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Dwight David Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower, the son of a small farmer, was born in Denison, Texas, on 14th October, 1890. He attended West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1915 (61/164).

Eisenhower became a temporary lieutenant colonel during the First World War. He was appointed commander of a heavy tank brigade in Pennsylvania but was not sent to Europe during the conflict.

After the war Eisenhower served under George Patton at Fort Meade, Maryland. These two pioneers of tank warfare became close friends. Promoted to the rank of major Eisenhower was appointed as chief of staff to Brigadier General Fox Connor when he was sent to Panama in 1922. Connor was a great influence on Eisenhower and introduced him to books written by philosophers and military strategists such as Plato, Tactitus, Clausewitz and Nietzsche.

Eisenhower entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1942. He graduated two years later as head of the class. He then served under General John Pershing at the American Battle Monuments in France. This included working on the commission's guide, American Armies and Battlefields in Europe.

In February 1932, Eisenhower was appointed to the staff of General Douglas MacArthur. Along with George Patton, Eisenhower was involved in dealing with the Bonus Army in Washington. MacArthur, was later criticized for using tanks, four troops of cavalry with drawn sabers, and infantry with fixed bayonets, on the protesters.

Promoted to lieutenant colonel, Eisenhower also served under MacArthur in the Philippines. In his diaries Eisenhower makes it clear that he did not like MacArthur and in 1939 took up an appointment with the 15th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis. In March 1941 he was promoted to colonel and became chief of staff to General Walter Krueger in 3rd Army headquarters at San Antonio, Texas.

Eisenhower's career in the US Army had so far being fairly unspectacular but he had impressed General George Marshall, U.S. Chief of Staff, and a week after Pearl Harbor was recruited to help prepare the plans for war with Japan and Germany. In March 1942, Eisenhower was sent to England as head of European Theatre of Operations (ETO).

In July, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill decided that the Allies should open a Second Front to help the Red Army fighting in the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin favoured an invasion of Europe but Roosevelt and Churchill opted for an invasion of northwest Africa. Given the code-name Operation Torch, Eisenhower was appointed Allied commander of the invasion.

Over 100,000 Vichy troops were stationed in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It was hoped that the French troops not to resist the Allied invasion. On 8th November 1942, Allied forces landed in Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. The French troops fought back at Oran and General Mark Clark immediately began negotiations with Admiral Jean-Francois Darlan, overall C-in-C of Vichy forces, in an attempt to negotiate a ceasefire.

Adolf Hitler threatened Henri-Philippe Petain that the German Army would invade Vichy if his troops did not resist. When Darlan surrendered on the 11th November, Hitler carried out his threat and occupied the rest of France. French troops in Morocco stopped fighting but some joined the Germans in Tunisia.

Eisenhower now controversially appointed Jean-Francois Darlan as the political head of the French North Africa. The decision infuriated General Charles De Gaulle and the French Resistance who claimed that Darlan was a fascist and a Nazi collaborator. However, the decision was endorsed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt who both agreed with Eisenhower that the deal with Darlan would assist military operations in the area.

In January 1943, General Jurgen von Arnium took control of the German forces in Tunisia. Later that month he was joined by General Erwin Rommel and his army in southern Tunisia. Rommel was in retreat from Egypt and was being chased by General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army.

Montgomery now spent several weeks in Tripoli building up his supplies. Arnium and Rommel decided to take this opportunity to attack Allied forces led by General Kenneth Anderson at Faid Pass (14th February) and Kasserine Pass (19th February). The Deutsches Afrika Korps then headed for Thala but were forced to retreat after meeting a large Allied force on 22nd February, 1943.

General Harold Alexander was now sent to oversee Allied operations in Tunisia whereas General Erwin Rommel was placed in command of the German forces. On 6th March 1943, Rommel attacked the Allies at Medenine. General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army fought off the attack and the Germans were forced to withdraw. Rommel now favoured a full retreat but this was rejected by Adolf Hitler.

By April 1943 the Allies had over 300,000 men in Tunisia. This gave them a 6-to-1 advantage in troops and a 15-to-1 superiority in tanks. The Allied blockade of the Mediterranean also made it difficult for the German Army to be supplied with adequate amounts of fuel, ammunition and food.

Eisenhower now decided to make another effort to take Tunis. General Omar Bradley, who had replaced General George Patton, as commander of the 2nd Corps, joined General Bernard Montgomery for the offensive. On 23rd April the 300,000 man force advanced along a 40 mile front. At the same time there was a diversionary attack by the 8th Army at Enfidaville. On 7th May 1943, British forces took Tunis and the US Army captured Bizerte. By 13th May all Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered and over 150,000 were taken prisoner.

After the success of Operation Torch, Eisenhower was promoted to full general and given the task of organizing the invasion of Sicily. General Harold Alexander was commander of ground operations and his 15th Army Group included General George Patton (US 7th Army) and General Bernard Montgomery (8th Army). Admiral Andrew Cunningham was in charge of naval operations and Air Marshal Arthur Tedder was air commander.

On 10th July 1943, the 8th Army landed at five points on the south-eastern tip of the island and the US 7th Army at three beaches to the west of the British forces. The Allied troops met little opposition and Patton and his troops quickly took Gela, Licata and Vittoria. The British landings were also unopposed and Syracuse was taken on the the same day. This was followed by Palazzolo (11th July), Augusta (13th July) and Vizzini (14th July), whereas the US troops took the Biscani airfield and Niscemi (14th July).

General George Patton now moved to the west of the island and General Omar Bradley headed north and the German Army was forced to retreat to behind the Simeto River. Patton took Palermo on 22nd July cutting off 50,000 Italian troops in the west of the island. Patton now turned east along the northern coast of the island towards the port of Messina.

Meanwhile General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army were being held up by German forces under Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring. The Allies carried out several amphibious assaults attempted to cut off the Germans but they were unable to stop the evacuation across the Messina Straits to the Italian mainland. This included 40,000 German and 60,000 Italian troops, as well as 10,000 German vehicles and 47 tanks.

On 17th August 1943, General George Patton and his troops marched into Messina. The capture of the island made it possible to clear the way for Allied shipping in the Mediterranean. It also helped to undermine the power of Benito Mussolini and Victor Emmanuel III forced him to resign.

Eisenhower was now placed in charge of the invasion of Italy. On 3rd September, 1943, General Bernard Montgomery and the 8th Army landed at Reggio. There was little resistance and later that day British warships landed the 1st Parachute Division at Taranto. Six days later the US 6th Corps arrived at Salerno. These troops faced a heavy bombardment from German troops and the beachhead was not secured until 20th September.

On 23rd September 1943, Pietro Badoglio and General Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Italian surrender aboard Nelson off Malta. The German Army continued to fight ferociously in southern Italy and the Allied armies made only slow progress as the moved north towards Rome. The 5th Army took Naples on 1st October and later that day the 8th Army captured the Foggia airfields.

General Albrecht Kesselring now withdrew his forces to what became known as the Gustav Line on the Italian peninsula south of Rome. Organized along the Garigliano and Rapido rivers it included Monte Cassino, a hilltop site of a sixth-century Benedictine monastery. Defended by 15 German divisions the line was fortified with gun pits, concrete bunkers, turreted machine-gun emplacements, barbed-wire and minefields. In December 1943, the Allied suffered heavy loses while trying to capture the monastery.

In January 1944, Eisenhower and General Harold Alexander, Supreme Allied Commander in Italy, ordered a new Cassino offensive combined with an amphibious operation at Anzio, a small port on the west coast of Italy. The main objective of the operation was to cut the communication lines of the German 10th Army and force a withdrawal from the Gustav Line.

Attacks on Monte Cassino on 17th January resulted in the Germans reserves moving to the Gustav Line and on 22nd January troops led by General John Lucas landed at Anzio. Lucas decided not to push straight away to the Alban Hills. This enabled General Heinrich Vietinghoff to order the 14th Army to return to the area and contain the 6th Corps on the Anzio bridgehead.

On 12th February the exhausted US Army at Cassino were replaced by the New Zealand Corps. Alexander now decided to use these fresh troops in another attempt to capture Cassino. General Bernard Freyberg, who was in charge of the infantry attack, asked for the monastery be bombed. Despite claims by troops on the front-line that no fire had come from the monastery, General Harold Alexander agreed and it was destroyed by the United States Air Force on 15th February, 1944.

