"Eisenhower in Perspective: Ranking Him Among the Great Commanders of American History" 

by Russell F. Weigley
Professor of History, Temple University

Copyright 1991
Department of History
Kansas State University
Eisenhower Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506‑7186, USA


by John M. McCulloh
Head and Professor, Kansas State University Department of History

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the History Department's fourth biennial Dwight D. Eisenhower Lecture in War and Peace. Before we proceed with the main event, I would like to make a few acknowledgments and introductions. 

The Eisenhower Lecture series has been made possi­ble through an endowment established with the gener­ous support of Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Educational Foundation and augmented by numerous smaller gifts over the years since the inception of the series in 1984. These contributions make it possible for us to supplement our normal academic program by inviting to our campus outstanding scholars who can spend several days in Manhattan visiting classes and associating with both students and faculty as well as performing the particularly public function of deliver­ing an Eisenhower Lecture.

Without the financial underpinning provided by the endowment, these events would not take place. But equally important are the people who contribute their time and effort to the planning and execution of the program that culminates in this lecture. With this in mind, I would like to extend my thanks to the depart­ment's Eisenhower Lecture Committee and in particu­lar to Professor Donald J. Mrozek, who handled the organization and scheduling for our lecturer's visit, and Professor Robin Higham, who oversees the publication of the lecture. I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize Ms. Anita Specht, who is seated here on the stage. Ms. Specht is president of our local chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international honor society in history, and her presence here is symbolic of our desire to recognize the contributions of this student group to our department. The Eisenhower Lecture Committee owes them a debt of gratitude for their assistance in publicizing this event, but this is only a small part of an annual calendar of activities that have brought K‑State's group the organization's award for the best chapter in the nation for eight years in succession.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Eisenhower Lecture is a biennial affair, but this year it has special significance because 1990 marks the cen­tennial of the birth of the man whom this series commemorates, and as a result, we are tonight partici­pating in and contributing to a celebration that reaches far beyond this hall. To say a few words about these festivities, I would like to welcome the Director of the Kansas Eisenhower Centennial Commission, Mr.Ron Parks.

Ron Parks:

Thank‑you, Professor McCulloh. Good evening. On behalf of the Kansas Eisenhower Centennial Commis­sion I would like to express appreciation to Kansas State University for its ongoing commitment to the study of the life and times of Dwight Eisenhower as demonstrated in this fourth Dwight D. Eisenhower Lecture in War and Peace. The commission is fully cognizant of the appropriateness of K‑State as a setting for research and discussion about Dwight Eisenhower; after all the ties between Ike and K‑State are many and deep. I would like to add this very minor footnote: the only time that I was ever in the presence of Dwight Eisenhower was here at K‑State when he gave the commencement address in Ahearn Fieldhouse to my brother's graduation class of 1966.

The Commission also wishes to acknowledge the efforts of K‑State's radio station, KKSU, for the pro­duction of the "Minute with Ike" series, which has been sent to radio stations throughout the state, and the rebroadcast currently underway on KKSU of ten of the original "Eisenhower Years" programs. these pro­grams are excellent and our complements to Ralph Titus and the KKSU staff.

By participating in the Kansas Eisenhower Centen­nial KSU has joined with thousands of Kansans who have engaged their communities in the process of celebrating Ike's 100th birthday. Since the official beginning on Kansas Day the centennial has been observed in big and little towns in every section of the state, and it has been a privilege to be a part of this.

As a non‑academic, I can speak with little authority on the historiography of Eisenhower, but I can say that Dwight Eisenhower is remembered by thousands of Kansans, mostly over age 50, as a loved and trusted public figure. Older Kansans think of Ike as embody­ing the best of small town Kansas values and character traits. Indeed, this point is often reflected in Ike's own public pronouncements, and reinforced by Eisenhower's biographer, Stephen J. Ambrose, who wrote: "Both as a soldier and as a politician he would apply principles and values he learned as a boy in Abilene. Usually these would be enough to get the job done, frequently in spectacular fashion; sometimes they were, at best, simple and limited solutions to complex problems. But whether satisfactory or not, Dwight D. Eisenhower's solutions were pure Abilene, for the man could not be separated from the boy, and the boy could not be understood apart from his family and his Abilene background."

You may be interested to know that the Eisenhower and Kansas connection is going to be explored in some depth in a symposium to be held at the Kansas Expo­centre in Topeka this Friday and Saturday. Sponsored by the Kansas State Historical Society and Washburn University, the "Eisenhower and Kansas Symposium" will feature 14 scholars speaking about various ele­ments of Ike‑Kansas links.

The culmination of the Centennial is in Abilene on Sunday, October 14. World War II living history dem­onstrations, WWII aircraft flyovers, troop trains, pub­lic ceremonies, and a firework‑ laser‑ hologram extravaganza in the evening will culminate the centen­nial.

Thank you.

Prof McCulloh:

Thank you, Ron.

Our speaker for the evening is Professor Russell F Weigley. Following his speech, he will entertain ques­tions from the audience, and after the formal questions we will retire to a reception and more informal conver­sation in the lobby.

Most academics have studied at several institutions of higher education and taught at several more. Pro­fessor Weigley has done this as well, but he has accomplished it with what one might describe as an extraordinary "economy of migration," He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and received his bachelor's degree from Albright College in the same city. There­after, he moved to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he earned both his master's and his doctorate and spent several years as an instructor. From there he joined the faculty of the Drexel Institute of Technology (also in Philadelphia), moving finally to Temple University (still in Philadelphia), where he now holds the position of Distinguished University Pro­fessor. Not surprisingly, one of his scholarly interests is the history of the City of Brotherly Love. It was not, however, the area of expertise that brought him to our attention, but his renown in military history in which thisdepartment at Kansas State University has a spe­cial interest.

Professor Weigley has concentrated most of his efforts in the area of United States military history, and it is from this context that he will speak to us this evening. He has published numerous books and scores of articles on military history, but his claim to our attention rests on more than the quantity of his publica­tions. Equally important is the chronological and topi­cal range of the issues on which he has made his mark. This range is obvious even if we ignore his articles in journals, encyclopedias, and collections, and consider only those works that have appeared as separate vol­umes, We must note, for example, that he has published monographic studies on aspects of wars in three differ­ent centuries, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War 11. He is also the author of general books surveying the American military experience from a variety of points of view. These include the History of the United States Army, Towards an Ameri­can Army: Military Thought from Washington to Mar­shall, and his most influential work, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strate­gy and Policy. The impact of these studies is attested by their numerous editions, re-printings, and translations (including one into Chinese), and by their author's invitation to teach and lecture at such institutions as the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the Army War College, the National War College, and the United States Military Academy Nevertheless, our interest focuses particularly on the breadth of background and scope to which Professor Weigley's published works bear witness, for only a scholar with his enviable knowledge and experience could set for himself the challenge of his topic for this evening: "Eisenhower in Perspective: Ranking Him Among the Great Military Commanders of American History."

"Eisenhower in Perspective: Ranking him among the great commanders of American History"

by Russell Weigley

Where should General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower rank in the pantheon of the great American military commanders?The answer depends, of course, largely on defining military greatness. It depends just as obviously on the quality of the competition, the characteristics of the great captains with whom Eisenhower is to be com­pared. We must begin, then, with some consideration of theleaders against whose achievements his should be measured. The nature of those achievements will provide the foundation for defining military greatness and for assessing the relative greatness of Ike the soldier.

It is the conviction of this military historian and critic that, leaving Eisenhower aside for the present, the two greatest American military commanders have been General George Washington and General Ulysses S. Grant.

