Dwight David Eisenhower
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1915
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)
The Early Years
David Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, TX, on 14 October 1890, the third of seven boys. (Though born David, he was called Dwight to avoid confusion with his father, David who was called Dave, so he reversed the order of his given names when he enrolled at U.S. Military Academy in 1911. He is listed asDavid Dwight in the family Bible and in the Abilene High School yearbook of 1909.) Dwight's father, David Jacob Eisenhower, was of German and Swiss ancestry and Dwight's mother, Ida Elizabeth "Stover" Eisenhower was of German Lutheran ancestry and had moved to KS from VA. David and Ida were married on 23 September 1885 in Lecompton, KS, on the campus of their alma mater, Lane University. Dwight's father was a college-educated engineer; but he had trouble making a living and the family was poor. The family lived in Texas from 1889 until 1892, when they moved to Abilene, KS.
[How he got the nickname, Ike. Dwight's older brother, Edgar, was nicknamed "Ike" and, in turn, he became "Big Ike" and Dwight was "Little Ike." No one knows for sure where or why this particular nickname developed except that it is a common one. John Long, a close boyhood friend, states in his oral history interview that Dwight Eisenhower's friends always called him "Dwight." His serious girl friend, Gladys, always referred to him as "Dwight" in her diary and another friend, Ruby, also called him "Dwight." In his senior yearbook at Abilene High School, for a class program, he was actually listed as "Swede" Eisenhower.]
Dwight attended Abilene High School in Abilene and graduated with the class of 1909. He was then employed as a night foreman at the Belle Springs Creamery. After he had worked for two years to support his brother, Edgar's, college education, a friend urged him to apply to the U.S. Naval Academy. Although Dwight passed the entrance exam, he was beyond the age of eligibility for admission to the Naval Academy. In 1911, Kansas Senator Joseph L. Bristow recommended Eisenhower for an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY, which he received. His parents were against militarism (his mother felt that warfare was "rather wicked") but did not object to his entering the academy because they supported his getting a good education.
Dwight enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy in June 1911. He was a strong athlete and enjoyed notable successes in his competitive endeavors but, later in life, Eisenhower said that "not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest." However, he did make the high visibility football team, and was a varsity starter as running back and linebacker in 1912. In a bit of a fabled match-up, he even tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe in a 1912 game. But Ike injured his knee playing football; it then became permanently damaged on horseback and in the boxing ring. He would later serve as junior varsity football coach and yell leader. [In 1916, while stationed at Fort Sam Houston, TX, Eisenhower was football coach for St. Louis College, now St. Mary's University.]
Eisenhower graduated in the upper half of the class of 1915 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army. Many years later, the 1915 class became known as "the class the stars fell on." Eventually, 59 generals came from that graduating class, with Eisenhower and classmate Omar Bradley both attaining the 5-star rank of General of the Army.
While he was stationed in Texas, Eisenhower met Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, IA. They married on 1 July 1916, in Denver, CO, and had two sons. Doud Dwight Eisenhower was born 24 September 1917, and died of scarlet fever on 2 January 1921, at the age of three. Their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born on 3 August 1922.
Early Military Assignments
He served with the infantry until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. During WWI, Eisenhower became one of the leaders of the new tank corps. In March 1918, Camp Colt was opened at Gettysburg National Military Park , PA, and became the first post to train soldiers to use tanks during WWI (Ike and his tank crews never saw combat).The main section of the camp was in the fields made famous 55 years earlier by 'Pickett's Charge.' Captain Dwight Eisenhower was the commander of Camp Colt (his first command) and he earned the rank of Major, and the Distinguished Service Medal, for his efforts there. (Ike and his wife, Mamie, fell in love with the area. After his retirement from the military, the Eisenhowers made their home near Gettysburg, west of Seminary Ridge.)
After the armistice was signed, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of captain. However, he was promoted to major a few days later, before assuming duties at Camp Meade, MD, where he remained until 1922. His interest in tank warfare was reinforced by many conversations with George S. Patton and other senior tank leaders; however, their ideas on tank warfare were strongly discouraged by superiors.
