Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Here is a story I thought I'd post for Memorial Day, 2011.

Only Ike Did It...All

   Flood time in Kansas, and a boy with his brother whirling helplessly about in a flat-bottomed boat in a rampaging stream...until a cowboy hurled them a line.
   Then, another time, as a boy, in bed ill, floating in and out of consciousness, with the doctor saying it's going to be the boy's life or the leg, one or the other. But the boy, stubborn, said no to amputating his infected, blood-poisoned leg.
   Two weeks later, for whatever reason, he recovered.
   Many years later, now grown up, he was almost lost still another time. Flying from North Africe to the British base at Gibraltar, he was told visibility was practically nil, the landing site ahead was difficult, and there wasn't enough gas to turn back. Even so, the military aircraft landed safely, and Dwight David Eisenhower continued on with life-with an extraordinary and historic career.
   If, at any of these crisis points in his life, he had not survived, someone else would have been in charge of the Allied landings in North Afria. Someone else would have planned and directed the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy. Some other general would have been the Supreme Allied Commander for Operations Overlord-the Normandy invasion- and the subsequent conquest of  Nazi-held Europe. Surely, too, someone else would have been the thirty-fourth U.S. President.
   But could someone else really have done all that?
   Maybe, as the critics sometimes have argued, George C. Marshall should have been the SHAEF commander instead of remaining in Washington as army chief of staff. Maybe some British general would have been better. Maybe "Monty" was another Duke of Wellington whose advice should always have predominated in the Allied councils of war. And maybe Douglas MacArthur was the most brillant of American generals, and maybe George S. Patton was unfairly chastised and so on. Many were the criticisms of good old affable "Ike," sometimes dull-looking and be the time he died at age seventy-eight, retired president, a kindly, worn-shoe sort of face.
   The critics, with all their maybes and implications, sometimes forget that the war was won, the invasion of Europe ultimately was successful (as were those other invasions earlier), and the man at the helm was, indeed, Eisenhower.
   He was born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, but the family moved almost immediately to Abilene, Kansas, where he spent his boyhood. That was where the cowboy rescued him and his brother Edgar with a lasso, where a very young Ike refused to allow amputation of his leg (and brother Edgar slept at the bedroom door to keep the doctors away!).
   Like Napoleon, Ike considered a naval career. But, too old for the Naval Academy at Annapolis, he went to West Point instead. He was a football star, a running back, until a ruined knee sidelined him. Her then became a part-time football coach, a sideline that nearly ruined his post-World War I army career, since he often was assigned new duties based on a commander's need for a good football coach.
   Along the way, though, he befriended Patton and served happily under both Marshall and MacArthur.
   Only a fair student in earlier years, but always an avid reader of military history, he began to shine as a career officer-first in his class at the Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and a widely publicized star at the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941.
   After Pearl Harbor, he served in Washington as chief of was plans for the War Department. Named Commander of Allied Forces in North Africa in the fall of 1942, he could boast in one year that all German forces had been driven out of Africa...and Sicily. Further, Italy had declared itself out of the war, although at the cost of German occupation.
   In the end, it was former aide Eisenhower who was chosen as Supreme Allied Commander, rather than Marshall or MacArthur. It was "Ike" who had to grin and bear it during the bombing or civilian rail yards in France as preparation for D-Day. It was "Ike" who sweated through those two eleventh-hour decisions that "made" D-Day- one holding back the Allied invasion force due to bad weather, and the other unleashing that massive force one day later, despite gossamer-thin predictions of improved weather.
    Someone else might have done some of  it, perhaps even all of it, but they didn't. Only Ike did.

                                                 First published in World War II magazine, November 1990

This story was taken from the book called Best Little Stories From World War II.

    If you have not read this book, I would highly recommend it. There are over 150 true stories from WWII. It is a favorite of mine. I picked the story because I like Dwight Eisenhower and also the fact that he came from Kansas, my home (and favorite) state. Another reason I picked it was because WWII history is my favorite to read about.
 So, if you don't have the book, you better go out and get it. Amazon has it for $12 or cheaper.


1 comment:

  1. You didn't happen to choose him because of your brother did you? :-) jk!


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