Washington stands at or next to the summit because of his accomplishments as a strategist, in the classic conception of the military strategist as one who em­ploys all the tools of war to attain the objects for which he wages war. In the entire course of American military history, no general has more successfully than Wash­ington achieved his complete purpose in war while having to use resources so narrowly limited as Wash­ington's. No general ever possesses the tools of war in as much abundance as he might desire; for Washington, however, the resources were exceptionally and ap­pallingly scarce. Not only were his munitions and other supplies always lacking in quantity, but the weakness of the American Revolutionary government was such that he almost never had enough soldiers. And not only were the numbers of his soldiers so limited that he usually had to contend with numerically superior ene­my armies, but his forces were almost invariably inferi­or to the enemy in quality as well. The infant American army of the War of Independence never, except for a few regiments, attained the qualitative proficiency of its experienced opponents. Nevertheless, in spite of inferiority in nearly every category of resources, Wash­ington accomplished completely the fundamental aim of the war, the winning of the independence of the United States of America. Measured in terms of his strategic accomplishments viewed against the re­sources available to him for pursuing them, no general in American history matches George Washington.

There is a further dimension to Washington's claim to preeminence. A military commander must be as­sessed partly in regard to the magnitude of his respon­sibilities. As Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, Washington alone bore the ultimate respon­sibility for the fate of the Revolutionary war effort. If this consideration did not apply, there would be a considerable temptation to judge Major‑General Nathanael Greene as at least Washington's equal among the American military commanders of the Revolution. As commanding general of the Southern Department, Greene in one important particular exceeded Washing­ton's accomplishments. He liberated from the British nearly entire colonies that they had re-subjugated to their military power ‑ Georgia, South Carolina, and in some measure North Carolina. Washington for the most part had only to retain colonies or states that the Revolution already controlled by the time he became Commander of Chief (though of course he recaptured Boston, Philadelphia, and various other places); Greene rolled back the enemy from entire states.

Furthermore, while Washington was an exceedingly conventional chieftain, waging war in the orthodox European fashion of his time, Greene proved masterful as a strategist of what we today would call guerrilla warfare. He accomplished his campaign of liberation by weaving together the operations of conventional Continental and militia forces under his immediate command with those of irregular bands of partisans. The United States has never again produced a guerrilla warrior to match Nathanael Greene.

Nevertheless. Greene should probably rank close to but not quite as the equal of Washington, because he was at most a theater commander, while Washington had the whole Revolutionary War to win or lose, and won it.

A great general does not need to be a perfect general. Generals are human and fallible. The claims of Washington and Greene both depend on what they did in using battles and the other ingredients of war all in combination to win the objects of their campaigns, that is, on what they did as strategists, rather than on their skills as battlefield commanders, that is, as tacticians. In tactics, the handling of troops in battle, both Wash­ington and Greene displayed the I Imitations of their military experience and education; tactics is a more specialized aspect of war than strategy, demanding a professional training that Washington and Greene did not possess. Greene was somewhat more successful as a commander in battle than Washington, or at least he was skillful in choosing to give battle only at times and places such that the effect of thebattle was likely to be strategically advantageous whether he won or lost the battle itself. But in fact it is not the least of both Washington'sand Greene's claims to strategic great­ness that they grasped their strategic objectives in spite of losing most of their major battles along the way.

Washington's limitations as a tactician nevertheless suggest that the absolute summit ranking among Amer­ican soldiers should not be his. A more complete professional expertise probably ought to be part of the armory of the warrior ranked at the very top. Adding this consideration inclines the balance toward U. S. Grant.

 While Grant was by no means a bookish, intellectual student of the art of war, his military education based on the curriculum of the United States Military Acade­my at West Point gave him a proficiency considerably surpassing Washington's in the deployment and maneu­vering of troops and weapons on the battlefield. Grant was not a brilliant tactician, but he was a superior one, as he demonstrated particularly in his conduct of the Battle of Chattanooga, 23‑25 November 1863, when he was major‑general commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, encompassing the principal Union armies in the Western theater of the Civil War. At Chattanooga he adroitly orchestrated flank attacks that opened the way for an exceptionally complete battle­field victory sealed by the climactic assault of the Army of the Cumberland against the enemy center on Missionary Ridge.

Grant's tactical and technical skills must be an important consideration in ranking him higher than Washington. Nevertheless, he resembles Washington in that his primary claim is as a strategist, and partic­ularly as a strategist who achieved all his fundamental purposes. Grant the strategist is especially noteworthy, furthermore, for the flexibility with which he adapted his means and methods to the specific objective that he was pursuing in any given circumstances. As Major General commanding the Army of the Tennessee in the Vicksburg campaign of 1862‑1863, Grant had as his objective a geographical point, the fortress‑city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union possession of which would open the way to control of the entire length of the Mississippi River, permitting Union commerce as well as naval vessels to navigate the great river to the Gulf of Mexico, and bisecting the Confederacy, largely inter­dicting the flow of supplies from the Trans‑Mississippi Confederacy and from Europe by way of Mexico and the Trans‑Mississippi to the Confederate East. When on 2 March 1864, however, Grant became Lieutenant General and on 9 March the commanding general of the United States Army, his objective grew much larger. He was now charged not with capturing any particular geographic place but with conquering the entire Con­federate States of America and thereby winning the war. Grant's strategic methods changed to accord with his differing strategic objectives.

When his aim was to capture a place ‑ Vicksburg, for instance ‑ Grant followed a strategy of maneuver, seeking to avoid large‑scale battles and the large‑scale casualties that inevitably accompany them, instead hoping by swift, agile, deceptive maneuver to pry the enemy defenders out of their positions and to move into Vicksburg with minimal cost. This strategic method would be the more difficult to accomplish because there could be little mystery about the nature of the objective ‑ the Union desire to capture Vicksburg was altogether apparent to the enemy; and because Vicksburg was well shielded by nature as well as by man‑made defenses against almost all approach routes, situated as it was on high bluffs above the Mississippi River and with the bayous of the delta country of the northwestern part of the State of Mississippi covering the most likely approaches to the high ground of the citadel. Yet the surrender of Lieutenant‑General John C. Pemberton with the Confederate Army of Vicksburg defending the city on 4 July 1863 climaxed a campaign in which Grant accomplished virtually all he could have desired, fighting no big battles, but by means of elusive maneuver bewildering enemies who often found themselves striking out at thin air, forcing Pemberton finally into a siege he must lose because Grant had cut him off from aid by other Confederate forces in the Western theater of war. Grant's Vicksburg campaign was one of the most masterful operations of deceptive maneuver in all military history.

That assessment is worth emphasizing because Grant has often been regarded erroneously as an un­subtle butcher of a general who won by bludgeoning his opponents at a high cost in his own troops' lives. To the extent that the image of Grant the butcher has a basis in fact, it arises from his 1864‑1865 campaign when he was general in chief of the entire United States Army, and from circumstances of that campaign making high casualties implicit in it. Faced with the larger strategic objective of winning the whole war, Grant concluded that because the United States insistedon the absolute war aim of the Confederacy's complete renunciation of its claims to sovereignty ‑ in effect, its unconditional surrender ‑ he himself must seek the practically complete destruction of the Confederate States Army, the principal foundation upholding Confederate inde­pendence. Most especially, Grant concluded he must destroy the principal Confederate military force in the field, General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. For that purpose Grant decided not to remain at Washington but to accompany with his headquarters the movements of Major‑General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac. For the destruction of the other Confederate field armies, Grant would supervise from afar the movements of his other chief subordinates.

