Military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower

Military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David Eisenhower
General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower 1947.jpg
Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1947.
Nickname Ike
Born October 14, 1890
Denison, Texas
Died March 28, 1969
Washington D.C.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1915 – 1953
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army
Commands held Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany
Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in Western Europe
Commanding General, European Theater of Operations
Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces in North Africa
Battles/wars Mexican Border Service
World War II
Awards Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal (5)
Legion of Merit
Other work President of Columbia University, NY
President of the United States of America

The military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower encompassed over forty years of active service.


Early military career

Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1911. His parents were against militarism, but 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. In 1912, a spectacular Eisenhower touchdown won praise from the sports reporter of the New York Herald, and he even managed, with the help of a linebacker teammate, to tackle the legendary Jim Thorpe. In the very next week, however, his promising sports career ended when he incurred a severe knee injury.

Memorial To Eisenhower at West Point.

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. He spent the war training tank crews in the newly founded Tank Corps located in Pennsylvania and never saw combat. He was thought to be so valuable as a tank instructor that sending him to combat was seen as too great risk. 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.[1]

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, graduating first in his class, and then served as a battalion commander at Fort Benning, Georgia until 1927.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s Eisenhower's career in the peacetime Army stagnated; many of his friends resigned for 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, and then served as executive officer to General George V. Mosely, Assistant Secretary of War, from 1929 to 1933. He then served as chief military aide to General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, until 1935, when he accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines, where he served as assistant military adviser to the Philippine government. It is sometimes said that this assignment provided valuable preparation for handling the challenging personalities of Winston Churchill, George S. Patton and Bernard Law Montgomery during World War II. Eisenhower was promoted to lieutenant colonel (in a non-brevet status) in 1936 after sixteen years as a major. 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, D.C., 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, Texas. He was promoted to brigadier general in September 1941. Although his administrative abilities had been noticed, on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II he had never held an active command and was far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations.

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 Eisenhower served as Chief of Staff of the Blue Army in the August–September 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers, fellow officers accurately predicted that he would become a major general in six months. Known as "one of the finest staff officers in the army",[2] 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, 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 Operations Division under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall. It was his close association with Marshall that finally brought Eisenhower to senior command positions. Marshall recognized his great organizational and administrative abilities.[3]

In 1942, Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) and was based in London. 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 remained in command of the renamed Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), keeping the operational title and continued in command of NATOUSA redesignated MTOUSA. In this position he 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, it was announced that Eisenhower 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 forces2, 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 Omar Bradley and 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. During the advance towards Berlin, he was notified by General Bradley that Allied forces would suffer an estimated 100,000 casualties before taking the city. The Soviet Army sustained 80,000 casualties during the fighting in and around Berlin, the last large number of casualties suffered in the war against Nazism.[4][5]

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. In it, he states he would take full responsibility for catastrophic failure, should that be the final result. 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.

As general, Eisenhower approved the execution of Private Eddie Slovik for desertion, the first such execution since the American Civil War.

Criticism of Eisenhower

Historian Adrian R. Lewis wrote that because Eisenhower lacked combat experience, he did not have the respect of his colleagues given to those who served in battle.[6]

Montgomery said of Eisenhower: “nice chap, no general.”[7]

Patton wrote that it's too bad that Eisenhower has no personal knowledge of war.[8]

General Bradley wrote that Eisenhower “had little grasp of sound battlefield tactics.”[9]

Admiral John Leslie Hall, the commander of Amphibious Force ‘o’, which landed the 1st Division at Omaha Beach, wrote that Eisenhower “was one of the most overrated men in military history."[10]

Aftermath of World War II

Eisenhower as General of the Army.

Following the German unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt am Main. Germany was divided into four Occupation Zones, one each for the U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Upon full discovery of the death camps that were part of the Final Solution (Holocaust), he ordered camera crews to comprehensively document evidence of the atrocity for use in the war crimes tribunals. He made the decision to reclassify German prisoners of war (POWs) in U.S. custody as Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEFs), thus depriving them of the protection of the Geneva convention. As DEFs, their food rations could be lowered and they could be compelled to serve as unfree labor. Eisenhower was an early supporter of the Morgenthau Plan to permanently remove Germany's industrial capacity to wage future wars. In November 1945 he approved the distribution of 1000 free copies of Morgenthau's book Germany is Our Problem, which promoted and described the plan in detail, to American military officials in occupied Germany. Historian Stephen Ambrose draws the conclusion that, despite Eisenhower's later claims the act was not an endorsement of the Morgenthau plan, Eisenhower both approved of the plan and had previously given Morgenthau at least some of his ideas about how Germany should be treated.[11] He also incorporated officials from Morgenthau's Treasury into the army of occupation. These were commonly called "Morgenthau boys" for their zeal in interpreting the occupation directive JCS 1067, which had been heavily influenced by Morgenthau and his plan, as strictly as possible.[12]

Eisenhower served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1945–48. In December 1950, he was named Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active service on May 31, 1952, upon entering politics. He wrote Crusade in Europe, widely regarded as one of the finest U.S. military memoirs. During this period Eisenhower served as President of Columbia University from 1948 until 1953, though he was on leave from the university while he served as NATO commander.

