Dwight D. Eisenhower
Two of the five men who have held the rank of General of the Army, Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, could be quite acerbic in their assessments of each other. MacArthur in 1947 referred to Eisenhower as the best clerk he ever had, and Eisenhower was fond of saying that he studied dramatics under MacArthur. Both assessments had a fair amount of truth. Eisenhower was the consummate military manager, but he lacked almost all skill as a commander of forces in combat. His one taste of such command, in North Africa, produced distinctly lackluster results. As for MacArthur he was overly dramatic, a penchant that played well in the Victorian world in which he was born, but often seemed ludicrous by World War II.
It is intriguing to speculate about what sort of command team they would have made if they had served together in World War II. As Chief of Staff for MacArthur, Eisenhower would have been indispensable in making the most of the resources that MacArthur got at the tail end of a very long supply chain. His skill at diplomacy would have smoothed the ruffled feathers of Presidents, as well as the often stormy relations that MacArthur had with the Navy and the Australians. MacArthur would have contributed the streak of strategic and operational brilliance that Eisenhower sorely lacked. Continue reading
Seventy years ago General Eisenhower was honored at the Guildhall in London by being presented with a ceremonial sword and being made an honorary Londoner. His speech, that he gave without notes, is quite eloquent and belies his usual reputation of being a poor public speaker. It deserves to be better known and here is the text of the speech:
The high sense of distinction I feel in receiving this great honor from the city of London is inescapably mingled with feelings of profound sadness. All of us must always regret that your country and mine were ever faced with the tragic situation that compelled the appointment of an Allied Commander-in-Chief, the capacity in which I have just been so extravagantly commended.
Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends. Conceivably a commander may have been professionally superior. He may have given everything of his heart and mind to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his comrades. He may have written a chapter that will glow forever in the pages of military history. Still, even such a man, if he existed, would sadly face the fact that his honors cannot hide in his memories the crosses marking the resting places of the dead. They cannot soothe the anguish of the widow or the orphan whose husband or whose father will not return.
The only attitude in which a commander may with satisfaction receive the tributes of his friends is a humble acknowledgement that, no matter how unworthy he may be, his position is a symbol of great human forces that have labored arduously and successfully for a righteous cause. Unless he feels this symbolism and this rightness in what he has tried to do, then he is disregardful of the courage, the fortitude and the devotion of the vast multitudes he has been honored to command. If all the allied men and women that have served with me in this war can only know that it is they this august body is really honoring today, then, indeed, will I be content. Continue reading
Eisenhower, on D-Day morning distributed to the troops a general order, which is like a handbill, and everybody read it. And he said “we are about to embark upon the great crusade, which we have been preparing for, for many months” etc.
Now at first none of us could believe it was anything like a crusade, because we were playing dice, and we were thinking about girls all the time and getting drunk as possible and so forth. It wasn’t like a crusade, there was not religious dimension to whatever. When they finally got across France and into Germany, and saw the German death camps, they realized that they had been in engaged in something like a crusade, although none of them called it that. And it all began to make a kind of sense to us.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today
Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.
On this Memorial Day I thought that we might want to look at Eisenhower’s Gettysburg Address. On the 100th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1963, President Kennedy had to beg off appearing due to his trip to Texas, a trip that would end in tragedy on November 22, 1963 in Dallas. Former President Eisenhower, a resident of Gettysburg, agreed to speak in his place. Eisenhower in his brief address viewed Lincoln’s speech not as of merely historical interest, but rather an ongoing challenge to the nation. Here is what he said:
We mark today the centennial of an immortal address. We stand where Abraham Lincoln stood as, a century ago, he gave to the world words as moving in their solemn cadence as they are timeless in their meaning. Little wonder it is that, as here we sense his deep dedication to freedom, our own dedication takes added strength.
