Deirdre Conner

Allied Leaders - Roosevelt and Eisenhower

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)

Viewed by many as the greatest American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt not only helped bring the United States out of the Great Depression, but also led the country through World War II. Elected to an unprecedented four terms in office, Roosevelt never saw the final victory he worked so hard for.

Born in 1882 in Hyde Park, New York, Roosevelt graduated from Harvard in 1903 in only three years and attended Columbia law school, passing the bar exam before receiving his degree. After a political career that led to the governorship of New York, Roosevelt became president in 1933, the height of the depression.

Preparing him for the role of Commander-in-Chief was his appointment to Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1913, where he had much popularity and success. He was given this position by Woodrow Wilson for his support in Wilson's presidential campaign (he did not support his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt)(www.academic.marist.edu). He was delighted with his new post, saying, "I now find my vocation combined with my vocation in a delightful way," his hobby being ships and naval history; his vocation politics. He learned much from his superior, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, who taught him much about national politics and ways to get along with Congress. Experience on the job during World War I working on wartime projects such as planning to lay antisubmarine mines in the North Sea. He toured European battlefields and conferred with military leaders overseas. He became known as a man who “got things done,” winning him status as a national figure (Freidel 414).


P51 Mustang
(Animation by Ken Blandon)



In January 1943, Roosevelt, along with Churchill, proclaimed the doctrine of unconditional surrender. The two leaders met in many wartime conferences, where any differences that they had were solved amicably. Roosevelt seemed to want to avoid the sort of differences of opinion among the Allies and misunderstanding by the Germans that had made trouble at the 1918 Armistice. Debate at these conferences centered around the question of a landing in France. The British successfully managed to delay the invasion of Normandy until June of 1944 (www.normandy.eb.com). But it was the decision of Roosevelt to concentrate on the Western front first that ultimately was one of the deciding factors in the victory of the Allies.

 

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969)

Once the decision to invade France in 1944 had been made, Dwight D. Eisenhower was chosen to head the Allied force that would invade Normandy. Born in Denison, Texas, General, and later to be President, Eisenhower graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1915, a remarkable class that was to produce 59 generals (www.eb.com). In World War I he was promoted to captain and earned the Distinguished Service Medal (encarta.msn.com). In the 1930s he served as chief of staff to General Arthur MacDouglas in the Philippines. However, prior to World War II, Eisenhower had resigned himself to finishing out a distinguished yet unremarkable military career. However, when the United States entered World War II in 1941, General George C. Marshall put him in charge of the War Plans division. In 1942, he was promoted to lietentant general and given command of the U.S. Army's European Theater of Operations, his first invasion driving the Germans out of North Africa. In 1943, he found himself serving as Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, Europe (www.pbs.org).

Eisenhower was selected to head the Allied invasion force that was to cross the English Channel, land in Normandy, France, and advance into Germany (encarta.msn.com) “Ike” combined a talent for administration with an affable, commanding, personality that eventually placed him in positions of great power and responsibility, including leading the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944 (www.pbs.org). However, Marshall's decision to put him in charge of executing the plan was more political than military. "D-Day is what made Dwight David Eisenhower president. Had it failed, it is unlikely that anyone would have remembered any subsequent successes" (people.delphi.com).

Eisenhower's rapid advancement, after a long career spent in relative obscurity, was due not only to his knowledge of military strategy and a talent for organization, but also his ability to persuade, to mediate, and to be agreeable. Men from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities liked and trusted him, impressed by his friendliness, humility, and persistent optimism (www.eb.com). He was also very personable, knowing just how to play British general Bernard Montgomery, Winston Churchill, and Marshall to hold together the Grand Alliance (people.delphi.com). Eisenhower had an open and friendly personality so appealing that both political parties wanted to nominate him for the presidency in 1948! Instead, he turned them both down to become president of Columbia University for 2 years. But in 1952 Eisenhower announced that he would seek the presidency with the Republican nomination, and won over Democrat Adlai E.Stevenson (encarta.msn.com). He is also something of an enigma. His plan for defeating Germany was direct to a fault; as the war wound down, "Ike," as he was known, completely misunderstood the geopolitical ramifications of Stalin (people.delphi.com).

For all his military background, Eisenhower despised war. His battlefield experiences once led him to declare, "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity" (www.pbs.org).

Works Cited

"Eisenhower, Dwight David." Encarta.
[http://encarta.msn.com/index/conciseindex/09/009/9000.htm]

"Eisenhower: The Military Career." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: Normandy 1944. [http://normandy.eb.com/normandy/articles/EISENHOWER The Military Career.html]

"Frankln D. Roosevelt: 32nd President of the United States." [http://www.academic.marist.edu/fdr/frank.html]

"Franklin D. Roosevelt: Thirty-Second President 1933-1945."
[http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/presidents/html/fd32.html]

Guts and Glory: A PBS Documentary.
[http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/amex/guts/about_dday.html]

"Roosevelt, Eleanor." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. [http://www.eb.com]

"Roosevelt: The War Years." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. [http://www.normandy.eb.com/normandy/articles/ROOSEVELT The WarYears.html]