General Dwight D. Eisenhower


Patricia Truslow, Contributor

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Dwight Eisenhower's military career began when he was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1911 from whence he graduated in 1915. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and served in Texas as a trainer, a position that prevented him from being in active combat during World War I. Following the end of the war, Eisenhower was directly involved with some of the Army's most important and influential men, such as George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur. Through his work with these distinguished men, Eisenhower earned the reputation of being a premier and promising staff officer.

When the United States entered World War II, Dwight Eisenhower was a Brigadier General in charge of the Army war plans. Within five months, Eisenhower was put in command of the U.S. military in the British Isles. As Lieutenant General Eisenhower, he led the invasion of North Africa and the fight that drove the Italian and German forces back from the Mediterranean shoreline. In early 1943, Dwight Eisenhower was promoted to the rank of general. President Franklin Roosevelt made him Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in that same year.

Dwight Eisenhower, as Supreme Commander, was responsible for the Normandy invasion during June 1944 as well as the land campaign that resulted in Germany surrendering in 1945, eleven months after Normandy. In December, 1944, he was promoted to the rank of 5-star general, or General of the Army. He became Chief of Staff of the Army in November 1945, a post he held until 1948.

After a brief stint as president of Columbia University from 1948 until 1950, General Dwight Eisenhower again assumed command of a military operation, specifically the Allied forces in Europe from 1951 until 1952 during a time when the Korean War seemed likely to become World War III.

As president, Dwight Eisenhower spoke often about the "military industrial complex," a conceptual term referring to the budgetary and policy relationships between the three components of the military-related family: the legislators, the national armed forces and the industrial base that supports military operations. President Eisenhower coined the phrase to include these entities and operations saying, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." The phrase, "military industrial complex" has since been used by opponents of military expansion.

Among the hundreds of memorials and honors bestowed upon Dwight Eisenhower for his military contributions, none is more indicative of the man and his mission than the naming of a U.S. ship in his honor. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) or "Ike" as the ship is often called is an aircraft carrier commissioned in 1977. She was launched on October 11, 1975 after being christened by Dwight Eisenhower's widow, Mamie. On being commissioned, she replaced World War II carrier, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Nimitz fleet. How ironic that only one president, Harry Truman, came between the two men whose memorial ships were so interconnected.