This first biography of General Dwight David Eisenhower was completed in 1944, after the successful invasion of Italy but before the invasion of Europe on 6/6/1944.
One can tell right away that it was written in a simpler time….the langauage used and the pure patriotism are most interesting and feel good to read after all the news of today and how it is presented. There is little nuance or subtelty in the book. It is plain spoken, so much so that it almost seems naive. I do not recall where I found this, probably in some antique shop…if the subject is Eisenhower and it is something I do not already own, I buy it…no questions asked. And I am glad I did. This was a delight to read and reminded me of a time when life was not so fast and not so complicated and not so filled with controversy; when anger was less frequently encountered and when it was, it was more tightly focused.
This is different from the scholarly texts that record every detail and date and conversation. Fact is, this contains much I had never read before. Perhaps because it was so plain, so common, so loving of the lives people led and the things that they did, these incidents never made it into the later books. A quote from the beginning of the book sets the stage and captures the spirit that I refer to:
“Honest, thoughtful, considerate of the rights of others, sympathetic and firm in their religious principles, these home towns are the soul of America.”
Ike’s mothers great..grandparents had this as a “Prenuptial Contract”:
“2ly. The husband promises heartily to love and honour his beloved wife, Maria Magdelena, and to provide for her maintenance and clothes according as his station and condition will afford & as behooves Christian husband also.”
“3ly. Maria Magdelena promises to love and honour her husband and in all things, & in love & faithfulness to obey his lawful commandments as a Christian wife ought to do.”
…and so on
Ike’s birthday is 10/14/1890, six days before mine of 10/20/1945
One thing about Eisenhower that gets little mention is his lack of racial prejudice. This is visible in the early years of his life in Kansas and shows up in his treatment of “Colored” soldiers during the war. His parents were distinctive in this regard and passed their beliefs to their children. Speaking of Ike’s mother:
A quote from Ike that has a familiar ring to it:
“Things are going along quite well here at the moment but somethimes I get a bit dismayed when I hear that many of our “leading thinkers” at home are saying, ‘We have won the war but are losing the peace.”
“No one wants war less than soldiers, because they know best what it costs.”
Even then, some of the soldiers were known to shout: “Eisenhower for President.”!
Again, regarding equal rights:
“While solving the problems of the soldier boys with human devotion and practical common sense, he overlooked nothing that he felt would make them happy. He knew neither race nor creed; they were all somebody’s sons. There were a large number of Negro troops stationed in England whose social opportunities were severly by the lack of women of their race. General Eisenhower remedied the situation by informing Colonel Oteva Culp Hobby, head of the WAAC, and steps were taken to have a large number of Negro WAAC’s assigned to Great Britain.
“We are giving Negro troops equal status in the military field,” the General stated. “We must give them the same consideration in their personal relationships. We are all giving our lives to our country together.”
There is a mention of “National Bible Week”….can you imagine this today?
On the matter of race…it dawned on me that the fair and equal treatment given to Black soldiers in the war set a precedent and standard for the future. When these soldiers came home, they were denied this same treatment…eventually it bubbles up into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.
A story that speaks to this man’s character and why he was so loved by his soldiers goes something like this (I do not have the book in front of me so this is from memory): During the North Africa campaign, Ike got far too close to the German lines, came under fire and risked capture. To evade the Germans, he, and a lone driver took a long and out-of-the-way path back to his headquarters. They drove all night, trading off the driving duties. At one point in the night, the other fellow was driving and fell asleep at the wheel. The jeep ended up in a ditch, from which they had a difficult time extricating themselves. When they arrived back at HQ, his adventures were related to the staff. When asked what he did to discipline the soldier driver who fell asleep at the wheel – Ike said that his punishment was to be sent to the hospital to sleep as long as he wished and not to be disturbed. There are a lot of stories told of Ike like this one and they spread through the troops….and they loved him.
Attached is an mp3 file recording of a statement Ike released from North Africa associated with a War Bond Drive. The statements about “support from the folks back home” are still true…..<Lost this…need to find it again>