Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) was leader of the Allied forces in Europe in World War II, commander of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and the thirty-fourth president of the United States, from January 20, 1953, to January 20, 1961.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third son of David Jacob Eisenhower, a railroad worker, and Ida Elizabeth Stover. In 1891, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where David accepted a job at a local creamery run by the Mennonite River Brethren. His parents had a Pennsylvania Dutch background and raised their six sons in a modest, religious household. In 1909 Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School, where he had earned a reputation as an avid student of history and an athlete. He worked at the creamery for two years before attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. There he earned the nickname "Ike." He graduated from West Point in 1915. While stationed in San Antonio, Texas, he met Mamie Doud, whom he married on July 1, 1916. The couple would later have two sons. Their first son, Doud Dwight Eisenhower, died in childhood; their second son, John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, graduated from West Point and served as a White House assistant to his father.
During World War I, the Army assigned him training duties, and he was commander of a tank encampment at Camp Colt in Pennsylvania. He advanced through the ranks to become first lieutenant in July 1916, captain in May 1917, major in June 1918, and lieutenant colonel in October 1918. In June 1920 he reverted to captain and regained the rank of major six months later. From 1922 to 1924, Eisenhower was posted at the Panama Canal Zone as an aide to Brig. Gen. Fox Conner, who rekindled his interest in history and writing. In 1926 he graduated from the Command and General Staff School. In 1927 he served with the American Battle Monuments Commission in Paris under Gen. John J. Pershing. He graduated from the Army War College in 1928. From 1929 to 1932, he was assistant executive to the assistant secretary of war. In 1933, he became a special assistant to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Washington, D.C., and the Philippines. He drafted speeches and papers for MacArthur. In 1940, the Army assigned him regimental executive officer in the 15th Infantry, then chief of staff of 3rd Infantry Division. From March to September 1941, he was chief of staff of IX Corps, then Third Army. He made brigadier general in September 1941.
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Eisenhower reported to Washington, D.C., for an assignment with the war plans division of the War Department General Staff. He rose to major general in April 1942. From June 1942 to November 1943, he served as commander of U.S. Forces in Europe. The Army promoted him to lieutenant general in July 1942 and general in February 1943. In November 1942, he led the invasion of North Africa and, in December of the following year, the invasion of Italy. He commanded Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion launched by the D-Day (June 6, 1944) attacks in northern France. In December 1943, he became supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and held the position until November 1945. In December 1944, he also became General of the U.S. Army with five stars.
After World War II, he served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army until his retirement from the service in May 1948. He then served as president of Columbia University until 1950. At the beginning of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman recalled Eisenhower to active duty and saw to his appointment as Supreme Allied Commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces.
In 1952, the Republican Party selected Eisenhower as its presidential candidate. He defeated Democratic candidate Adlai E. Stevenson. He served two terms as President of the United States, from 1953 to 1961. While president, he demonstrated a casual style of leadership. He devoted his attention to enforcing fiscal conservatism and maintaining peace for the United States. He did not interfere with social changes taking place in America at the time, particularly the African American civil rights movement, although he did send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to settle the unrest related to school desegregation in 1957. In his farewell address as president, he warned of the growing "military-industrial complex" and its effects on the federal government.
His decorations included six Distinguished Service Medals and the Legion of Merit. He authored several books, including Crusade in Europe (1949) and Mandate for Change (1963). He died on March 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C.