To destroy Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Grant hoped at first not so much for a literal, physical destruction in battle ‑ which would surely be costly in Union as well as Confederate casualties ‑ as for wiping that army from the chess board as he had eliminated Pemberton's army, by compelling its sur­render. To that end, Grant opened the Virginia cam­paign of 1864 by attempting to maneuver past Lee's right, or eastern, flank and into his rear, to cut Lee's communications with the Confederate capital at Rich­mond and with the deeper South, so that Lee would find himself in an untenable position, deprived of necessary supplies, and would have to surrender. But Lee was not Pemberton; he was too skillful to be outmaneuvered as Grant wished. Grant persisted in variations on his original design deep into the summer of 1864, after the maneuvering of the rival armies actually carried them farther south than Richmond; Grant then tried to place his forces astride the railroads connecting both Lee's army and Richmond with the interior of the Confederacy. But Lee remained too cunning in his responses to be trapped.

Therefore Grant had to fall back on his second choice of method to destroy the enemy army: the 1864‑1865 campaign of attrition, whereby he traded casualties with Lee day after day, giving his opponent almost no respite from battle, knowing that the popula­tion advantage of the Union over the Confederacy assured an eventual consequence in which the Union would have men remaining, while the Confederacy would not. This grim design worked. When Lee at last surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on 9 April 1865, the 28,231 surrendered represented only a shadow of Lee's army as it had been through most of the war (at the highest, some 80,000 in the Seven Days' Battles of 25 June ‑ I July1863 and 60,000 in the Wilderness, 5‑7 May 1864). Most of the army had already succumbed to Grant's campaign of attrition, or to earlier losses, while attrition elsewhere had also wiped out the manpower resources of the Confederacy in the other theaters of war.

To the extent that Grant's final campaign thus proved indeed to be a campaign of butchery, the defense of Grant must be to argue that no commander could have found a better way to achieve the unlimited war aims of the North. It was partly Lee's ability that forced Grant into the campaign of attrition, but even more it was the particular condition of the technology of war in the 1860s. With the adoption of rifled shoulder arms and rifled cannon, the long‑range accuracy of any de­fender's firepower was certain to blow almost any attack apart. Not only frontal assaults, but also well ­executed flank attacks tended to score no decisive success against well‑trained defenders who could quickly change front to flank and bring the firepower of their rifles to bear. No commander on the attack was able to win a decisive battlefield advantage. Even Lee, when before Grant came east he was often on the attack, never in spite of all his skill won tactical victories that yielded decisive strategic results. War had sunk into the prolonged tactical deadlock that was to reach its ghastly apogee in the trenches of the Western Front in 1914‑1918.

Under these circumstances, Grant emerges all the more impressive, notwithstanding the casualties of his final campaign. His predecessors against Lee had suffered similar casualties with little to show for it. Grant's methods inflicted heavy losses on both sides, but they won the war in little over a year after he assumed command. In that way, he achieved all that was asked of him. When his agile strategy of maneuver in the Vicksburg campaign is added to the reckoning, U.S. Grant stands forth as the greatest American strate­gist and the greatest American military commander, at least until World War II. He always did what was appropriate to the strategic objective immediately be­fore him; he always attained complete fulfillment of his strategic aims.

It is against Grant at the summit and against Wash­ington ranking slightly behind Grant that the generals of World War II, and particularly Eisenhower, must be judged to determine their ranking among American military commanders throughout the country's history.

No other pre‑World War II generals present claims strong enough to compete with Grant and Washington. The skills of Robert E. Lee in avoiding entrapment have already been noted here, and furthermore, Lee was one of the most capable generals of all time in every phase of tactical command. But Lee fell short at the higher, strategic level. Because he was an ex­tremely aggressive commander who was continually on the attack in his battles, continually taking the role of tactical aggressor even though his strategic mission was defensive, he repeatedly exposed his soldiers to the new defensive firepower of the rifle. Therefore his aggressive method of war imposed many casualties on is own troops. Of all the scarce resources of the Confederacy, manpower was the most scarce, and Lee's continual attacks drained away that precious resource at a rate that his own cause could not afford.

Grant's principal subordinate, Major‑General Will­iam Tecumseh Sherman, like Washington's chief subor­dinate, Greene, never had responsibility for winning or losing the entire war. Unlike Greene, moreover, Sher­man was inferior to the general who outranked him in tactical, battlefield proficiency Finally, Sherman's ma­jor claim to strategic greatness, his new strategy of carrying the violence of war beyond the enemy army to the economy and the will to fight of the enemy people, was counterproductive in that it made the postwar work of reunion more difficult to accomplish, and might well have proven counterproductive also in its immediate military effects had it not been introduced so late in the Civil War that the Confederacy was already practically defeated; there was no longer an opportunity for the anger that Sherman provoked to make itself felt as a Confederate fury in battle, or attempting to terrorize the Southern people into abandoning resistance might have provoked them into redoubled resistance.

Thus we can turn to World War II to seek additional claimants to the first rank among American military leaders, and particularly we can consider the creden­tials of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Because magnitude of accomplishment is indeed part of the reckoning, the World War II contenders would seem to be limited to Eisenhower and Generals of the Army George C. Marshall and Douglas MacArthur (promoted from general to five‑star rank 16 and 18 December 1944, respectively). Of the latter two, only Marshall would seem a serious candidate for a place at or near them.

In spite of the wide boundaries of his Southwest Pacific Area, MacArthur's campaigns were considerably smaller in scope than those that Eisenhower waged against Germany, both in numbers of combatants en­gaged and in impact upon the result of the war. Until the liberation of the Philippines, MacArthur deployed relatively small numbers of troops at any one time. The 84,000‑man force assigned to the New Hollandia (Netherlands New Guinea) and Aitape (Australian Mandate) landings in New Guinea on 22 April 1944 was probably the largest thus far deployed in Mac­Arthur's area. (In contrast, 200,000 ground troops were to participate in the reconquest of Leyte in the Philippines beginning 24 October 1944. His area of the war against Japan was a secondary one through most of the conflict, the main burden of the struggle being carried in the Pacific Ocean Areas and particularly the Central Pacific Area, where the Navy and the Marine Corps supplied the main weight of American forces. Like Scott, furthermore, MacArthur suffers the penal­ty of a serious failure. No one could have defended the Philippine Islands successfully against Japan in 1941‑1942, but by grossly overestimating his chances of doing so, MacArthur initially scattered his forces too widely across the islands, particularly Luzon, and thereby aggravated the difficulties of withdrawing enough troops to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island for a prolonged last stand, especially injuring the prospects by curtailing the stockpiling of supplies in Bataan and on Corregidor. MacArthur's claim must suffer also because when at length he did deploy large forces ‑ including two field armies, the Sixth and Eighth United States Armies, in the liberation of the Philippines ‑ he spent resources and lives in strategi­cally dubious mopping‑up operations on islands that had been bypassed and could have remained isolated until Japan's surrender.

