Facts, information and articles about Dwight D. Eisenhower, WWII General and 34th U.S. President

Dwight D. Eisenhower Facts






Mamie Geneva Doud

Years Of Military Service



General of the Army


World War II


Army Distinguished Service Medal (5), navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Order of the Southern Cross, Order of the Bath, Order of Merit, Legion of Honor.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower, official photo portrait, May 29, 1959Dwight D. Eisenhower summary: He was a Texan by birth but Abilene, Kansas became his home. Born on October 14, 1890 in Denison Texas, Eisenhower’s ancestry was of German extraction. His interest in war games was triggered as he read his mother’s book collection about history. This was ironic because his mother did not approve of war.

Eisenhower’s education did not come easy to him. Without the necessary financial support to go to college, he decided to write to his senator, Joseph Bristow, to be considered for the Naval Academy or for West Point. Too old for the Naval Academy, West Point accepted him and he entered that school in 1911. He was an average student but excelled in English.

July 1, 1916 he married Mamie Geneva Doud of Iowa. They had two sons, Doud, who died at the age of three of scarlet fever, and John Sheldon Doud. John became the father of Dwight David II, after whom Camp David was named and who married Julie Nixon in 1968.

During WW I, Eisenhower requested to go to Europe but was denied. He became the chief military aid to General MacArthur. He was with MacArthur in the Philippines in 1935, returning to the U.S. in 1939. President Roosevelt elevated Eisenhower’s rank to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He proved his leadership when his strategies against Germany, like the landing in Normandy on D-Day, were successful. In 1944 he earned the rank of General of the Army.

In 1952 Eisenhower campaigned for the presidency of the United States and won. At 62, he had been the oldest president to be elected after James Buchanan. He was a two-term president and many of the Interstate Highways were built on his orders. He died March 28, 1969.


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President Dwight Eisenhower and America’s Interstate Highway System

Whether it is commuting to work, embarking on the great American road trip or something as simple as receiving a product that has wended its way across hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles of highway, nearly everyone in America benefits from the Eisenhower Interstate System on a day-to-day basis. Most Americans, however, do not know the history behind one of the country’s greatest public works projects, and fewer still understand the motivation of the man whose personal experience and vision brought the massive and challenging project to fruition. The story of the creation of the Interstate Highway System spans two world wars and the life of one of America’s most famous leaders.

In 1919, following the end of World War I, an Army expedition was organized to traverse the nation from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. The First Transcontinental Motor Convoy (FTMC) left the nation’s capital on July 7, following a brief ceremony and the dedication of the ‘Zero Milestone’ at the Ellipse just south of the White House. Joining the expedition as an observer was a young lieutenant colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Only eight months earlier the Allied powers and Germany had signed an armistice ending World War I, a conflict that is today synonymous with savage trench fighting, the chilling call to ‘fix bayonets!’ and so many blighted and blood-soaked fields. Yet as Secretary of War Newton D. Baker noted during the FTMC’s ceremonial send-off: ‘The world war was a war of motor transport. It was a war of movement, especially in the later stages….There seemed to be a never-ending stream of transports moving along the white roads of France.’

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Four level interchange in Fort Worth, