Read an Excerpt
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, General of the Army, and Thirty-fourth President of the United States, was one of the dynamic and influential men of the twentieth century. As his only son to survive early childhood, I was able to observe him in different circumstances, sometimes official and sometimes intimate. Though I have previously avoided writing a book devoted solely to him, I have, through the years, read enough misleading material, most of it written by people who have no idea of what he was really like, that I finally decided to record my own view of him. Some of my conclusions are based on what I observed, but much stems from what I have learned in the course of my own writings. No matter how biased in his favor my slant may be, it cannot add much to the confusion that already exists.
I never called my father "Ike" to his face. It was always "Dad." Still, in this book I'll always refer to him by his popular nickname, partly for convenience and even more because "Ike" was, to all intents and purposes, his real name. That short, pithy epithet that connotes "roughneck" in the Old West was his. It served him well as an icebreaker in the Army. It was even more useful in politics. Eisenhower was the only President out of forty-three as of this writing to be burdened with a last name of four syllables. Can you imagine the public chanting, "We like Eisenhower"? Or even "We like Dwight"? Ike was more than a name; it was his persona.
By no stretch of the imagination is this book a comprehensive biography of Ike, nor is it even a history of the battles he fought. Instead, my essays will deal almost exclusively with Ike's relations with his associates, for the simple reason that the facets of his personality appear differently depending on the individual he was dealing with at a given time. Ike was one man when assigning a mission to General George Patton, another when interacting with Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, and yet another when working with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Admittedly, the structure I have chosen brings with it certain difficulties. One is the matter of chronology. More serious is the fact that various incidents in the Second World War appear in more than one chapter. To avoid dreary repetition, therefore, I have tried to avoid covering the details of a single incident in more than one place. Some overlap is, unfortunately, inevitable, and some incidents must be at least mentioned more than once in order for each chapter to stand on its own.
Ike had two separate careers, the military and the political. In my own mind, there were really two Ikes. The military Ike faded from the picture when he returned to the United States from Frankfurt in November of 1945, ending his occupation duties in Germany. The Ike of the next quarter century was the political Ike, or at least the politico-military Ike.
I have chosen to write about the military Ike, even though the consequences of his activities during the Second World War often carried over into his presidency. The main reason I have done so is that I know more about Ike's career as a soldier than I do his career as a civilian. I am also convinced that Ike's military career was far more important to him personally than his political life. Though I believe that he was an excellent President, especially in his role as commander-in-chief, he did not worry much about what his political opponents said about him in that position. When it came to his military judgments, however, he was vociferous in defending the validity of his decisions. As he contemplated his career at the end of his life, nearly all the men he considered "great" came from the war days, not the political era. To me, at least, Ike's place in history will hinge far more on his days in uniform than on his days in the White House.
With those limitations in mind I have given a son's view of a great military leader highly intelligent, strong, forceful, kind, yet as human as the rest of us.
Copyright © 2003 by John S.D. Eisenhower