As for George C. Marshall, a strong case could be made for placing him on a pinnacle with Grant and Washington. But while the magnitude of problems overcome and of the dimensions and importance of triumphs achieved is part of the tests we are weighing, General Marshall as a military commander suffers, paradoxically, because the span of his command was perhaps too large. Presiding over the entire American global war effort of 1941‑1945, and over much of the Allied war effort, the World War II Chief of Staff of the Army was relatively remote from the conduct of all but the broadest military strategy and especially from operations and tactics. He was the principal architect of the United States Army of World War II and a superb military administrator on a vast scale. As a strategist, he deserves credit as the senior American leader who most consistently pursued asearly as possible a cross-­Channel invasion of northwest Europe as the center­piece of Allied strategy against Germany. (On the otherhand, he was of course long unsuccessful in attaining this goal, because of the opposition of the British with a certain amountof collusion from other Americans, notably President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself). Mar­shall was less a great military leader per se, however, than the soldier‑statesman, the military diplomat con­ducting inter‑Allied and inter-service negotiations that included strategic issues but who also looked beyond them to the nature of the postwar world and the balance of power therein. Already on the horizon during the war years was the Marshall of the postwar mission to China and of the Marshall Plan for European economic recovery, Marshall the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.

Thus, if one of the American World War II leaders is to find a position at or near the summit of greatness in generalship, it must be Eisenhower. As Eisenhower's role was large and complex, so the considerations that must determine his ranking are complex.

First it must be emphasized that Eisenhower makes a strong bid for consideration because unlike Marshall he played a role that was squarely one of military command. He was a solder‑diplomat as well, of course, but he was by no means so completely a diplomat as to negate the fact that he was primarily a soldier. And as a preliminary judgment with which to begin the argument, he was a far better soldier as such than the popular image of Ike the conciliator, patching together Anglo‑American relations, would imply.

It is worth emphasizing, too, that he was an educated soldier, a professional in terms of his careful study of the military art. He was relatively indifferent to aca­demics when he was a student at West Point, graduat­ing in 1915. But his observation of World War I while commanding the Tank Corps Training Center at Camp Colt, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ‑ as a captain of Infantry, a major (temporary) from 17 June 1918, and from 14 October 1918 a lieutenant colonel (temporary), Tank Corps gave him a serious interest in the study of military command. He began to read and to ponder works on military history and military criticism. It was when he was a student at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1925‑1926 that Major (his permanent rank from 2 August 1920) Eisenhower truly began to blossom as a professional soldier. Graduating first in his Leavenworth class,

Eisenhower could now capture the attention of the most influential senior members of the officer corps.

He did so particularly in helping to plan for future large‑scale mobilizations while serving in the office of the Assistant Secretary of War, a task not unrelated to the logistical aspects of the responsibilities that lay before him and to his eventual planning for the logistics of a great amphibious invasion. A lieutenant colonel from I July 1936, he served also in planning the defense of the Philippine Islands amid the increasingly realistic war atmosphere of the archipelago under the shadow of the coming conflict with Japan.

Colonel Eisenhower ‑ his temporary (Army of the United States) rank from 11 March 1941 ‑ still further enhanced his reputation as chief of staff of the Third United States Army in the Louisiana maneuvers of August and September 1941, a critical episode in the preparation of the Army for the coming Second World War. That episode led quickly to the awarding of his first star, as temporary brigadier general on 29 Septem­ber 1941; but the Philippine experience had a more direct bearing on the assignment that was to lead directly though somewhat paradoxically to his subse­quent rapid elevation to key roles in the direction of the Second World War. Because of his first‑hand knowl­edge of the military situation in the Far East, and in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack that spotlighted the Far East, he took over on 14 December 1941 as head of the Pacific and Far East Section of the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff. He was now in the organization that Chief of Staff Marshall was using as the central command post of the Army. The paradox­ical aspect of this posting was that it led Eisenhower to command not against Japan but in Europe

When the declaration of war against Japan on the day after Pearl Harbor, 8 December 1941, was promptly followed on 11 December by German and Italian decla­rations of war against the United States and reciprocat­ing American declarations the same day, one effect was to activate the Germany first strategy that the United States had already resolved to follow in a conflict against all three Axis powers. Japan's Pearl Harbor attack notwithstanding, the United States would give first priority to defeating Germany as a yet more dangerous foe. Continuing crises in the Pacific diluted the Germany first resolve for well over a year, but General Marshall and the War Department attempted to remain faithful to it. On 16 February 1942, Eisenhower advanced to become chief of the War Plans Division (WPD), where he continued to give much of his attention to the relief of the Philippines his knowl­edge of which had largely brought him to WPD, butwhere increasingly he had to focus on the war againstGermany.

On 12 May 1942, Eisenhower submitted to Marshall a memorandum requested by the Chief of Staff outlin­ing a directive for the commander of a forthcoming Western European Theater of Operations. Eisenhower had been promoted to major general (temporary) on 28 March and his second star gave him appropriate rank, while his now‑consistent seconding of Marshall's em­phasis on Germany first offered yet more appropriate reason, for Marshall to move soon toward making Eisenhower himself the European commander.

On 23 May Eisenhower departed Washington for London. The British were demonstrating no enthusi­asm for nor drive toward the early cross‑Channel invasion that was at the heart of Marshall's and Eisenhower's conception of a Germany first strategy, and the senior American Army officer on the scene, Major General James E. Chaney, heading United States Army Forces in the British Isles, was not prodding the British with much vigor. Ostensibly Eisenhower was charged by Marshall with seeing what could be done to instill more vigor in Chaney and through him the British. In fact, Marshall was already inclined to re­place Chaney with Eisenhower and wanted to see how the WPD chief might get along with the British.

Eisenhower returned to Washington on 3 June un­happy with nearly everything he had seen in Great Britain. Five days later he presented to Marshall a draft directive establishing a strong, unified inter-service command for what was now to be called the European Theater of Operations (ETO). On the same day, Mar­shall transmitted the directive to Chaney, creating the new command. In another three days, on 11 June Marshall gave the command to Eisenhower. Thus Eisenhower's path took him from the Philippines to the Far Eastern desk of WPD to Europe.

Eisenhower applied to the urging of a cross‑Channel assault all the vigor and urgency for which Marshall could have hoped. But while the new commanding general of ETO also established the warm personal relationship with Prime Minister Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill that Marshall also hoped for, none of his efforts or qualities could elicit from senior British civil and military officials, from Churchill downward, anything better than evasiveness about the invasion of Europe. An early invasion would have to be primarily British, all the more because the Japanese threat was still drawing American resources into the Pacific in unanticipated quantities. A plethora of policy and strategic objectives and fears held back British approv­al of the American design. They would not budge. In July Marshall himself joined Eisenhower in Britain in the effort to budge them, abetted by Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations and Commander in Chief United States Fleet, and by Harry L. Hopkins, President Roosevelt's closest personal adviser. Nothing would move the British. On 22 July Marshall cabled Roosevelt to that effect. Believing that nevertheless the United States must prove its commitment to the war against Germany by deploying American ground troops against Germans before the end of 1942, Presi­dent Roosevelt responded by agreeing to Prime Minis­ter Churchill's long‑favored alternative to an early cross‑Channel assault, an invasion of French North Africa. On 25 July General Marshall, still in London, informed Eisenhower that while remaining in com­mand of ETO, he was also to take charge of the planning of the North African enterprise.

In retrospect, it almost certainly would have been better for an early ending to the war and for as early as possible a return of Anglo‑American power to the urban‑ industrial heart of northwest Europe so impor­tant to the postwar world that Roosevelt should not have agreed to go to North Africa. By the time the landings could take place ‑ 8 November 1942 ‑ it was so late in the year that the insertion of large Allied resources, particularly shipping, into the Mediterranean meant that not only would there be no cross‑Channel invasion in 1942 ‑ no SLEDGE HAMMER, as that project was codenamed ‑ but none in 1943 either ‑ no ROUND­UP It would not be possible to shift enough logistical resources back to northern Europe early enough in 1943 for that purpose. The 1942 invasion of French North Africa ruled out the accomplishment of Mar­shall's and Eisenhower's strategy of the cross‑Channel assault as the centerpiece of the war effort against Germany until the United States would have been at war with Germany for all of two and a half years, until the spring of 1944. At the outset of his contributions to World War 11 strategy, Eisenhower was correct in his judgment but unable to carry his judgment into effect.

