr-, achieving Britain’s first majorrnvictor)’ in the war, and in Ma- 1941rntriumphanfly led the emperor into AddisrnAbaba. Instead of reaping flie rewards,rnWingate was again hustled out of therncountr}’ (he didn’t even attend the victoryrnbanquet) by superiors who feared hernwould meddle in local polities and usernhis influence in high places to oppose officialrnpolicy. Overcome in Cairo by cerebralrnmalaria, which intensified his depression,rnhe stabbed himself on bothrnsides of his neck but miraculously missedrncutfing the vital veins and arteries.rnWingate’s expertise in guerrilla warfarernpropelled him to Bvinna just after fliernfall of Rangoon and the British retreat tornIndia in March 1942. Supported byrnChurchill, he became head of all operafionsrnbehind Japanese lines. Inspired byrncavalry raids during flie American CivilrnWar, Wingate had his troops suddenly attackrnthe enemy. If his force was surprised,rnhe said, thev “could disintegraterninto smaller prearranged parfies to bafflernlULV iO()0,’27rnrnrn