Monday, July 23, 2012

Eisenhower in London

Ike Statue Grosvenor Square, London
The Conservative tour of London continues with a swing through Mayfair to Grosvenor square which is home to the American embassy in London.  On the square you will find a statue honoring Dwight David Eisenhower.  This is a particularly appropriate place to honor Ike as it is right near where the Headquarters for SHAEF which planned the European campaign were located.

Eisenhower arrived in London on June 24, 1942 and stayed for the first week at nearby Claridges.  Finding it a bit too gilt-edge for his tastes ("I think I'm living in sin" he told an aid) he moved into the Dorchester hotel across Park Lane from Hyde Park.  It was in wartime London that he first met and fell in love with his driver Kay Summersby.

Patton and Ike
Eisenhower was a good friend and supporter of George S. Patton.  They rode horses together and their families socialized together.  In the pre-war period Eisenhower had aspired to become one of Patton's subordinate regimental commanders.  After Pearl Harbor, Ike leapfrogged Patton to become his superior officer and, eventually, the Supreme Commander of SHAEF.  After the infamous slapping incident in Sicily, Patton might easily have been dismissed as this was a court martial offense.  This would have been the politically correct thing to do.  Ike, however,  recognized Patton's immense talent and value to the allied war effort.  Eisenhower brushed the affair under the rug knowing that Patton was irreplaceable on the battlefield.  The incredible performance of Patton's 3rd Army in the D-Day campaign proved the wisdom of Ike's decision (see earlier post, War without End, 7/18/12).

Eisenhower had an imperfect military record.  He was too timid about landing in Tunisia in North Africa in 1942, he failed to cut off the German retreat from Sicily in 1943 and the landings at Salerno were the closest that the Western allies came to disaster in the war.  Eisenhower's performance as Supreme Commander for Overlord  (D-day and after), however, more than atoned for his earlier shortcomings.  He showed masterful diplomatic and political skills in building a team consensus among disparate allied forces with distinct competing agendas.  The son a railroad worker from Abilene Kansas was able to effectively harness the talents of massive egos such as Patton, Montgomery and De Gaulle.

Some regard the 1950's as a relatively boring time of peace, prosperity and conformity.  President Eisenhower is often remembered as a bland figure who played a lot of golf but didn't do too much.  He seems colorless when sandwiched between the charismatic FDR and JFK's Camelot.  But the 1950's would have been a far darker time had President Eisenhower not been president.

President Eisenhower gives the lie to the popular notion that Republicans or conservatives are warmongers.  Ike was anything, but a "war lover".   Eisenhower said, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can."  "There is no alternative to peace," he famously added.  In his recent biography, Eisenhower in War and Peace (http:/ Jean Edward Smith writes, "He ended a three year no-win war in Korea with honor and dignity."
Latest Ike Bio
Edward Smith continues, "When the National Security Council -- Dulles, Nixon and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff --recommended intervention (including use of nuclear weapons) at Dien Bien Phu to rescue the beleaguered French garrison, Eisenhower similarly rejected the proposal.  'You boys must be crazy.' he told his national security assistant. Robert Cutler.  'We can't use those awful things against Asians for the second time in less than ten years. My God'.  Five years later, when China threatened force against Taiwan, the Joint Chiefs recommended an immediate nuclear response, and once again Eisenhower rejected the idea.

When Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal in 1956, Eisenhower forced them to withdraw, toppling Anthony Eden's government in London, undercutting the Fourth Republic in France, and threatening financial sanctions against Israel.  That repudiation of what Ike called 'old fashioned gunboat diplomacy' not only kept the peace but enhanced American prestige throughout the world.

Domestically, Eisenhower tamed inflation, slashed defense spending, balanced the federal budget and worked easily with a Democratic Congress...In 1957, when a United States District court in Little Rock, Arkansas, ordered the desegregation of Central High, Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to enforce the court's order.  if he had not acted, and if he had not used overwhelming force to ensure compliance with the district court's order, desegregation in the South would have been set back at least a generation.  'Sending in the troops was the hardest decision I had had to make since D-Day, ' Eisenhower said afterward.  'But Goddamn it, it was the only thing I could do.'

Eisenhower was a progressive conservative.  (Commander Kelly's Italics)  He believed traditional American values encompassed change and progress...

As president, Eisenhower restored stability to the nation.  His levelheaded leadership ensured that the United States would move forward in measured steps under the rule of law at home and collective security abroad....Eisenhower gave the nation eight years of peace and prosperity.  No other president in the twentieth century can make that claim."  Eisenhower in War and Peace (http:/ Jean Edward Smith.

Commander Kelly says, "Eisenhower's greatest accomplishment, among so many, may have been in driving the rot of isolationism out of the Republican party. A balanced budget, peace and prosperity -- I like Ike; too bad he's not on the ballot in November 2012!"*

* In defense of Romney, he does resemble Eisenhower in terms of the fact that both men have proven leadership ability in a field outside of politics.  Both these Republicans could also be considered "Progressive Conservatives" in Smith's phrase.

Ike's D-Day Speech

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades or on

No comments: