Dwight D. Eisenhower: The Man Behind the Legend
Sixty years ago this fall, a five-star general in the US Army, originally from Abilene, Kansas, made a calculated and 20th-century-changing decision to run for President of the United States. Carefully noticing the national and international circumstances of his time, his warfare and wartime experience, and the popular public support for a run for office, Dwight Eisenhower realized that his chances for success and the chance to make his mark were unusually high. As he served as the 34th President from 1953 to 1961, Ike ended the Korean war without getting into any others, stabilized the Soviet-American rivalry at the time, maintained conservative principles without offending liberal sensibilities, played a role in facilitating the civil rights movement, and warned us all of the dangers and concerns of an all-powerful 'military-industrial-complex'. Distinct points of achievement most often remembered from his Presidency are the creation of the Interstate Highway System, containment and control of the New Deal coalition, deposing the leader of Iran in a 1953 Coup D'etat, and using nuclear threats to end the Korean War, to name an essential few. For these aforementioned things he was remembered as President, but what about Eisenhower the general? Eisenhower the man?
Dwight Eisenhower Waving To Public With Classic Hat In Hand - Note Ike's Rolex on his left wrist as he waves to fans
The mid-western town of Abilene, Kansas in 1910 was a quiet place where decent people tolerated each other's peculiar differences, were slow to become angry or judge others, possessed a certain faith in the decency of human beings, and were undistracted and untempted by the selfish ambition of pushing one man's ideas out in order to have their own accepted. Such an upbringing might seem pale in terms of preparing him for some of the later, more challenging decisions he would have to make, such as planning and supervising the invasion of South Africa in Operation Torch, and figuring out how best to deploy a massive number of troops, ships and bombers during the invasion of Normandy in 1944. How was Eisenhower able to achieve so much, and with so much support from the American public?
An imposing Portrait Of President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower the man brought with him a mid-western easygoing nature, friendliness, and proverbial outlook on life that always focused on how to solve serious issues and problems, rather than get entangled with the people or personalities that complicated those problems. He was concerned with addressing the ideas of key contributors to an issue or situation, but without trying to please any one person's particular goals or ideology. Ike could chair and govern meetings with wisdom and ease, coaching individuals to work towards a compromise between conflicting views. Eisenhower the man, who at home liked to watch Westerns and sometimes eat TV dinners after a long day of work, brought this background with him as he helped later building his army career, waged war, and fervently worked to remake the face of Europe.
An education from West Point, early recognition by officers of his organizational skills, and strategic, fortunate placements at certain army bases and post assignments all set the stage for his military career from the 1920's all the way to the Presidency. Along the way Ike developed a keen discipline of reading military history and studying military strategy - alongside the habit and practice of writing (proposals, opinions, journals (which later became his memoirs), and speeches — some of which were for General MacArthur while serving as his top-aide in the Phillipines. Probably the most pivotal points in his career, ones that set the stage for his highest military achievement as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces for the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, were the relationships (and accompanying teachings) he built with various Generals. Fox Conner, John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, and George Marshall were among the fine generals that he served, Conner being the most impactful and influential on Ike's military thinking. "Fox Conner was the ablest man I ever knew", he was quoted as saying, among other praises of General Conner. But Historians give the primary nuturing credit of Eisenhower to General George C. Marshall.
Eisenhower The General: Supreme Commander of The Allied Forces during WWII - Note, Ike's leather World War 11 Jacket which is now in The Raleigh DeGeer Amyx Collection
Eisenhower's achievements in World War II were recognized by more than just the American public and military/government officials. One lesser known event that memorialized Ike's achievements as a world military leader and United States president was the unique creation and issuance of a finely crafted Rolex Yellow Gold Datejust watch — the 150,000th made in fact — which Rolex designed especially for General Eisehower, which they presented to Ike in late 1950. This watch and the circumstances in which it was created all contributed to the image of the Rolex President. Coincidentally, Ike played a huge role in the rebranding of Rolex, and among elites who recognize the meaning and impact of owning a Rolex watch, Eisenhower came to represent a very rare international mark of achievement at that time. Other than Churchill and a couple other world leaders, most recipients of Rolex watches up to that time were known for their business or personal successes rather than achievements, particularly achievements of the magnitude and nature of Eisenhower's.
Eisenhower With His Rolex: The International Mark Of Achievement - This Rolex is currently in The Raleigh DeGeer Amyx Collection - where it has been since 1983
As a young military graduate with firm yet docile midwestern sensibilities, a military officer — and later, general — with an ocean trench of understanding of modern warfare and strategy, a politican sensitive to the american public's fears and concerns but without ideological favoritism, Eisenhower is now being recognized by historians as one of the top ten presidents of all time. Perhaps the recent resurgence of Eisenhower's legacy and its accompanying nostalgia can help both voters and all government officials come to a better understanding of the leadership we need in these times of politial discontent.
President Dwight David Eisenhower At his Oval Office Desk
Few presidents in recent history can match the timeless impact of Eisenhower's own words:
"We look upon this shaken Earth, and we declare our firm and fixed purpose — the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral law prevails. The building of such a peace is a bold and solemn purpose. To proclaim it is easy. To serve it will be hard."
For additional historical facts that may be of interest see: www.AmericanHeritage1.com
Raleigh DeGeer Amyx is an American historian and collector. His full biography can be read on his Wikipedia page.