Eisenhower became executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal Zone, where he served until 1924. Under Conner's tutelage, he studied military history and theory (including Karl von Clausewitz's "On War"), and later cited Conner's enormous influence on his military thinking. In 1925-26, he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS. There Ike graduated first in a class of 245 officers. He then served as a battalion commander at Fort Benning, GA, until 1927.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s Eisenhower's career in the peacetime Army stagnated; many of his friends even resigned to take high-paying business jobs. He was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission, directed by General John J. Pershing, then to the Army War College. Then, from 1929 -1933, he served as Executive Officer to General George V. Mosely, Assistant Secretary of War. After that, he served as Chief Military Aide to General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff. In 1935, he accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines, where he served as Assistant Military Advisor to the Philippine government. Eisenhower had strong philosophical disagreements with his patron regarding the role of the Philippine army and the leadership qualities that American army officers should exhibit and develop in their subordinates. The dispute, and the resulting ill feeling it generated, lasted the rest of their lives. It has been said that this experience served as valuable training for Ike to handle the challenging personalities of Winston Churchill, George S. Patton, and Bernard Law Montgomery during WWII. After sixteen years as a major, Eisenhower was promoted to the rank of permanent lieutenant colonel in 1936. He also learned to fly, although he was never rated as a military pilot. He made a solo flight over the Philippines in 1937.
Eisenhower returned to the U.S. in 1939 and held a series of staff positions in Washington, DC, California and Texas. In June 1941, he was appointed Chief of Staff to General Walter Krueger, Commander of the 3rd Army, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. He was promoted to brigadier general on 3 October 1941. Although his administrative abilities had been noticed, on the eve of the U.S. entry into WWII he had never held an active command above a battalion and was far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations.
World War II
After the Sunday, 7 December 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington. There he was tasked with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. In June 1942, he was appointed Deputy Chief in Charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division (WPD), General Leonard T. Gerow. Ike later succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Next, he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff In Charge of the new Operations Division (which replaced WPD) under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who had a record of spotting talent and promoting accordingly.
At the end of May 1942, Eisenhower accompanied Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, to London to assess the effectiveness of the then-theater commander in England, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. He returned to Washington on 3 June with a pessimistic assessment, stating he had an "uneasy feeling" about Chaney and his staff. On 23 June 1942, he returned to London as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA), based in London, and replaced Chaney.
In November, he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA) through the new operational Headquarters A(E)FHQ. For security reasons, the word "expeditionary" was dropped soon after his appointment. In February 1943, his authority was extended as commander of AFHQ across the Mediterranean basin to include the British 8th Army, commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery. The 8th Army had advanced across the Western Desert from the east and was ready for the start of the Tunisia Campaign. Eisenhower gained his fourth star and gave up command of ETOUSA to be Commander of NATOUSA. After the capitulation of Axis forces in North Africa, Eisenhower oversaw the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of the Italian mainland.
In December 1943, Roosevelt decided that Eisenhower-not Marshall-would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944, he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), serving in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. In these positions he was charged with planning and carrying out the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944 under the code name Operation Overlord, the liberation of Western Europe and the invasion of Germany. A month after the Normandy D-Day landings on 6 June 1944, the invasion of Southern France took place, and control of the forces which took part in the southern invasion passed from the AFHQ to the SHAEF. From then until the end of the War in Europe on 8 May 1945, Eisenhower, through SHAEF, had supreme command of all operational Allied forces and, through his command of ETOUSA, administrative command of all U.S. forces on the Western Front north of the Alps.
As recognition of his senior position in the Allied command, on 20 December 1944, he was promoted to the 5-star rank of General of the Army; equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal in most European armies. In this and the previous high commands he held, Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders. He dealt skillfully with difficult subordinates such as Patton, and allies such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General Charles de Gaulle. He had fundamental disagreements with Churchill and Montgomery over questions of strategy, but these rarely upset his relationships with them. He negotiated with Soviet Marshal Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Joseph Stalin, much to the chagrin of the British High Command who disliked being bypassed.
It was never certain that Operation Overlord would succeed. The seriousness surrounding the entire decision, including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion, might be summarized by a second shorter speech that Eisenhower wrote in advance, in case he needed it. Long after the successful landings on D-Day and the BBC broadcast of Eisenhower's brief speech concerning them, the never-used second speech was found in a shirt pocket by an aide. It read:
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."
Aftermath of World War II
Occupation of Germany
Following Germany's unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt am Main. He had no responsibility for the other three zones, controlled by Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Upon discovery of the Nazi concentration camps, he ordered camera crews to comprehensively document evidence of the atrocities in them for use in the Nuremberg Trials. He made the decision to reclassify German prisoners of war (POWs) in U.S. custody as Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEFs). For the treatment of German economy and German civilians, Eisenhower followed the orders laid down by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in directive JCS 1067, but softened them by bringing in 400,000 tons of food for civilians and allowing more fraternization. In dealing with the devastation of postwar Germany, he dealt with severe food shortages and a huge influx of refugees by distributing American food and medical supplies. His actions reflected the shifting American attitudes from seeing the German people as villains to seeing them as victims of the Nazis, while aggressively purging ex-Nazis.