It is thus ironic that the North African decision further advanced Eisenhower's career. Because French North Africa ‑ Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia ‑ was administered by the semi‑autonomous government of that part of France not occupied by the Germans, with its capital at Vichy, and because relations between Great Britain and France had been badly strained since France's withdrawal from its British alliance to capitu­late to Germany on 21 June 1940, the Anglo‑American Allies believed in 1942 that the likelihood of having to fight the French when entering French North Africa could be much reduced by giving the invasion an American facade and keeping the British participation as much as possible in the background. To that end, an American commander was desirable, and Eisenhower's prominence as chief of ETO made him the logical choice. On 14 August the Anglo‑American Combined Chiefs of Staff followed up Marshall's earlier appoint­ment of Eisenhower by formally naming him to com­mand TORCH, the North African invasion, with all naval and air as well as ground forces of both the United Kingdom and the United States committed to the operation under his control. Eisenhower had been promoted to lieutenant general (temporary) on 7 July, giving him sufficient rank to lead Allied Force Head­quarters (AFHQ).

Not only, however, was TORCH a diversion from Eisenhower's preferred strategy; his command of AFHQ proved to offer more scope for his talents in diplomacy than for the strategic, operational, and tacti­cal capacities with which the present analysis is pri­marily concerned. Eisenhower could not give TORCH a complete enough American facade or otherwise sufficiently placate the French beforehand to forestall all French resistance to the invasion. Fortunately, the resistance nevertheless was not severe, and Eisenhower secured the quick termination of what there was of it by striking a militarily astute though politically controver­sial deal with the senior French military figure on the scene, Amiral de flotte Jean Louis Xavier Franqois Darlan, whereby the French who owed their credentials to Vichy were largely to maintain their predominance at the expense of those French who had never acqui­esced in defeat by Germany. To Eisenhower's great good luck, the Christmas Eve assassination of Darlan soon opened the way to more flexible political arrange­ments, but meanwhile Eisenhower had done the coura­geous, but unpopular. necessary deed.

The AFHQ commander also continued to maintain harmony between the British and the Americans. This was not an easy task, because however much the British needed the Americans, the latter were interlopers in a theater of war that the British regarded as peculiarly their own, the Mediterranean provided the last opportunities for victories over Germany that could sustain British prestige by bearing a primarily British rather than Allied appearance.

The grades of A that Eisenhower earned in diplo­macy in North Africa were not, however, matched on the battlefield. Even before the TORCH invasion oc­curred, Eisenhower had contributed to the cautious American insistence that none of the landings should penetrate deeper into the Mediterranean than Algiers, lest the operation become too vulnerable to a possible German riposte through Spain and Gibraltar against its lines of communications. If the bolder British desire for landings farther east had been fulfilled, then the enemy might not have been able to reinforce Tunisia enough to prolong the fighting there until 12 May 1943. More­over, in the course of the fighting Eisenhower acquired a share of the burden of responsibility for the severe and embarrassing American defeat at the Kasserine Pass on 14‑20 February, because in his role as United States theater commander he permitted a decline in the fighting edge of the American troops, and because he permitted the operational commanders to deploy American forces in scattered small pockets that were vulnerable to enemy counterstrokes. In North Africa, Eisenhower's inexperience in war was not only a factor reinforcing British prejudice against an American; but it was also a reality shaping his performance, and it hurt him and his troops.

Because North Africa ruled out the Americans' desired cross‑Channel invasion in 1943, it led to further Mediterranean sideshows that year, the invasion of Sicily on 9‑10 July (HUSKY) and of the Italian main­land on 3 September at Reggio di Calabria (BAY­TOWN) and on 9 September at Salerno (AVALANCHE). Promoted to full general (temporary) on 10 February 1943, Eisenhower continued to com­mand Allied Force Headquarters. His skills in Allied diplomacy had proven invaluable and were growing surer. And retaining an American supreme commander continued to be politically advisable albeit for some­what altered reasons, as a British means to placate the Americans while perpetuating a peripheral strategy for which most Americans felt little enthusiasm.

Sicily and Italy offered small opportunity for Eisenhower to display whatever maturation his more technically military capacities had undergone through enlarged experience. The geographic arenas were too narrowly constricted to permit much operational or tactical, let alone strategic, innovativeness or flair. As with North Africa, the principal comment to be made about Eisenhower's leadership in its primarily military aspects must be somewhat negative. He continued to act on the premise that the supreme commander ought to leave detailed combat decisions to his subordinates who were closer to the scene of action. The premise has much to recommend it, but questions arise over what isa matter of detail. In North Africa, Eisenhower's aloof­ness allowed faulty troop dispositions to set up a near‑' disaster at the Kasserine Pass and thereby suggested he mightbe holding himself too far above the battle.Similarly, in Sicily his aloofness permitted his senior American subordinate, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., commanding general of the Seventh United States Army, to mount a series of disproportionately costly amphibious assaults across the northern coast of the island whose price in casualties seems all the more disproportionate since the principal end to be served was to win a race against General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery and the British Eighth Army into Messi­na.

By the second half of 1943, however, a growing American ascendancy in the relative contributions of the United States and the United Kingdom to the military power of the Western Alliance meant that the cross‑Channel invasion could no longer be postponed. At last the invasion was scheduled for the spring of 1944, codenamed OVERLORD, and on 7 December 1943 Eisenhower learned that he was to command the great enterprise. Now it was not political expediency but the American ascendancy just noted that called for an American to be Supreme Commander, Allied Expe­ditionary Force; and when President Roosevelt decided that he could not spare Chief of Staff Marshall from the global command post in Washington, the American in question had to be Eisenhower.

Furthermore, just as OVERLORD signified the ful­fillment at last of the strategy upon which Eisenhower and Marshall had wished to build the war against Germany from the beginning, so also OVERLORD was to permit the fulfillment of Eisenhower's abilities as a military commander. If he attained the leadership of OVERLORD on a record that was decidedly richer in diplomatic than in professionally military achieve­ment, he was to vindicate his appointment by realizing in ample measure henceforth the military potential that had captured Marshall's attention in the days of the Louisiana maneuvers and the War Plans Division.

The campaign in northwest Europe from D‑Day, the 6th of June 1944, to V‑E‑Day, 8 May 1945, was a skillful execution of the strategic concept behind the cross‑Channel invasion ‑ to overcome German power where it was strongest in the West, and by destroying German strength at its highest, to bring down the entire enemy empire. The skillful execution was essentially Eisenhower's.

His display of mastery over the professionally mili­tary challenges of his new duties began almost as soon as he received the Supreme Command. He found a preliminary plan for the amphibious assault that called for a first wave of only three divisions. He insisted on the immediate enhancement of the initial landings to five divisions (doing so with the full support, it should be noted, of the prospective ground commander for the first phase of the campaign, General Montgomery, as General Officer Commanding, 21 Army Group). More than that, Eisenhower also insisted that the amphibious landings must be shielded on their flanks by a three­division airborne assault, and he maintained that insis­tence courageously in the face of the warnings of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh‑Mallory, Air Officer Commanding, Allied Expeditionary Air Force, that there would be near‑disastrous casualties of 75 to 80 percent. In fact, Eisenhower's airborne assaults on the flanks played a possibly critical role in assuring a D‑Day invasion that was altogether successful, and with relatively low casualties of somewhat less than 10 percent of the 17,400 airborne soldiers landed.

