|Born||14 Oct 1890|
|Died||28 Mar 1969|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Dwight David Eisenhower was born at a two-story house at Lamar Avenue and Day Street in Denison, Texas, United States in 1890, and later moved to Abilene, Kansas, United States where he would grow up. He was the third of seven sons, very athletic and hardworking, and was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York United States in 1911. He graduated and was stationed in Texas, United States as a second lieutenant. While at Texas, he met Mamie Geneva Doud, whom he married in 1916. In his early career, he served under General John Pershing, General Douglas MacArthur, and General Walter Krueger. Eisenhower and George Patton were close friends decades before they both became household names, both playing a part in the development of tank warfare in the United States Army; they were loyal to each other and were trusting of each other, and it was a understanding that if there was to be a war, they would fight side by side.
After the Pearl Harbor attack that formally brought the United States into WW2, Eisenhower was called to Washington DC by George Marshall to serve as a war planning staff officer. His experience in Philippine Islands led him to become an early advisor for the Pacific Theater in Washington. Although he had no field command experience thus far in his career, he was appointed the top Allied commander in North Africa; while Marshall believed that Eisenhower could perform well as a strategist, Eisenhower's growing political skills and unquestioning loyalty played a central role in this appointment. As he saw success in North Africa and then on the Italian island of Sicily, he was initially fearful that he would be pulled back to the United States to replace George Marshall (who was a candidate to lead the planned Cross-Channel invasion from Britain into France) and again be stuck behind a desk, but ultimately he was chosen to command the invasion of France and the campaigns beyond.
Around this time, Eisenhower and Patton began growing apart. While Patton's aggressive personality changed little, Eisenhower, as observed by Patton, was growing less humble as Eisenhower's responsibilities and name recognition grew. Patton was also critical of Eisenhower's Anglophilia, as Patton thought that Eisenhower would often put down his own countrymen in order to advance US-British relations. Most of Patton's criticism for Eisenhower were tucked away in his private diary, however; for example, he had written on 18 Feb 1944 that "I wish Ike was more of a soldier and less of a politician" and on 1 Mar 1944 "Ike drank too much and is lonely".
Bernard Montgomery was very much Eisenhower's counterpart on the British side. Despite being an Anglophile in Patton's eyes, Eisenhower and Montgomery did not get along well, with the first unpleasant chapter dating all the way back to the first day they met, during which Eisenhower smoked a cigarette in Montgomery's headquarters without realizing Montgomery despised cigarette smoke, and Montgomery scolded Eisenhower to put it out as if Eisenhower was much his junior. The tension between them would grow in as Eisenhower eventually became Montgomery's superior officer, but they would remain as cordial toward each other as much as possible, as shown in this letter written by Montgomery after the European War had ended:
Now that we have all signed in Berlin I suppose we shall soon begin to run our own affairs. I would like, before this happens, to say what a privilege and an honor it has been to serve under you. I owe much to your wise guidance and kindly forebearance. I know my own faults very well and I do not suppose I am an easy subordinate; I like to go my own way.
But you have kept me on the rails in difficult and stormy times, and have taught me much.
For all this I am very grateful. And I thank you for all you have done for me.
Your very devoted friend,
Even before the war ended, Eisenhower was certain that he wanted to punish Germany for her aggression. In a conversation with US Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Eisenhower said that "there must be no room for doubt as to who won the war. Germany must be occupied. More than this, the German people must not be allowed to escape a sense of guilt, of complicity in the tragedy that has engulfed the world." He insisted that Germany must be punished fairly and justly, and the occupation must install a sense of guilt in the minds of the German people, and the occupation must be done without draining American resources.
