Eisenhower’s Military & Political History
Dwight’s attendance and graduation from West Point, the United States Military Academy, was a disappointment to Ida, due to her religious convictions that warfare was “rather wicked” but she didn’t over-rule him. He married in July 1916 while stationed as a Lieutenant in Texas. After World War 1, he moved up the ranks to Major which he held for 16 years. In 1936, he was promoted to Permanent Lieutenant Colonel. In June 1941, he was appointed Chief of Staff to General Walter Krueger and then in October of that year he was promoted to Brigadier General. In November 1942, he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force of the North African Theater of Operations. In January 1944, he also became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In recognition of his senior position in the Allied Command, he was promoted to General of the Army (equivalent to Field Marshall) in December of 1944.
Following Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone. Upon discovery of the Concentration Camps, he ordered camera crews to document evidence of the atrocities in them for use in the Nuremberg Trials. In response to the devastation in Germany, including food shortages and an influx of refugees, he arranged distribution of American food and medical equipment. He was against the use of atomic bombs, including Truman’s use of it against the Japanese, saying, “First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon.”
In November 1945, he returned to Washington as Chief of Staff of the Army. It was also in that year that Truman said he would help him win the 1948 Presidential Election. As the election approached, many other prominent individuals, citizens & politicians, urged him to run for president. But, in 1948, he became President of Columbia University, New York. While there, he wrote and published his war memoir Crusades in Europe. In 1950, he took extended leave from the University to become Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe.
In 1951, President Truman pressed Eisenhower to run for president in the 1952 elections as a Democrat. But, Eisenhower declared himself and his family Republican. The Republican Party convinced him that there was a mandate from the people for him to be their president. In June 1952, he resigned his position from NATO to campaign full-time for President of the United States of America. In the elections, he defeated the Democrat Candidate 442 to 89 marking the first Republican to return to the White House in 20 years.
Eisenhower was the last president born in the 19th century and was the only general to serve as president in the 20th century. One of Eisenhower’s enduring achievements was championing and signing the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956.