Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Constitution for Kids (K-3) x
The Constitution for Kids (K-3)
Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the military commanders in charge of the American forces during World War II. He was an exceptional military planner and organizer, and at the end of the war, he ran for president and served for eight years.

Early Years

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Texas on October 14, 1980. He was actually named David Dwight Eisenhower but always went by the name Dwight.

After graduating high school, Eisenhower worked at his uncle’s creamery and as a firefighter. He saved the money he earned and used it to pay the tuition for his younger brother to attend university. The two brothers had made a deal—Dwight would pay for his brother Edgar for two years and then they would switch and Edgar would pay for Dwight.

Edgar never had to pay his half of the deal because Dwight was accepted to West Point Military Academy in 1911.

Tuition at the military academy was free so Edgar never had to pay anything. Dwight’s parents were pacifists but they agreed to Dwight joining the military academy because they thought it would give him a better education.

It was at West Point where Eisenhower officially changed his name from David Dwight Eisenhower to Dwight David Eisenhower. He graduated in 1915 as a second lieutenant.

After graduation, he met and married Mamie Geneva Doud on July 1, 1916. Eisenhower moved from post to post for the first couple of years in the service. During his various postings, Eisenhower showed a lot of skill as an administrator and a trainer.

World War I

The United States entered World War I in 1917 and Eisenhower wanted to be stationed overseas. He was sent to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and then in 1918, he was sent to Camp Meade in Maryland. At Camp Meade, he joined the 65th Engineers. The 65th Engineers were ordered to France but Eisenhower was not allowed to go with them. Instead, he was sent to Camp Colt in Pennsylvania where he ran a tank training center. During his time at Camp Colt, Eisenhower was given the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel but when the war ended, Eisenhower became a captain again although he was promoted to major within a few days.

While at Camp Colt, Eisenhower showed a lot of skill at assessing the strengths and weaknesses of junior officers as well as a lot of skill in personnel placement.

After World War I

After the war, Eisenhower was assigned to a transcontinental army convoy to test various army vehicles and to highlight the need to improve the nation’s roads. The convoy only averaged approximately eight kilometers an hour on the trip across the country. This was part of the reason that Eisenhower focused on improving the road system when he became president.

Eisenhower was given the command of a battalion of tanks and he wrote papers on tank deployment and how tanks can be used in war. Eisenhower and other senior tank leaders (including George S. Patton) believed that offensive tank warfare was the best way to utilize tanks during battle but Eisenhower’s superiors thought the approach was too radical and felt that tanks should only be used to support the infantry. Eisenhower was forced to stop publicizing his ideas on tank warfare under threat of being court martialled.

In 1922, Eisenhower was sent to the Panama Canal where he became the executive officer for General Fox Conner. Conner encouraged Eisenhower to study military history and with Conner’s recommendation, Eisenhower applied to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He was accepted and graduated first in his class in 1926.
Eisenhower continued to do a number of different jobs in the military. In 1929, Eisenhower worked under General Douglas MacArthur as his aide. He continued to serve under MacArthur from 1935 to 1939 as assistant military advisor to the Philippines.

He returned to the United States in 1940, and in 1941, Eisenhower was promoted chief of staff for the Third Army. After showing leadership in an army exercise known as the Louisiana Maneuvers, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

World War II

When the United States entered World War II, he was transferred to Washington D.C. where he was assigned to the War Plans division. Eisenhower was ordered to work on plans for defeating both Germany and Japan. Eisenhower impressed his commanders and on June 24, 942, he was made the commander of the European Theater of Operations. He was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.

Eisenhower was stationed in London and he was soon promoted to the Supreme Allied Commander of the North African Theater of Operations. His duties in this position included overseeing the Allied invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch). The Allied troops were able to drive the Axis soldiers out of Tunisia and Eisenhower was given control of the British 8th Army as it advanced deeper into North Africa from Egypt. Operation Torch was successful and Eisenhower’s command became the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He was promoted to general and in July 1943, Eisenhower commanded the invasion of Sicily. After the successful invasion of Sicily, Eisenhower began to plan for the invasion of Italy.

Normandy Landing

Eisenhower began to command the invasion of Italy but Roosevelt wanted Eisenhower to become the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. This meant that he would be in charge of the invasion of France. Eisenhower showed a lot of political and diplomatic skill in his new position and was able to successfully interact with both Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle.

The Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord) began on June 6, 1944 after extensive planning. The invasion was successful and the Allied forces began to push into France. Eisenhower had to balance the demands of various Allied commanders and often ended up giving up some tactical control to these commanders, although, this didn’t always work out well.

Battle of the Bulge

Eisenhower had experienced a lot of success up to now but ran into trouble when German forces counterattacked and broke through the lines at Ardennes in December, 1944. This battle became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Eisenhower had to quickly reposition forces to close the break in the lines and within the month, the Allied forces had stopped the Germans and pushed them back to their original lines. It was at this time that Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army. The American forces were able to break the German lines and were soon able to continue their advance.

Once American troops were on the move again, Eisenhower began to plan for the invasion of Germany. Eisenhower often worked closely with Soviet commanders in an effort to coordinate the attack on Germany. Since Eisenhower knew that the division of Germany had already been decided by Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, he stopped the Allied advance at the Elbe River. He didn’t want to sacrifice his troops for territory that would be given to the Russians once the war was over.

Military Governor

Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945 and Eisenhower was given the position of Military Governor of the US Occupation Zone. As military governor, Eisenhower had to deal with food shortages and help refugees. He also worked at documenting Nazi atrocities when the concentration camps were discovered. This documentation was used at the Nuremberg Trials.

Eisenhower ordered 400,000 tonnes of food to be brought in to feed the civilian population and allowed more interaction between civilians and military personnel.

Back Home

Eisenhower returned to the United States in November of 1945 where he was named the Chief of Staff of the Army. His main duty was to deal with bringing the millions of soldiers home and the downsizing of the army.

Eisenhower opposed the atomic bomb being dropped on Japan since he believed that the Japanese were ready to surrender. He also felt that the United Nations should be involved in the control of nuclear weapons but he was overruled by Truman who followed the recommendations of the U.S. State Department.

He also thought that friendly relations with the Soviet Union could be maintained. However, as tensions began to rise over Berlin and the Greek Civil War (which was supported by the Soviet Union), Eisenhower agreed for the need to contain the Soviet Union.

Eisenhower left the army in 1948 to become the president of Columbia University. While at the university, Eisenhower wrote his memoirs and increased his knowledge of politics and economics. He was recalled to the army to serve as the Supreme Commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1950. He served for approximately two years before returning to Columbia University.

President Truman’s popularity was dropping so the Republican Party asked Eisenhower to run in the presidential election. Eisenhower won in a landslide against Adlai Stevenson.

President

Eisenhower was president for eight years and during his time as president he focused on dealing with the tensions of the Cold War. He tried to find ways to limit the dangers posed by nuclear weapons while at the same time containing the Soviet Union. He also helped negotiate an armistice between South and North Korea although he had to threaten to use a nuclear bomb to do it.

At home, Eisenhower focused on the construction of interstate highways, and ensuring economic prosperity. He also enforced desegregation in the state of Arkansas and founded NASA.

Death

Eisenhower left office in 1961 after serving two successful terms. He moved back to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where he lived until he died from heart failure on March 28, 1969.