Chief of Staff
In November 1945, Eisenhower returned to Washington to replace Marshall as Chief of Staff of the Army. His main role was rapid demobilization of millions of soldiers; a slow job that was delayed by lack of shipping. As East-West tensions over Germany and Greece escalated in 1946, Eisenhower was strongly convinced that Russia did not want war and that friendly relations could be maintained; he strongly supported the new United Nations. However, in formulating policies regarding the atomic bomb, as well as toward the Soviets, Truman listened to the State Department and ignored Eisenhower and the entire Pentagon. By mid-1947 Eisenhower was moving toward a containment policy to stop Soviet expansion.
Columbia University and NATO
In 1948, Eisenhower became President of Columbia University, a premier private university in New York. The assignment was described as not being a good fit in either direction. During that year, Eisenhower's memoir, Crusade in Europe, was published. Critics regarded it as one of the finest U.S. military memoirs, and it was a major financial success as well.
Eisenhower's stint as president of Columbia University was punctuated by his activity within the Council on Foreign Relations, a study group he led as president concerning the political and military implications of the Marshall Plan, and The American Assembly; Eisenhower's "vision of a great cultural center where business, professional and governmental leaders could meet from time to time to discuss and reach conclusions concerning problems of a social and political nature." Biographer Blanche Weisen Cook suggests that this period served as "the political education of General Eisenhower," as he had to prioritize wide ranging educational, administrative, and financial demands for the university. Through his involvement in the Council on Foreign Relations, he also gained exposure to economic analysis which would become the bedrock of his understanding in economic policy. "Whatever General Eisenhower knows about economics he has learned at the study group meetings" one Aid to Europe member claimed.
One reason for Eisenhower's acceptance of the presidency of the university was to expand his ability to promote "the American form of democracy" through education. He was clear on this point to the trustees involved in the search committee. He informed them that his main purpose was "to promote the basic concepts of education in a democracy." As a result he was "almost incessantly" devoted to the idea of the American Assembly; a concept which he developed into an institution by the end of 1950.
Within months of beginning his tenure as university president, Eisenhower was requested to advise Secretary of Defense James Forrestal on unification of the armed services. Approximately six months after his installation, he became the informal chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Two months later he fell ill and spent over a month in recovery at Augusta National Golf Club. He returned to his post in mid-May and in July 1949 took a two-month vacation out of state. Because the American Assembly had begun to take shape, he traveled around the country in mid to late 1950 building financial support from Columbia Associates, an alumni association. Eisenhower was unknowingly building resentment and a reputation among the Columbia faculty and staff as an absentee president who was using the university for his own interests. However, the Columbia trustees refused to accept his resignation in December 1950, when he took leave from the university to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and was given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active Army service on 31 May 1952, and resumed the university presidency, which he held until January 1953.
[Because the Military Hall of Honor pays tribute to those who served in the U.S. Military, this bio is limited to Eisenhower's military career. It does not include any detailed information about his service as President of the United States. To learn more about that part of Eisenhower's life, please visit Wikipedia; which was also one of the sources of the data in this biography.]
Eisenhower was a chain smoker of cigarettes until March 1949. He was probably the first president to allow his personal health problems to become public while in office. On 24 September 1955, while vacationing in Colorado, he had a serious heart attack that required several weeks' hospitalization. He was treated by Dr. Paul Dudley White, a cardiologist with a national reputation, who regularly informed the press of the president's progress. As a consequence of his heart attack, Eisenhower developed a left ventricular aneurysm, which was in turn the cause of a mild stroke on 25 November 1957. Eisenhower also suffered from Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine, which necessitated surgery for a bowel obstruction in June 1956. After leaving the White House, he suffered several additional heart attacks and was ultimately impaired physically because of them.
Because of legal issues related to holding a military rank while in a civilian office, Eisenhower had resigned his permanent commission as General of the Army before entering the office of President of the United States. Upon completion of his Presidential term, his commission on the retired list was reactivated and Eisenhower was again commissioned a five-star general in the United States Army.
Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, PA. In 1967, the Eisenhower's donated the farm to the National Park Service and since 1980 it has been open to the public as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. In retirement, he did not completely retreat from political life; he spoke at the 1964 Republican National Convention and appeared with Barry Goldwater in a Republican campaign commercial from Gettysburg.
Eisenhower played golf very enthusiastically later in life; he joined the Augusta National Golf Club in 1948. He played golf frequently during his two terms as president, and after his retirement as well, never shying away from the media interest about his passion for golf. He had a small, basic golf facility installed at Camp David, and became close friends with Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts, inviting Roberts to stay at the White House on several occasions. Roberts, an investment broker, also handled the Eisenhower family's investments and advised Eisenhower on tax aspects of publishing his memoirs, which proved to be financially lucrative.