These airborne troops were a small but critical part of the force of some 2,880,000 Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen that Eisenhower commanded on D‑Day. Throughout the planning for and execution of D‑Day, Eisenhower consistently contributed this same sort of sound professional judgment. He continued to do like­wise as the campaign in Northwest Europe evolved after D‑Day. When, for example, the fighting in Nor­mandy beyond the beaches threatened to degenerate into a deadlock all too reminiscent of the Western Front of World War 1, Eisenhower tirelessly urged both of his senior subordinates on the ground, Montgomery and Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley of the First Unit­ed States Army, to develop a plan for a concentrated offensive that could produce a breakthrough and if possible a breakout from Normandy into mobile war­fare. His prodding was the impetus for Bradley's su­perb COBRA design, which created the desired breakthrough and breakout beginning 25 July.

Operation COBRA indeed became so complete an Allied victory that it led to a pursuit across France, with the Germans unable to restore effective resistance until the very speed of the Allied advance precipitated a fuel shortage that permitted the enemy a respite near his own borders and across the Low Countries. Thereupon the next strategic problem for Eisenhower and his chieftains became the much‑debated and now famous one of whether to overcome renewed German resis­tance and to penetrate Germany itself by means of a narrow‑thrust offensive. There is a common concep­tion that the debate primarily opposed Eisenhower against Montgomery, with Eisenhower insisting on the broad‑front advance and Montgomery, from 1 Septem­ber a field‑marshal, seeking the logistical support and the troop strength for a narrow thrust by his own 21 Army Group, alongside which an American 12th Army Group under Bradley's command had been active since noon on 1 August.

This conception has considerable foundation in fact, and Eisenhower favored the broad‑front invasion of Germany not least because it was consistent with the American strategic tradition represented by U.S. Grant, who as general ‑ in‑chief had insisted on offen­sives all along the borders of the Confederacy. But it is a fairer judgment to state that the Supreme Commander gave Field‑Marshal Montgomery every reasonable op­portunity to carry out his concept of the narrow‑thrust invasion, and that Montgomery simply could not make it succeed.

Operation MARKET‑GARDEN (17‑25‑ September 1944), the combined airborne and ground effort to capture a bridgehead across the Neder Rijn at Arnhem in the Netherlands that would outflank German's West­wall defenses, is the most dramatic evidence of the extent to which Eisenhower gave Montgomery the opportunity to effect his favored strategy. For MAR­KET‑GARDEN Montgomery received a heavily dis­proportionate share of Allied logistical resources, particularly fuel, and of course practically a] I Allied air transport capacity. He received the theater's only major troop reserve, the First Allied Airborne Army The operation failed not because it was accorded inade­quate resources or because for that or any other reason it was doomed from the start ‑ it was a sound strategic conception, for which Montgomery merits credit as its principal author ‑ but because Montgomery, his 21 Army Group headquarters, and his immediately subor­dinate commands failed to obtain adequate intelligence of enemy dispositions and supply adequate control of tactical execution.

Beyond MARKET‑GARDEN, Montgomery's 21 Army Group more generally enjoyed a disproportio­nate share of Allied logistical resources in the late summer and early autumn of 1944. It is significant that Montgomery's British forces never suffered the acute fuel shortages that halted the Americans at the German border farther south. It is true that Montgomery never received so large a share of Allied resources as he demanded, but to have given him all he asked would have immobilized General Patton's Third United States Army on the southern flankof General Bradley's 12th Army Group and nearly immobilized also those parts of Lieutenant General Courtney H. Hodges's First Army (taken over by Hodges when the 12th Army Group was activated) that were not needed as direct flank support for Montgomery's advance. Eisenhower's sound mili­tary judgment in not giving Montgomery everything he desired received prompt confirmation when in late September and October the enemy mounted heavy armored counterattacks against Patton, and against the American and French forces arriving from the 15 August invasion of southern France (DRAGOON) to extend Eisenhower's southern flank. These German counterstrokes erupted into the largest tank battles of the war in the West thus far. If Eisenhower had yielded to Montgomery's pleadings and "grounded" the Third Army, the result would have been a disaster.

To the extent that Montgomery's ambitions were in fact curtailed by logistical shortages, the main cause was not any lack of support from Eisenhower but the unavailability of the port capacity of Antwerp (Ant­werpen), the largest seaport of northwestern Europe. Montgomery's troops had captured this port on 3 September, but the port was not actually opened to regular shipping until 26 November. The reason was that having captured it, Montgomery failed to move quickly to clear the islands and waterways between Antwerp and the North Sea. Eisenhower pressed him hard to do so from the outset, but it was not until the Supreme Commander yielded his preference for grant­ing his subordinates wide discretionary authority and virtually ordered Montgomery to give first priority to opening Antwerp that the field‑marshal at length acted to remove the logistical noose that through his neglect of Antwerp he had tied around his own neck.

Altogether, it must be repeated, Eisenhower ac­corded Montgomery every opportunity short of imperiling the rest of the Allied armies to realize the ambition of a primarily British narrow thrust into Germany. He did so for the excellent reason that in spite of the risks it entailed, Montgomery's design offered the best chance for winning the war before the end of the autumn of 1944. The narrow thrust failed partly because of Montgomery's own mistakes, in the faulty tactical conduct of MARKET‑GARDEN and in delaying clearance of Antwerp, and to a greater extent because Allied resources were simply not sufficient to support the design.

When Allied logistics caught up with the advanceacross France to the German frontier, then Eisenhower was also correct to insist that because logistical support now permitted offensivepressure everywhere, the Al­lies should in fact exert pressure everywhere ‑ for the same reason that Grant and Abraham Lincoln had been right to apply pressure everywhere around the circum­ference of the Confederacy. Against an enemy inferior in resources, the surest way to exploit his inferiority is to make him defend too many places at once, where­upon his defenses are sure to collapse somewhere.

In sum, Eisenhower consistently commanded the Allied Expeditionary Force with military skill of the first order throughout the summer and fall of 1944, accumulating more and more credits to elevate his account in any reckoning of the quality of his general­ship. Like all the Allied commanders, he was guilty thereafter of a lapse of judgment in failing to foresee that the enemy could use the respite initially granted him by the Allies' fuel shortages on the German frontier not only to re-impose a near‑stalemate on the Western Front during the autumn months of 1944, but also to hoard resources for a major counterblow: the Germans' Ardennes Counteroffensive that began on 16 December 1944.

When the first news of the enemy riposte began to arrive, however, Eisenhower again distinguished him­self by becoming the first senior Allied commander to recognize the event for what it was, not any local counterattack or set of such attempts but a counter­offensive of the higher magnitude, Earliest of the principal Allied leaders to judge the German purpose correctly, Eisenhower was also earliest to perceive the appropriate response. Because the scale of the German effort assured that it would push a bulge into the American front, the Allies should immediately deploy their forces to cut off the bulge at its base, to penalize the enemy's audacity by inflicting on him the largest possible casualties, and thus to turn the German coun­teroffensive into a German disaster that would end the stalemate gripping the front since early autumn. Spe­cifically, Eisenhower at once began preparations for the subsequently much‑heralded ninety‑degree turn su­perbly executed by Patton but conceived by the Su­preme Commander. Thereby Patton's Third Army ceased attacking eastward and redirected itself to the north to smash into the southern base of the Bulge.

