Eisenhower's Prewar Anonymity: Myth or Reality?
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI
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Dwight D. Eisenhower ranks among the preeminent military leaders of the 20th century. In the wake of the centennial year of his birth, historians have showered him with well-deserved accolades for his leadership and contributions. Yet, even among experts, the popular perception still persists that had it not been for World War II, Dwight Eisenhower would have lived his entire life in relative obscurity. Samuel P. Huntington best reflects the conventional wisdom in his assertion that Eisenhower was still an unknown lieutenant colonel as the world moved toward involvement in the war. Was Eisenhower, as Samuel Huntington suggested, an unknown lieutenant colonel at the outset of the war Hardly. The available evidence emphatically says no. Here was an officer who had commanded in excess of 10,000 men within three years of his graduation from West Point. He was promoted early to lieutenant colonel. He earned the Distinguished Service Medal for conspicuous service in a stateside environment. He graduated first in his class at the Command and General Staff School. From 1926 to 1941, he earned superior ratings and commendations from Pershing, MacArthur, and Krueger, as well as from the senior civilian executives in the War Department. Ike was not unknown. Based on the recent declassification of Ikes personal papers and official 201 file, this article posits that although Eisenhower may not have been as recognizable within the civilian community, he was widely respected within the Army as a brilliant staff officer whose extraordinary skills had made him virtually indispensable to some of the most distinguished soldiers and statesmen of his generation. Moreover, the evidence demonstrates that Eisenhowers performance of duty since his graduation from Command and General Staff School in 1926 marked him for the highest echelons of military command, war or no war.
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