General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff of the United States Army by Nicodemus David Hufford III.

After his many wartime successes, General Eisenhower returned to the U.S. a great hero. He was unusual for a military hero as he never saw the front line in his life. The nearest he came to being under enemy fire was in 1944 when a German fighter strafed the ground while he was inspecting troops in Normandy. Eisenhower dived for cover like everyone else and after the plane flew off, a British brigadier helped him up and seemed very relieved he was not hurt. When Eisenhower thanked him for his solicitude, the brigadier deflated him by explaining "my concern was that you should not be injured in my sector." This incident formed part of Eisenhower's fund of stories he would tell now and again.[citation needed]

Not long after his return, a "Draft Eisenhower" movement in the Republican party persuaded him to declare his candidacy in the 1952 presidential election to counter the candidacy of non-inteventionists Senator Robert Taft. (Eisenhower had been courted by both parties in 1948 and had declined to run then.) Eisenhower defeated Taft for the nomination but came to an agreement that Taft would stay out of foreign affairs while Eisenhower followed a conservative domestic policy. Eisenhower's campaign was a crusade against the Truman administration's policies regarding "Korea, Communism and Corruption" and was also noted for the simple but effective phrase "I Like Ike." Eisenhower promised to go to Korea himself and end the war and maintain both a strong NATO abroad against Communism and a corruption-free frugal administration at home. He and his running mate Richard Nixon, whose daughter later married Eisenhower's grandson David, defeated Democrats Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman in a landslide, marking the first Republican return to the White House in 20 years. Eisenhower was the only general to serve as President in the 20th century, and the most recent President to have never held elected office prior to the Presidency. (The other Presidents not to have sought prior elected office were Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, William Taft, and Herbert Hoover.)


General Eisenhower was never in combat on the battlefront. The majority of his military career (23 years) was at the rank of major or lieutenant colonel, a mid-level field rank. He spent a great deal of his military career in staff positions as a planner or trainer and not as a commander of combat army units. He was an aide to the legendary general Douglas MacArthur who was very difficult to deal with. General Eisenhower's skill at dealing with difficult personalities persuaded President Roosevelt to promote him to become the commanding general of the largest amphibious military invasion in history on the beaches of Normandy. This was a landing force of nine allied countries that required the overall commander to have great interpersonal skills and planning and coordination abilities.

Dates of rank

No pin insignia in 1915 Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915
US-OF1A.svg First Lieutenant, United States Army: July 1, 1916
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, United States Army: May 15, 1917
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, National Army: June 17, 1918
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: October 14, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army (reverted to peacetime rank): June 30, 1920
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army : July 2, 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: July 1, 1936
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: March 11, 1941
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Army of the United States: September 29, 1941
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Army of the United States: March 27, 1942
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: July 7, 1942
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Army of the United States: February 11, 1943
US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army, Army of the United States: December 20, 1944
General of the Army rank made permanent in the Regular Army: April 11, 1946

Awards and decorations

United States

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I Victory Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver and four bronze service stars
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal with "Foreign Service" clasp
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal ribbon.svg Mexican Border Service Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp

International awards

In addition, Eisenhower's name was given to a variety of streets, avenues, etc. in cities around the world, including Paris, France.

See also


  1. ^ Sixsmith 1973, p. 6
  2. ^ "Two Stars on Schedule". Time. 1942-04-13.,9171,766514,00.html. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  4. ^ D'Este 2002, pp. 694–96
  5. ^ Ambrose, Stephen E. (2000). Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Adrian R.Omaha Beach: A Flawed VictoryUniversity of North Carolina, 2001, p. 119
  7. ^ Gelb, Norman,Ike and Monty: Generals at War New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994, p.183.
  8. ^ Blumenson, MartinThe Patton Papers: 1940-1945, Vol. II Houghton Mifflin Harcourt p. 211.
  9. ^ Bradley, Omar Nelson and Clay Blair. A General's Life: An Autobiography New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 154.
  10. ^ Godson. Susan H, Viking of Assault: Admiral John Leslie Hall, Jr., and Amphibious Warfare University Press of America, 1982, p. 122.
  11. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1983). Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect (1893–1952). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 422. 
  12. ^ Petrov, Vladimir (1967). Money and conquest; allied occupation currencies in World War II.. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 228–229. 
  13. ^ In the Shadow of Tyranny: A History in Novel Form, page 753
  14. ^ The Crown Council of Ethiopia
  15. ^ Weisman, Steven R. (October 24, 1989). "Reagan Given Top Award By Japanese". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ Order of Polish Rebirth / Order Odrodzenia Polski By Rafal Heydel-Mankoo
Military offices
Preceded by
Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney
Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe
Succeeded by
Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews
Preceded by
Gen. Jacob L. Devers
Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe
Succeeded by
Gen. Joseph T. McNarney
New title Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany
Succeeded by
Gen. George S. Patton
Preceded by
Gen. George Marshall
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Gen. Omar Bradley
New title Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by
Gen. Matthew Ridgway

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