Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November Book of the Month

Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life
Carlo D’este
Henry Holt and Company, 2002

Thirty-Fourth President

Born: October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas

Died: March 28, 1969 in Washington D.C.

The roster of The Long Gray Line for the class of 1915 at West Point reads like a military Who’s Who of WWII. More than half the class of 115 graduates who served in the War became Generals. It was the “class the stars fell on” with two four-stars, seven three-stars, twenty-four two-stars, and twenty-five one stars. Additionally, there were two five-stars and one President of the United States: Eisenhower, possibly the most famous USMA graduate of the 20th Century. The Class of 1915 is the most famous in West Point history. It is the class that saved the world from the evils of the fascist tyrants. There will never be another like it!

D’Este writes a most compelling and readable biography of Eisenhower’s life as a soldier that leads to him becoming a national hero and one of the most universally respected Americans of his time. He rightly notes that more than a half century later it is still difficult to grasp fully the enormity of Eisenhower’s responsibilities. Even so, in war or peace, Eisenhower always insisted he was not an indispensable man. It was only the people that worked for him or the citizens of the country that he worked for that considered him indispensable. The verdict became overwhelming as he was accepted by the free world as one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated military commanders!

As one of six “hellions’ brothers from the wrong side of town all, including Ike, would never have dreamed that he would be thrust into the leadership of an international coalition of disparate peoples charged by Marshall to lead the Allied forces to victory during WWII. Only the shared hatred for Hitler and Eisenhower’s calming demeanor brought them together for this common cause. General Eisenhower is largely credited as the major military player that saved our Civilization from the evils of fascism. Oddly, her son’s profession was especially disconcerting to his mother, Ida Eisenhower, who had an abhorrence of war and never really reconciled her religious beliefs with his life choice.

Some historians have noted that Eisenhower was an astonishing man, one of the most astonishing in American history. He was born David Dwight Eisenhower but was best known as Ike. He exuded public confidence but was a nervous bundle of energy in private. During the intensity leading up to the Normandy invasion General Eisenhower was once heard to comment, “I hope to God I know what I am doing”; but, once the invasion was launched he somberly noted, “No one can stop it now”. The personal stress was so great that Ike increased his smoking habit to four packs of Chesterfields per day.

“I like Ike” still resonates among the American populace that elected General Eisenhower as our country’s thirty-fourth President. The author opines that Ike would have been elated merely to be remembered as a good soldier. And, that he was, as were all who have signed the blank check to enter into military service to defend the country up to and including their life asking nothing in return but dignity from their fellow countrymen. West Point’s teachings of Duty, Honor, Country became living values that served General Eisenhower and our soldiers well as we entered into one of the world’s great conflagrations. It was a time of dark despair for the democracies as the defeat of our Allies seemed eminent and our European military forces were now being trusted to a General of unknown fighting ability.

Carlo D’Este chronicles this portrait of Eisenhower’s life from birth to his Victory in WWII. Through it all, Ike remained an unpretentious man hoping that in the end to ‘gain an eternal peace for this world’. As Supreme Commander to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, General Eisenhower released the following statement, devoid of self-congratulation, declaring the War in Europe officially ended: The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945. Eisenhower. Ike was now a man for the ages.

I remember well the glorious news of that day, as do many of you. Celebrations were in order in every city and town in the country. The excitement for every citizen was palpable. The long ordeal was almost over with only Japan left to defeat. Families would finally be reunited. The headline in very newspaper was VICTORY! The exhilaration of that day is forever with each of us. It remains a defining moment in the lives of all. Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life is a chance to relive it minute-by-minute, battle-by-battle, and person-by-person.

Lastly, Eisenhower’s military and subsequent civilian leadership roles would seem to be a true model for today’s political leaders. His solid educational background honed by years of worldwide interactions within the highest levels of commerce and government created a proven, tested professional to assume national leadership. That background seems to be sorely missing among many of today’s leaders with their vacuous knowledge of economics, military affairs, and the role of America in today’s world. Ike and his colleagues seem to have been true adults in the room when measured against many of today’s sycophantic politicians that seek personal power for personal gain. Ike exuded a trustworthiness that few today do. I truly like Ike and wish there were more like him. . Enjoy!

Reviewed for our C-133 site
Richard Spencer
39th ATS, DAFB, 1962-1965

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Debra said...

As always, an interesting review! Besides his leadership in war, Eisenhower also set down our highway system, which has also served us so well. Where are the leaders who think about our infrastructure today?

Hans and Diane said...

Never fear, Debra. Our Government will now provide! Thanks for following Rick's Reviews and leaving a Comment!

Rick Spencer said...

The July 26, 2009, edition of the WSJ has an article titled "The Class of Generals". The West Point class of 1976 produced the generals running the nation's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as their key deputies. All told, 33 active and retired Generals were among its 855 graduates. Even though the class of 1915 is known as 'the class the stars fell upon' there is an argument that the class of 1976 is becoming just as influential. Maybe, there is a president among them! The article is well worth reading for its human interest as well as it being the first modern generation of officers to enter the Army without serving in Vietnam.