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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dwight Eisenhower Vision

Ike's vision now key to US military thinking

ABILENE, Kan. – When Dwight Eisenhower planned the World War II invasion that wrested Europe from Hitler's hands, he believed — as many strategists do today — that victory and a lasting peace required more than military might.

Sixty-five years after D-Day, Eisenhower's thinking underpins military doctrine of the U.S. and its allies facing new conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He had seen the slaughter of World War II and took personally the death of every Allied soldier," said Jim Leyerzapf, staff archivist at Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, which holds a vast record of Eisenhower's thinking both during and after the war. "He had to honor the sacrifices of those who died by doing all he could to keep America engaged in the world."

The modern doctrine of using more than military strength to stabilize fragile nations like Iraq and Afghanistan — relying on economic aid, diplomacy and information as well — has roots in a long forgotten speech Eisenhower gave in July 1951 at a dinner in London.

With American support, Eisenhower said, Europe could unify its economies and governments behind common goals, providing no fertile soil for communism to take hold and create instability.

"The hand of the aggressor is stayed by strength and strength alone!" Eisenhower asserted. A copy of the text, with editing marks, is in the library's archives.

When he led the troops during World War II, Eisenhower projected confidence, believing that exuding optimism was as important as the planning he did for battle, papers in his library show.

But privately, Eisenhower worried about the Normandy invasion's success, consuming coffee and cigarettes, but getting little sleep, as he planned the operations.

He even scribbled a note on a slip of paper the night of June 5 as troops began crossing the English Channel, taking full responsibility in the event of failure. He ordered it destroyed, but the note survives at his museum.

Leading up to the invasion, Eisenhower had to work at convincing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the operation would succeed, going so far as to promise to be in Germany by Christmas.

"He said his mother told him 'God deals the cards, but you play them,'" Leyerzapf said.

D-Day opened a second front in Europe, which Eisenhower hoped would force Germany's surrender by the end of 1944. He wasn't far off the mark: The actual surrender came in May 1945.

Eisenhower was aware that the battle and the ensuing peace would restore the nations that had been under Nazi control and lead to a divided Germany, papers in the library show.

After the war, he became Army chief of staff, then commander of NATO, the new alliance formed to protect Europe from future conflict and Soviet aggression.

Allan Millett, director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, said that as president from 1953-61, Eisenhower understood what would be the cost of another major conflict in Europe.

Eisenhower said the price of military success could never be fully measured.

"But I do know this," he said in June 1954 meeting with news correspondents, according to a transcript. "That out of it all, the people who know war, those that experienced it — you writers, the fighting men — I believe we are the most earnest advocates of peace in the world."

He continued: "I believe these people who talk about peace academically but who never had to dive in a ditch when a Messerschmitt 109 came over, they really don't know what it is."


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