Lincoln had faith that the ancient drums of Gettysburg, throbbing mutual defiance from the battle lines of the blue and the gray, would one day beat in unison, to summon a people, happily united in peace, to fulfill, generation by generation, a noble destiny. His faith has been justified – but the unfinished work of which he spoke in 1863 is still unfinished; because of human frailty, it always will be.
Where we see the serenity with which time has invested this hallowed ground, Lincoln saw the scarred earth and felt the press of personal grief. Yet he lifted his eyes to the future, the future that is our present. He foresaw a new birth of freedom, a freedom and equality for all which, under God, would restore the purpose and meaning of America, defining a goal that challenges each of us to attain his full stature of citizenship.
We read Lincoln’s sentiments, we ponder his words – the beauty of the sentiments he expressed enthralls us; the majesty of his words holds us spellbound – but we have not paid to his message its just tribute until we – ourselves – live it. For well he knew that to live for country is a duty, as demanding as is the readiness to die for it. So long as this truth remains our guiding light, self-government in this nation will never die.
True to democracy’s basic principle that all are created equal and endowed by the Creator with priceless human rights, the good citizen now, as always before, is called upon to defend the rights of others as he does his own; to subordinate self to the country’s good; to refuse to take the easy way today that may invite national disaster tomorrow; to accept the truth that the work still to be done awaits his doing.
On this day of commemoration, Lincoln still asks of each of us, as clearly as he did of those who heard his words a century ago, to give that increased devotion to the cause for which soldiers in all our wars have given the last full measure of devotion. Our answer, the only worthy one we can render to the memory of the great emancipator, is ever to defend, protect and pass on unblemished, to coming generations the heritage – the trust – that Abraham Lincoln, and all the ghostly legions of patriots of the past, with unflinching faith in their God, have bequeathed to us – a nation free, with liberty, dignity, and justice for all.
Soon we will remember D-Day on June 6, this year being the 70th anniversary of that longest day. Here is what Eisenhower wrote to the troops who were embarking on, as he termed it, the Great Crusade:
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle.
We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
Sacrificing for freedom for Eisenhower was not just an empty political phrase. As he wrote these words he knew that many of the men who read it would be paying the ultimate price so that people long after they were dead, generations unknown to them, would enjoy the freedom they were about to die for. Continue reading
Yesterday we had a post which noted the appearance of In God We Trust on US coinage after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1864. The phrase became the national motto in 1956 pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress which should be celebrated for its brevity as well as for its substance:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
- That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be “In God we trust.´´
Approved July 30, 1956.
President Eisenhower summed up the sentiments that led to the adoption of “In God we trust” as the national motto in remarks he made on October 24, 1954 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the light bulb:
FAITH, faith and the American individual. Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.
It was Thomas Edison who said: “Be courageous; be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith. Go forward .”
Seventy-five years ago this very week, Tom Edison–a humble, typical sort of American–put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.
It is faith that has made our Nation–has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe–and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.
We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land-and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.
“In God we trust.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.
We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.
Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.
Good night. Continue reading
Retired Archbishop Philip. M. Hannan of New Orleans, still alive at the age of 97, discusses his service in the video above, made in 2007, with the 505th parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne in World War II. Ordained at the North American College in Rome on December 8, 1939, he served with the 82nd Airborne as a chaplain from 1942-46, and was known as the Jumping Padre. He was assigned to be the chaplain of the 505th Regiment with the rank of Captain shortly after the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. He had many adventures during his time with the 505th, but perhaps the most poignant was what happened to him on May 5th, 1945, in the final days of the War in Europe.
On May 5, 1945, the 505th overran a concentration camp near Wobbelin in Germany. Captain Hannan and his assistant James Ospital hurried to the camp to see what they could do to help. A scene of complete horror awaited them. Corpses were sprawled everywhere. Dying prisoners lay in filthy bunks crudely made out of branches. All the prisoners looked like skeletons, both the dead and the living. The camp reeked of the smells of a charnel house and a sewer.