Eisenhower was known for spending time with the front line soldiers to make them feel that the superiors cared about their conditions. He felt strongly that if commanding officers did not take the time to speak with the soldiers, the commanders would become alienated by the troops, therefore losing battle efficiency and losing the ability to maintain morale. His time spent with men of the US 101st Airborne Division before the troops took off for a paradrop in Normandy, France had been made popular, but there were numerous other occasions where the Allied Supreme Commander visited the front lines. On one such trip he visited troops of the US 29th Infantry Division in France, where the foul weather turned the soil into mud, and brought the general on the ground flat on his back after a slippery misstep. "From the shout of laughter that went up I am quite sure that no other meeting I had with soldiers during the war was greater success than that one", he recalled, deeply knowing that the fall, however embarrassing, made him look like he was no different than the ordinary soldier, therefore closing the gap between the general and his troops. His popularity with the troops were not an instant hit, however; it took a long time for him to develop the ability to bond with his front line soldiers. One of his first attempts at mingling with the troops as a general was rather disastrous. As American troops boarded their transports at Bizerte, Tunisia for Sicily, Italy, Eisenhower showed up at the dock in a perfectly pressed uniform in a shiny car complete with an attractive British female driver, Kay Summersby. He waved from a distance in encouragement, but received curses from the American troops in return. With the way he presented himself, he was falsely giving the troops the impression that he was of a higher social class, too good to dress like the common soldier and too important to mingle with them; it only reinforced the men's thinking that generals were gods sitting in the safety of the rear, living a totally different war than what the front line men were fighting. His message to the Allied personnel who were "about to embark upon the Great Crusade" at Normandy also achieved much less than what he aimed for. "It was meaningless, impersonal, and nothing to most of the men", wrote Robert Rogge. "Ike was in England, and England belonged to another, safer world. [The men] were aboard [ships], sailing into they knew not what."
Eisenhower was rumored to have had an extra-marital relationship with his driver Kay Summersby. This was suspected by many of the generals who Eisenhower worked closely with during the war, and it was later claimed by Summersby in 1969 after Eisenhower's death. Whether a romantic relationship existed between Eisenhower and Summersby is still debated today.
Eisenhower's relationship with the press was an interesting one. While believing that a commander must maintain secrecy to perform his duties, he was known to be the commander who kept the least amount of information from the press. Eisenhower believed that information disseminated to the American population in a timely fashion gives the civilian home front effort a boost in morale. "Civilians are entitled to know everything about the war that need not maintain secret through the overriding requirement of military security", he said. At one time in the war, as many as 943 journalists, either on the front lines or in rear areas, were working in the European Theater of Operations during WW2.
After the war, Eisenhower was the president of Columbia University in New York, New York United States and then the supreme commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces. In 1953, he became the 34th President of the United States. In that role, he tried to de-escalate the Cold War. In 1953, he was able to bring the two factions in Korea to sign a truce, dividing Korea into two countries at the 38th Parallel. With both the United States and the Soviet Union stockpiling destructive hydrogen bombs, Eisenhower purposed plans such as the sharing of military plans between the two rivals, though it was not to be accepted by the Soviets. On the domestic front, Eisenhower continued the New Deal and Fair Deal programs, backed the desegregation effort in schools and the military, and started a program to lend American uranium to nations who could not enrich their own radioactive material for energy generation purposes ("Atoms for Peace" program).
Eisenhower passed away on 28 Mar 1969.
Donald Bennett, Honor Untarnished
Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe
Jonathan Jordan, Brothers, Rivals, Victors
Robert Rogge, Fearsome Battle
US Army Center of Military History
- "This is a long tough road we have to travel. The men that can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning. Fake reputations, habits of glib and clever speech, and glittering surface performance are going to be discovered."
» In a letter to Vernon Prichard, 27 Aug 1942
- "Kinship among nations is not determined in such measurements as proximity of size and age. Rather we should turn to those inner things — call them what you will — I mean those intangibles that are the real treasures free men possess."
» London Guild Hall Address, 12 Jun 1945
- "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity."