U.S. Military Medals and Awards
Army Distinguished Service Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters
Foreign Military Medals and Awards
Order of the Liberator San Martin, Grand Cross (Argentine)
Tributes and Memorials
He is remembered for his role in World War II; the creation of the Interstate Highway System; and ending the Korean War. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), the second of the Nimitz-class supercarriers, was named in his honor.
The Interstate Highway System is officially known as the 'Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways' in his honor. Commemorative signs reading "Eisenhower Interstate System" and bearing Eisenhower's permanent 5-star rank insignia were introduced in 1993 and are currently displayed throughout the Interstate System. Several highways are also named for him, including the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290) near Chicago and the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 west of Denver.
The British A4 class steam locomotive No. 4496 (renumbered 60008) Golden Shuttle was renamed Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1946. It is preserved at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI.
Eisenhower College was a small, liberal arts college chartered in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1965, with classes beginning in 1968. Financial problems forced the school to fall under the management of the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1979. Its last class graduated in 1983.
Eisenhower Hall, the cadet activities building at West Point, was completed in 1974. In 1983, the Eisenhower Monument was unveiled at West Point.
The Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, was named after the President in 1971.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, located at Fort Gordon near Augusta, GA, was named in his honor.
In February 1971, Dwight D. Eisenhower School of Freehold Township, NJ, was officially opened.
In 1983, The Eisenhower Institute was founded in Washington, D.C., as a policy institute to advance Eisenhower's intellectual and leadership legacies.
In 1989, U.S. Ambassador Charles Price and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dedicated a bronze statue of Eisenhower in Grosvenor Square, London. The statue is located in front of the current US Embassy, London and across from the former command center for the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II, offices Eisenhower occupied during the war.
In 1999, the United States Congress created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to create an enduring national memorial in Washington, DC. In 2009, the commission chose the architect Frank Gehry to design the memorial. The memorial will stand near the National Mall on Maryland Avenue, SW across the street from the National Air and Space Museum.
On 7 May 2002, the Old Executive Office Building was officially renamed the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This building is part of the White House Complex, west of the West Wing. It currently houses a number of executive offices, including ones for the Vice President and his or her spouse.
A county park in East Meadow, NY (Long Island), is named in his honor. In addition, Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma near his birthplace of Denison is named in his honor; his actual birthplace is currently operated by the State of Texas as Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.
Many public high schools and middle schools in the U.S. are named after Eisenhower.
There is a Mount Eisenhower in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
A tree overhanging the 17th hole that always gave him trouble at Augusta National Golf Club, where he was a member, is named the Eisenhower Tree in his honor.
The Eisenhower Golf Club at the United States Air Force Academy, a 36-hole facility featuring the Blue and Silver courses and which is ranked #1 among Department of Defense courses, is named in Eisenhower's honor.
The 18th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club, near Denver, is named in his honor. Eisenhower was a longtime member of the club, one of his favorite courses.
In front of City Hall in Chula Vista, CA, a tree was dedicated to Eisenhower for the anniversary of his visit to Chula Vista.
• In 1966, Eisenhower was the second person to be awarded Civitan International's World Citizenship Award. • Eisenhower's name was given to a variety of streets, avenues, etc., in cities around the world, including Paris, France. • In December 1999, Eisenhower was listed on Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. • In 2009, Eisenhower was named to the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category for his contributions to the sport.
Eisenhower met Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, IA while he was stationed in Texas. They married on 1 July 1916, in Denver, and had two sons. Doud Dwight Eisenhower was born 24 September 1917, and died of scarlet fever on 2 January 1921, at the age of three.
Their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, was born on 3 August 1922. Like his father, John also graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. [Due to other commitments, his father did not attend his graduation, which took place on D-Day, 6 June 1944.] John served in the U.S. Army and retired as a brigadier general.
John married Barbara Jean Thompson on 10 June 1947 and they had four children: Dwight David II "David;" Barbara Ann; Susan Elaine; and Mary Jean. David, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter, Julie, in 1968.
John Eisenhower became an author and later served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971.
Death and Funeral
Dwight David Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure on 28 March 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington DC. The following day his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel where he lay in repose for twenty-eight hours. On 30 March, his body was brought by caisson to the U.S. Capitol where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On 31 March, Eisenhower's body was returned to the National Cathedral where he was given an Episcopal Church funeral service. That evening, Eisenhower's body was placed onto a train enroute to Abilene, KS. His body arrived on 2 April, and was interred later that day in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Eisenhower is buried alongside his son, Doud, who died at age 3 in 1921, and his wife, Mamie, who died on 1 November 1979.
Richard Nixon, by this time himself President of the United States, spoke of Eisenhower's death, "Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world's most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world."
"A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people,
Dwight D. Eisenhower
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