Consequently the Battle of the Bulge became, as Eisenhower anticipated, the German disaster that opened the way to the collapse of the frontier defenses of the Third Reich and the Allies' triumphal progres­sion across Germany in the following spring. It is an appropriate coincidence that nearly simultaneously with the opening of the Ardennes battle, on 20 Decem­ber, Eisenhower was promoted to the new five‑star rank of general of the army. A strong case could be made that the Battle of the Bulge was his finest hour as a general.

When spring brought the collapse of German resis­tance, Eisenhower's main efforts naturally turned again from military command per se to military diplomacy. Now, however, the principal object of that diplomacy was no longer the British ‑ for whom the cross­-Channel invasion and the consequent deployment of larger and larger Allied armies had in fact brought the overshadowing by the much bigger American contri­bution and the loss of diplomatic as well as military stature that Churchill had foreseen ‑ but the formida­ble power of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

General Eisenhower was aware of President Roos­evelt's hope that United States policy and conduct, while safeguarding American interests, would also avoid undue nourishment of the Soviets' suspicions of the West, which had already received more than enough such encouragement from the long delay of the cross‑Channel assault. Roosevelt hoped that American policy and conduct would embody every reasonable assistance toward carrying the wartime Soviet alliance into the postwar era. When Roosevelt's death on 12 April 1945 left a partial vacuum for the time being at the summit of American policy, General Eisenhower occupied much of the vacuum by conducting relations between his armies and the rapidly converging Work­ers' and Peasants' Red Army in a thoroughly state­manlike manner, firm in defense of Western prerogatives and dignity but also reassuring and concil­iatory.

Most importantly, of course, Eisenhower refused to plunge his American troops into a race with the Red Army to enter Berlin. His decision is debatable, be­cause there is good reason to believe that the Ninth United States Army could have reached Berlin first, and the prestige of capturing the German capital would have carried no small weight in postwar diplomacy. But the postwar occupation zones had already been demar­cated, and an American capture of Berlin could have done nothing to alter substantially the subsequent status of the city Weighing this fact against the risks of further loss of American lives and the desirability of a statesmanlike posture toward the Soviets, Eisenhower halted the Allied advance eastward essentially at the River Elbe.

Eisenhower's generalship from Normandy to the Elbe had not been without flaws. His aloofness from some of the most basic operational decisions had persisted into the summer of 1944 following the CO­BRA breakout, so that his failure to intervene in differences of judgment between Montgomery and Bradley had helped prevent the fullest possible exploi­tation of COBRA, when the Argentan‑Falaise gap was delayed in closing, and in consequence enough Ger­mans escaped envelopment to make an important con­tribution to the later resurgence of German resistance on the Reich frontier. Eisenhower also displayed dubi­ous judgment toward the end of the war in his over­cautious assessment that there was a genuine possibility of the enemy's establishing a National Re­doubt in the mountains of southern Germany and Austria; believing in the National Redoubt, he de­ployed an excessively large proportion of his strength against a chimera.

Altogether, nevertheless, Eisenhower's record as a military commander has to place him somewhere near the highest rank. From the beginning of the war, his strategic goal had been as early as possible a cross-­Channel invasion to bring down the enemy's greatest strength, and particularly to destroy the German Army in the West, for the most expeditious and least costly ending of the war. When the more senior Allied strate­gists and policy‑makers at length permitted him to command the cross‑Channel assault, Eisenhower dem­onstrated a maturity of judgment on operational and even tactical as well as strategic issues such that we can conclude that among the whole galaxy of Western military leaders from D‑Day to V E‑Day, none was more consistently correct in his military decisions. And it counts for much that all along, Eisenhower the highly competent soldier was also Eisenhower the unsurpassed military diplomat, who cemented the An­glo‑American alliance and then did all he reasonably could to lay a foundation for amicable postwar relations with the Soviet Union.

Eisenhower never carried the outcome of the entire war on his shoulders to the extent that Grant and Washington had done in their wars, and we have argued that this issue of magnitude of responsibility must carry a good deal of meaning in the reckoning of military stature. Eisenhower also never displayed quite the breadth of flexibility in meeting differing circum­stances in differing ways that so much distinguished Grant,nor did he have to overcome adverse odds so daunting as those that Washington had confronted. Nevertheless, at the end of this exercise in weighing the criteria of distinguished generalship, applying the cri­teria to certain American commanders, and attempting to compare the not always fully comparable, I believe that we can fix Dwight D. Eisenhower's rank among the greatest American military chieftains as no less than third. George C. Marshall is the other most likely contender for the third rank; but more than Eisenhower's, his World War II role was administrative rather than that of the exercise of strategic, operational, and tactical command.

To this historian, Ulysses S. Grant retains first place among the great generals of American history. George Washington ranks second. Dwight D. Eisenhower ranks third. Furthermore, this grouping at the summit is a tightly packed assemblage ‑ three generals of very similar levels of ability. And with the possible excep­tion of Marshall, no one else in American military history really comes close to the small group at the top. Nathanael Greene. R. E. Lee, and W. T. Sherman were exceptional military leaders, but they did not quite reach the same pinnacle as the foremost trio.

This rating of General Eisenhower has so far con­fined itself to his career in uniform. A few words about the military dimensions of his responsibilities as Presi­dent of the United States remain appropriate. Those military dimensions were not such as to add apprecia­bly to his military stature, but it is nonetheless a tribute to say that in dangerous Cold War circumstances Eisenhower did not detract from his military stature either.

Axiomatically, as a professional soldier he won the respect of and maintained control over the unpreceden­tedly huge- by the standards of a time without a shooting war ‑ Cold War military establishment as no other Commander in Chief of the era was able to do. On the other hand, his policies were sometimes more bellicose ‑ we can even say more consistent with the stereotype of the military mind ‑ than those of some of the senior active military chieftains of the day. President Eisenhower came close enough to ordering military intervention in French Indochina during the Dienbienphu crisis of 1954 to cause retrospective alarm. The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Matt­hew B. Ridgeway, has grown in stature as the importance of his restraining influence during that crisis ‑including his restraining influence on the President ‑has become increasingly evident. The Eisenhower ad­ministration's principal national security policy, its reliance on the threat of massive nuclear retaliation to deter any variety of Communist military aggression, was inherently a high‑risk policy, both because it might not be convincing enough to deter an adventure on the lower levels of the spectrum of violence, and also because the threat might appear to have to be invoked, triggering nuclear war. That inherent high risk was all the more dangerous, moreover, because for Eisenhower the massive retaliation policy was not mere rhetoric, but the earnest of genuine willingness to resort to nuclear warfare.

Perilous though they might have been, nevertheless, the Eisenhower administration's military policies were on the whole successful. While sheer good luck may have contributed to this result, the Soviet Union was indeed less adventurist when faced with the massive nuclear retaliation policy than during much of the Cold War era, and the United States was able to remain at peace during the Eisenhower Presidency once the in­herited war in Korea had ended.

More than that, the President was able to build upon the restraining force of nuclear deterrence a structure of growing d6tente between the United States and the Soviet Union, which heralded at least the possibility that the Cold War might not go on forever. Unhappily, Eisenhower's version of d6tente began to collapse around the Lockheed U‑2 reconnaissance plane crisis in the closing months of the administration. But this d6nouement did not occur before President Eisenhower had shown that a combination of military strength poised in stout defense of American national interests along with patient conciliation on questions not of vital interest might restore the hopes that in 1945 had guided General Eisenhower's policy on capturing Berlin. Mili­tary toughness where toughness was indispensable together with a forthcoming diplomacy elsewhere might yet make possible a world unshadowed by the threat of Soviet‑American war.