Eisenhower was criticised by some Allied military leaders as being over cautious during the invasion of Sicily of Italy. However, he had impressed Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt as a man who was able to command soldiers from several different countries. Recognized as an excellent coalition commander, Eisenhower was appointed head of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and was given responsibility for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe.

Eisenhower now had the task of organizing around a million combat troops and two million men involved in providing support services. The plan, drawn up by Eisenhower, George Marshall, Bernard Montgomery, Omar Bradley, Bertram Ramsay, Walter Bedell-Smith, Arthur Tedder and Trafford Leigh-Mallory, involved assaults on five beaches west of the Orne River near Caen (codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah) by the British 2nd Army and the American 1st Army. Follow-up forces included the Canadian 1st Army and the American 3rd Army under Lt. General George Patton.

The invasion was preceded by a massive aerial bombardment of German communications. This resulted in the destruction of virtually every bridge over the Seine. On 6th June, 1944, 2,727 ships sailed to the Normandy coast and on the first day landed 156,000 men on a front of thirty miles. It was the largest and most powerful armada that has ever sailed.

The Allied invasion was faced by 50 divisions of the German Army under General Erwin Rommel. At Omaha, steep cliffs favoured the defenders and the US Army suffered 2,500 casualties.

The Allies also sent in three airborne divisions, two American and one British, to prepare for the main assault by taking certain strategic points and by disrupting German communications. Of the 23,000 airborne troops, 15,500 were Americans and of these, 6,000 were killed or seriously wounded. Over the next couple of days 156,215 troops were landed from sea and air in Normandy, at a cost of some 10,300 casualties.

The invasion was a great success but he was later criticised by Omar Bradley and George Patton for not fighting a more positive campaign and argued that if he had forced General Bernard Montgomery to have fought more aggressively in Caen the German Army would have been trapped in Normandy. Instead they were able to retreat back to Nazi Germany and the war was able to continue into 1945.

After the war Eisenhower served briefly as US member of the Allied Commission governing Germany. In November 1945, Eisenhower took over from General George Marshall, as US Army Chief of Staff. His book, Crusade in Europe, was published in 1948. Eisenhower retired in 1948 and became presidency of Columbia University. In 1951 he returned to Europe as Supreme Commander of NATO. Although Eisenhower had never identified himself with any particular political party, in 1952 he was approached about being the Republican Party candidate for president. He accepted and in November easily defeated the Democratic Party candidate, Adlai Stevenson by 33,936,252 votes to 27,314,922.

On 20th January, 1953 Eisenhower became the first soldier-President since Ulysses Grant (1869-77). Eisenhower left party matters to his vice-president, Richard Nixon. His political philosophy was never clearly defined. He was against enlarging the role of government in economic matters but he did support legislation fixing a minimum wage and the extension of social security. Eisenhower also refused to speak out against Joe McCarthy and members of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) until they began to attack his army commanders in 1954.

Eisenhower's government was severely concerned about the success of communism in South East Asia. Between 1950 and 1953 they had lost 142,000 soldiers in attempting to stop communism entering South Korea. The United States feared that their efforts would have been wasted if communism were to spread to South Vietnam. Eisenhower was aware that he would have difficulty in persuading the American public to support another war so quickly after Korea. He therefore decided to rely on a small group of Military Advisers' to prevent South Vietnam becoming a communist state.

In 1956 Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson again. This time the margin was even greater with Eisenhower winning 35,585,316 votes to Stevenson's 26,031,322. The following year he controversially sent federal troops to Little Rock to enforce the Supreme Court decision to desegregate schooling.

In foreign affairs during this period he relied heavily on Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. During the Suez Crisis President Dwight Eisenhower refused to support the Anglo-French action against Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Afterwards his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, became concerned about the growing influence of the Soviet Union in the Middle East.

In January 1957 made a speech in Congress where Eisenhower recommended the use of American forces to protect Middle East states against overt aggression from nations "controlled by international communism". He also urged the provision of economic aid to those countries with anti-communist governments. This new foreign policy became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine.

When Eisenhower left office as one of the most popular presidents in American history. He was admired for his integrity, modesty, strength and a flair for conciliation. He retired to his farm in Gettysburg and devoted much of his time to writing his memoirs. Mandate For Change (1963), Waging Peace (1965) and At Ease (1967). Dwight David Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969.




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