Dwight Eisenhower was born on October 14th, 1890 in a small Texas town called Denison. In 1891, however, he and his family moved to Abilene Kansas, this is where he was raised and where he called home. Dwight was the third of six sons. He was an avid student of military history from a young age and a dedicated athlete for most of his life. He began his military career in 1910, with an appointment to Westpoint, the U.S. Army academy. Eisenhower never saw combat during World War I but served at a number of military bases as an infantry instructor and commander of a mechanized tank unit. He earned the respect of virtually all the men he commanded with one of his trainees saying “Our new Captain, Eisenhower by name, is, I believe, one of the most efficient and best Army officers in the country…” Eisenhower’s career began to stagnate during the inter-war years though, with Eisenhower even contemplating retirement prior to American entrance into World War II.
World War II:
Eisenhowers’ involvement in the American war effort during World War II began with his appointment to the General Staff in Washington as commander of the War Plans division for the Philippines and Far East on December 15th, 1941. Eisenhower was a perfect choice for this position as he had worked extensively in the Philippines and Far East during the inter-war years as an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of U.S. forces in that area. This period in Washinhton set the tone for the coming years of Eisenhowers career, he woud leave home before dawn every morning and not return until after 10 p.m. Eisenhower served in this capacity until June 1942.
On June 24th, 1942 Eisenhower arrived in England to assume command of all U.S. military forces stationed in Britiain. This position sounds more impressive than it actually was. The U.S. force stationed in Britian at that stage of the war was reasonably small, totalling some 55,000 men and seeing as the U.S. forces were not involved in any sort of combat action in Europe, Eisenhower’s role was more that of an administrator than a commander. However this did not stop Eisenhower from becoming an overnight sensation with the British Press who were greatly enamoured of him from his first press conference.
Eventhough his posting to Great Britian was initially largely administrative, Eisenhower was soon to assume the mantle of a military commander with the Allied invasion of North Africa. This operation was planned for November 1942 with Eisenhower being given total operational control. Eisenhower was nervous as this was his first time commanding troops in combat. He meticulously planned every detail of the operation but his lack of experience resulted in Eisenhower exhibiting too high a degree of caution. He was unwilling to take risks that could have potentially yielded significant victories for the Allied forces. This cautiousness made it easier for the Axis forces present in North Africa to consolidate their forces and prepare a well organised counter-attack.
The Torch operation taught Eisenhower how best to command troops in combat, the operation had tempered Eisenhower as a commander and author of invasion plans. He had been prepared for one the greatest undertakings in the history of the twentieth century – Operation Overlord, otherwise known as D-Day.
On December 7th, 1943 Eisenhower was appointed as Supreme Allied Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. For the first time since the war began all the allied forces operating in Europe came under the control of a single individual – Dwight Eisenhower. This also meant that Eisenhower would be tasked with overseeing Operation Overlord. Planning for the invasion of “Fortress Europe” started immediately. Eisenhower expertly orchestrated the integration of not only the British and American forces who would be fighting side by side but also managed to control and co-ordinate the collaboration between each arm of the armed forces – land, sea and air. Bad weather hampered the build-up to the invasion but on June 4th at 4.30 a.m. Eisenhower made the decision to launch the invasion. Before making the decision he ensured to consult each one of his subordinates to make the best, most well rounded decision possible. It was often said that Eisenhower made decisions based on the input of the last person he spoke to but I feel he just combined the views of all his subordinates to reach a quasi-democratic decision.
Overlord was a stunning success. In twenty-four hours the Allied forces, under the command of Eisenhower, established a sizeable beach head on the French coast and had successfully opened up a second front to relieve some of the pressure on the Russian forces in the East.
It was stemming from this victory that Eisenhower was given the authority to negotiate the German surrender in May 1945. Owing to the respect and admiration he had earned over the war years Eisenhower was appointed governor of the American sector of Berlin following the cessation of hostilities.
From the brief biography outlined above we can see how Eisenhower’s military career evolved over the years from a simple instructor to the Supreme Commander of all Allied forces in Europe and how it was his dedication to each position he held that contributed to his expert military mind. It was these experiences and positions that contributed to the crescendo of Eisenhower’s career with his election to the U.S. presidency in 1953.