Dwight D. Eisenhower
Momentous events permit gifted leaders to rise to greatness. World War II offered Dwight David Eisenhower one of these rare opportunities for success, and he seized the day with a singular mixture of intelligence, intuition and character. The presidency would not offer an equal opportunity.
Eisenhower was one of six sons raised in Abilene, Kansas by religiously devout Pennsylvania Dutch parents who preached and practiced morality, the work ethic and pacifism. Despite their strict heritage, the boys were given sufficient freedom for Ike to become a popular and competitive member of the "gang." Although his interest was more with athletics than with books, he had pleased his mother by reading the Bible from cover to cover as a young boy. Achievement, commitment, humility, fulfillment of duty, and hard work, were all inculcated into the Eisenhower boys. Throughout his professional career Eisenhower conveyed some hint of repressed rebelliousness to this burden of service thrust upon him. The most obvious indication of this was the rage he would express at unexpected moments. His fierce temper, which would expend itself quickly, was legendary. His vacillation on accepting the nomination for President and his occasional reluctance to confront may also have reflected this hidden resentment.
His military prowess was clearly revealed in 1926 when he graduated first in his class in the Army's Command and General Staff School. His many years as aide to General MacArthur in Washington and in the Philippines gave him insight into the military as well as national and international politics. Pearl Harbor brought him into a close working relationship with General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, for whom he prepared a briefing on the military and political implications of the Japanese attack. Eisenhower, cogent, direct, concise, and both militarily and politically astute, quickly became head of planning for the Army, and by June of 1942, little more than six months after Pearl Harbor, he was named Commanding General, European Theater of Operations. It was a tribute to Eisenhower, but also to the judgment of Marshall, Roosevelt and Churchill.