» In a speech in Ottawa, Canada, 10 Jan 1946
Dwight Eisenhower Timeline
|14 Oct 1890||Dwight Eisenhower was born Denison, Texas, United States.|
|3 Sep 1910||Dwight Eisenhower wrote to Senator Joseph Bristow inquiring the status of his request for entry into the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, United States or the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, United States.|
|25 Oct 1910||Dwight Eisenhower wrote to Senator Joseph Bristow thanking him for the appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, United States.|
|25 Jun 1942||Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in London, England, United Kingdom and was appointed the Commander of US Forces in Europe.|
|8 Aug 1942||Dwight Eisenhower established his headquarter in England, United Kingdom.|
|23 Aug 1942||Dwight Eisenhower submitted an appraisal of the current situation to the Combined Chiefs stating that in his opinion an invasion of northwestern Africa would not be possible before 10 Nov 1942. A full month later than the date proposed by the Combined Chiefs.|
|6 Nov 1942||Lieutenant General Dwight Eisenhower flew from London, England, United Kingdom to his headquarters in Gibraltar from where he would direct Operation Torch.|
|11 Feb 1943||General Dwight Eisenhower was selected to command the Allied forces in Europe.|
|6 Jul 1943||Dwight Eisenhower arrived at Malta by B-17 aircraft.|
|24 Dec 1943||US Army General Dwight Eisenhower was named the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.|
|25 Dec 1943||Dwight Eisenhower met with Henry Wilson, who would replace him as the Allied command in the Mediterranean Theater, at Tunis, Tunisia.|
|1 Jan 1944||Dwight Eisenhower arrived in Washington DC, United States where he and his wife would take a brief break from the war.|
|7 Jan 1944||Dwight Eisenhower arrived at Prestwick, Scotland, United Kingdom.|
|16 Jan 1944||General Eisenhower assumed the post as Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in England, United Kingdom.|
|29 Apr 1944||In England, United Kingdom, Dwight Eisenhower cabled Washington DC, United States, telling Marshall that he was pondering the notion of firing George Patton because "he simply does not keep his mouth shut", referring to the 25 Apr 1944 incident in which Patton spoke of his vision of a post-war world that, after being mis-quoted by a reporter, created another public relations row for Eisenhower's headquarters.|
|3 May 1944||Dwight Eisenhower wrote George Patton a personal letter in which he informed Patton that Patton would be allowed to keep his post even after the public relations rows that Patton had created.|
|19 Jun 1944||Following a massive public outcry, US Commander-in-Chief General Dwight Eisenhower announced that he considered the conviction of Leroy Henry to be unsafe due to lack of evidence. Henry, a black truck driver from Missouri, United States, had been accused and sentenced to death by hanging for the supposed knifepoint rape of a white British woman at Combe Down, a suburb of Bath, England, United Kingdom. Henry was sent back to his unit.|
|9 Aug 1944||Eisenhower moved his headquarters to France.|
|10 Aug 1944||Dwight Eisenhower inspected paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division at Hunkerford, Hungerford, England, United Kingdom.|
|26 Aug 1944||Dwight Eisenhower traveled to Omar Bradley's headquarters in France and invited him to visit the recently captured Paris, France with him on the following day.|
|27 Aug 1944||Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley made a visit to recently captured Paris, France.|
|1 Sep 1944||Dwight Eisenhower took direct command of all three Allied army groups operating in France, relieving Bernard Montgomery of this role.|
|7 Dec 1944||Dwight Eisenhower, Bernard Montgomery, Omar Bradley, Arthur Tedder, and other Allied military leaders convened to discuss strategy. Eisenhower transferred US 9th Army to Montgomery's army group, but rejected Montgomery's notion that the southern army groups should be halted in order to make Montgomery's army group the sole attacking force.|
|12 Dec 1944||Dwight Eisenhower arrived in London, England, United Kingdom and secured Winston Churchill's agreement on Eisenhower's strategy for the war in Europe for the foreseeable future.|
|16 Dec 1944||Dwight Eisenhower learned that he was about to be promoted to the rank of 5-star general.|
|20 Dec 1944||Dwight Eisenhower was officially promoted to the rank of General of the Army, a 5-star general rank.|
|19 Mar 1945||Dwight Eisenhower, Walter Bedell Smith, and Kay Summersby arrived at Cannes, France to take a short break from the war. He spent much of the next three days sleeping and simply doing nothing.|
|23 Mar 1945||Dwight Eisenhower wrapped up his short break at Cannes, France and returned to his capacity as the Allied commander.|
|27 Mar 1945||Dwight Eisenhower wrote Joseph Stalin a letter in an effort to coordinate the movement of Anglo-American and Soviet front lines as the two fronts neared each other in Germany.|
|31 Mar 1945||Allied commander Eisenhower demanded German surrender over radio.|
|13 Apr 1945||Dwight Eisenhower rejected the notion, for the third time, to advance onto Berlin, Germany.|
|14 Apr 1945||General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in North West Europe, announced that Berlin, Germany was no longer a military objective.|
|12 Jun 1945||Dwight Eisenhower received the Freedom of the City of London of England, United Kingdom and the Order of Merit from the French.|
|19 Jun 1945||General Dwight Eisenhower received a ticker tape parade at New York City, New York, United States.|
|14 Jul 1945||Eisenhower dissolved the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force at Königssee, Thüringen, Germany.|
|12 Oct 1945||Dwight Eisenhower visited George Patton at the headquarters of the US 15th Army. Patton noted that by this time Eisenhower was much more a politician than a general.|
|28 Dec 1945||Dwight Eisenhower ordered the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire to be transferred to Vienna, Austria despite protest by the representatives of Nürnberg, Germany.|
|20 Jan 1953||Dwight Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States.|
|28 Mar 1969||Dwight Eisenhower passed away.|
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