If administration and planning were the prime ingredients of martial greatness, then Dwight David Eisenhower was surely one of the greatest commanders of all time.
Born in Denison, third of seven boys, Dwight graduated from Abilene High School in 1909 AD. Lacking the funds to attend any normal college, he applied and was accepted to West Point in 1911; although he graduated, his reputation was that of a violator of academy regulations and less than stellar student. After West Point, Eisenhower experienced several years of professional frustration and disappointment. World War I ended a week before he was scheduled to go to Europe, so he missed all the fun and promotions there. But he proved his organizational (and political) skills by serving as aide to generals Fox Conner, John J. Pershing and then to Douglas MacArthur.
Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he remained until June 1942 helping lay out the American strategy for fighting Germany and Japan. His organizational skills so impressed General George Marshall that he appointed Eisenhower Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force for the invasion of North Africa. So successful at pushing paper and keeping the egos of Allied commanders in check was he that he was put in charge of Operation Overlord, the Allied assault on Nazi-occupied Europe.
After the war, Eisenhower was briefly president of Columbia University, then with the outbreak of the Korean War took a leave to serve as Supreme Commander of NATO. Upon his return, “Ike” – having dabbled in the martial and academic spheres – entered the far more ruthless world of politics. He easily beat Democrat candidate Adlai Stevenson for American president in 1952 and 1956. With Richard Nixon as his vice president, Eisenhower proved surprisingly effective and popular. He waged the Cold War, began the reforms of civil rights, continued the New Deal, and even balanced the budget. One of the better presidents in some time, he next took on the onerous task of heading Gettysburg College, dying in March 1969.