USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Official Photo Illustration of the Ship sailing and launching air craft

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower


 
 

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was a five-star general in the United States Army and the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961, and the last to be born in the 19th century. During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45, from the Western Front.

Born in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1911. His parents, who were against militarism, did not object to his entering West Point because they supported his education. Eisenhower was a strong athlete and enjoyed notable successes in his competitive endeavors.

Part of the 1912 West Point football team. Cadet Eisenhower 2nd from left; Cadet Omar Bradley 2nd from right.

Eisenhower graduated in 1915. He served with the infantry until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. During World War I, Eisenhower became the #3 leader of the new tank corps and rose to temporary (Bvt.) Lieutenant Colonel in the National Army. During the war he trained tank crews at "Camp Colt"—his first command—on the grounds of "Pickett's Charge" on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Civil War battle site. Ike and his tank crews never saw combat. After the war, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of captain (and was promoted to major a few days later) before assuming duties at Camp Meade, Maryland, where he remained until 1922. His interest in tank warfare was strengthened 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, Kansas. There he graduated first in a class of 245 officers. He then served as a battalion commander at Fort Benning, Georgia until 1927.

World War II

Eisenhower (seated, middle) with other US Army officers, 1945. From left to right, the front row includes Simpson, Patton, Spaatz, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, and Gerow.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942 with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division (WPD), General Leonard T. Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then 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 spotted talent and promoted 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 June 3 with a pessimistic assessment, stating he had an "uneasy feeling" about Chaney and his staff. On June 23, 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. The word "expeditionary" was dropped soon after his appointment for security reasons. 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.

Eisenhower speaks with U.S. paratroopers of the 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on the evening of June 5, 1944.

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 June 6, 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 May 8, 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 December 20, 1944, he was promoted to 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 Stalin, much to the chagrin of the British High Command who disliked being bypassed.

In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.

A Republican, Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race to counter the non-interventionism of Sen. Robert A. Taft, and to crusade against "Communism, Korea and corruption". He won by a landslide, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson and ending two decades of the New Deal Coalition holding the White House. As President, Eisenhower concluded negotiations with China to end the Korean War. He maintained pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, gave priority to inexpensive nuclear weapons and reduced the other forces to save money. He had to play catch-up in the Space Race after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957. On the domestic front, he helped remove Joseph McCarthy from power but otherwise left most political actions to his Vice President, Richard Nixon. Eisenhower did not end New Deal policies, and in fact enlarged the scope of Social Security, and signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. He was the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. His two terms were mainly peaceful, and generally prosperous except for a sharp economic recession in 1958–59. Historians typically rank Eisenhower among the ten greatest U.S. presidents.

Post-presidency

Eisenhower leaving the White House after a visit with President Johnson in 1967.
 

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, Pennsylvania. In 1967, the Eisenhowers 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.

Death and funeral

Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. 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 March 30, his body was brought by caisson to the United States Capitol where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On March 31, 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 en route to Abilene, Kansas. His body arrived on April 2, 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 in 1979.

Richard Nixon, by this time himself President, 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."

 
Funeral services of Eisenhower