This & That

Story published: 12-05-2012 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Dwight D. Eisenhower: A man for his time

By Jack Swift

As I look back in my memory at the presidents that have served the American people from the time I was old enough to remember some of their work and some general things about them, a few stand out in my memory. President Dwight David Eisenhower is one of them.

When I was born in 1938, war was already raging in Europe and soon America would be involved in that global conflict. The Japanese attack December 7, 1941 on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii drew the United States into World War II. The massive loss for Americans at Pearl Harbor included 2,341 military personnel killed and more than 1,000 wounded. Eisenhower, in his capacity as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces, would be an important figure in the United States’ involvement in that awful conflict. After commanding a number of successful campaigns, Eisenhower’s most famous effort during his military experience was his successful command as General of the Army.

Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas but when he was about 18 months old his father, David Eisenhower, moved his family back to Abilene, Kansas, where his brother-in-law promised him a job. My niece Debbie Flanders lives in Sherman, Texas, which is only a few miles south of Denison. In Abilene, he grew up, graduated from High School, and was working in a creamery when it was suggested that he apply to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Still unsure of what to do, he took the entrance exam and passed it handily for both West Point and The Naval Academy at Annapolis. He found that he was too old for admission to The Naval Academy but within a short time he was recommended for an appointment to West Point and he was accepted in 1911. His West Point experience was reportedly mediocre but he exhibited great leadership there that paid off in later years. Ultimately after advancing in rank and a number of successful commands, he was named Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces and under his leadership Operation Overlord (D-Day) was planned and executed. That same year he was appointed General of the Army (5-stars). After a stent as president of Columbia University and some military appointments, he successfully ran for America’s 34th president.

His fame and general likeability catapulted him to the U. S. presidency in 1953. His time in office ended in 1961after two terms.

On thing that enhances my memory of the Eisenhower years is that I was in high school during part of his presidency and became a graduate of Johnson County High School in 1956, three years into his first term. In my opinion he was one of the greatest modern presidents. I will admit that I liked Ike. Apparently many others did also. I think one of his greatest achievements as president is when he signed into law the Interstate Highway System. Following public life, Eisenhower retired to his beloved farm at Gettysburg. In his last years, his health declined and he spent much time at Walter Reid Army Hospital. With his wife Mamie by his side he passed away on March 28, 1969. This great man was quoted as saying, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” He also said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” These sayings of President Eisenhower provide insight into his feelings about war and the most important criterion for leadership. There is a need in America now for folks who value statesmanship above politics and who regard integrity as one of the greatest attributes for leadership.