The centenary of Dwight David Eisenhower's birth on 14 October 1890 should be an occasion not alone for praising him but also for using the perspective of time ‑ including that since his death on 28 March 1969 ‑to begin approaching what will be the long‑run histori­cal verdict upon his qualities.

We can feel fortunate as we commemorate him, however, that his career was such that it permits historical judgment and Praise to go hand in hand. Until now there has been a certain reluctance to say of Eisenhower the general that he was not only victorious but also one of the greatest military commanders in American his­tory. But he was. Of all the generals in American history, only Grant and Washington are surely in the same company with Eisenhower. He stands near the summit.


The reflections on American military command in general and on Dwight D. Eisenhower in particular contained in this lecture are based not directly on the primary sources but on reflections during a career spent studying the military history of the United States. Similarly, it seems most useful in this bibliographic essay not to attempt to probe the primary sources, but to suggest to the general reader a selection of writing that have strongly influenced the author's conclusions.

Three works particularly commend themselves as overviews of American military history. Allan R. Mil­lett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America (New York: The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan, Inc.; London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1984) is the most detailed, comprehensive survey. Walter Millis, Arms and Men: A Study in American Military History (New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1956) remains, in spite of its age, the most challenging and insightful interpretative history. Geoffrey Perret, A Country Made by War: From the Revolution to Vietnam ‑ the Story of America's Rise to Power (New York: Random House, 1989) is a superbly well‑written book that will grip the reader but is also thoroughly reliable.

My reflections on the generalship of the War of American Independence have grown first out of anoth­er work that like Millis's is more than a generation old, but that remains the most carefully detailed and per­ceptive account of the military struggle: Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, ed. John Richard Alden (2 vols., New York: The Macmillan Company, 1952). A critical analysis of George Washington's generalship. arguing that he was a much more aggres­sive. offensive‑ minded strategist than I believe, but not to be ignored, is Dave Richard Palmer, The Way of the Fox: American Strategy in the War for America 1775‑1783 (Contributions in Military History Number 8, Westport. Connecticut; London, England: Green­wood Press, 1975). For Greene, see Theodore Thayer, Nathanael Greene: Strategist of the American Revolu­tion (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966).

For guidance toward evaluating Civil War general­ship, two books stand out: Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War (Urbans, Chicago, London: University of Illinois Press, 1983), and Richard E. Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, William N. Still, Jr., Why the South Lost the Civil War (Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1986). My assessment of Ulysses S. Grant as a general has been influenced most by Kenneth R Williams, Lincoln Findsa General: A Military Study of the Civil War (5 vols., New York: The Macmillan Company, 1950‑1959). For William Tec­umseh Sherman, the best study is still Lloyd Lewis,Sherman: Fighting Prophet(New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932). On Robert Edward Lee, there is no satisfying brief critical appraisal of his military record, so that the reference must be to Dou­glas Southall Freeman's magisterial (a necessary cliche in this instance) R. E. Lee: A Biography (4 vols., New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; London: Charles Scribner's Sons, Ltd., 1934‑1935). The figure cited herein for troops surrendered at Appomattox is the number who gave their paroles as a consequence of the surrender to Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee's Lieuten­ants: A Study in Command (3 vols., New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1942‑1944), 111. Gettysburg to Ap­pomattox, 768.

On Dwight D. Eisenhower's greatest American mili­tary contemporary there is another magisterial work: Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Education of a General 1880‑1939, with the editorial assistance of Gordon Harrison, Foreword by Omar N. Bradley (New York: The Viking Press, 1963); Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Ordeal and Hope 1939‑1942, Foreword by Omar N. Bradley (New York: The Viking Press, 1966); Forrest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory 1943‑1945, Foreword by Omar N. Bradley (New York: the Viking Press, 1973); and For­rest C. Pogue, George C. Marshall: Statesman 1945‑1959, Foreword by Drew Middleton (New York: Viking, 1987). Pogue's work is in large part a history of the United States Army as well as a biography, and therefore it tells us much about all the principal twen­tieth‑century generals through World War 11.

For Eisenhower himself, the strategic context of his generalship should be studies in Mark Skinner Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations (United States Army in World War II: the War Department (Washington, D.C.: Historical Division United States Army, 1950); Maurice Matloff and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1941‑1942 (United States Army in World H: The War Department, Washington, D. C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, 1953); and Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1943‑1944 (United States Army in World War H: The War Department, (Washington, D. C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, 1959).

The best biography of Eisenhower for the military student is Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower, Soldier, General of the Army, President‑Elect, 1890‑1952 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983); The President (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984). The reader should also consult Ambrose's The Supreme Com­mander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970).

Dwight D. Eisenhower of course offered his own account of his generalship: Crusade in Europe (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948). His son, John S. D. Eisenhower, has dealt perceptively though to be sure sympathetically with his father as military commander in Allies: Pearl Harbor to D‑Day (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1982) and The Bitter Woods: The Dramatic Story, Told at All Echelons ‑from Supreme Command to Squad Leader ‑ of the Crisis That Shook the Western Coali­tion: Hitler's Surprise Ardennes Offensive (New York. G. P Putnam's Sons, 1969). The general's grandson has in turn followed in his father's path: David Eisenhower, Eisenhower at War 1943‑1945 (New York: Random House, 1986).

For the campaign from the planning of D‑Day (OVERLORD) through V‑E‑Day from Supreme Head­quarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, there is Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command (United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations, Washington, D. C.: Office of the Chief of Military History Department of the Army, 1954).

On the military dimensions of Eisenhower's Presi­dency, 20 January 1953‑20 January 1961, the excellent brief survey by Robert A. Divine. Eisenhower and the Cold War (Oxford, New York, Toronto, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1981) emphasizes the peace­making aspects of Eisenhower's policies. So does the second volume of Ambrose's Eisenhower. Perceiving a greater likelihood that Eisenhower might have led the country into war, especially over the Dienbienphu crisis, are Charles C. Alexander, Holding the Line: The Eisenhower Era, 1952‑61 (Bloomington: Indiana Uni­versity Press, 1975); George C. Herring, America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950‑1975 (Second Edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), pp. 25‑73, especially pp. 25‑37; and George C. Herring and Richard H. Immerman, "Eisenhower, [John Foster] Dulles, and Dienbienphu: the 'Day We Didn't Go to War' Revisited, " The Journal of American History, 72 (September 1985), 343‑363.

The dates of Eisenhower's promotions are from The Adjutant General's Office, Washington, I January 1947, Official Army Register, I January 1947, Pub­lished by order of the Secretary of War [Robert P Patterson] in compliance with law (2 vols., Washing­ton: United States Government Printing Office, 1947), 1, 330. Eisenhower's temporary grades were in the Army of the United States (A.U.S.), as distinguished from the permanent United States Army (U.S.A.). Entering West Point 14 June 1911, he had been commis­sioned a second lieutenant of Infantry 12 June 1915; a first lieutenant I July 1916; and a captain 15 May 1917. His ranks during World War I are confusing. Techni­cally, he shifted from major (temporary) of Infantry to major, Tank Corps, National Army, on 18 July 1918 (accepting on 24 July); vacated that rank on 12 August; but then became lieutenant colonel, Tank Corps, U.S.A. (temporary) on 14 October, accepting the rank on 20 October, the day after he ceased to hold his temporary commission of major of Infantry. He re­verted to captain of Infantry 30 June 1920. After World War 11, he became permanently a general on 19 Novem­ber 1945, and confirmed permanently as General of the Army on 23 March 1946.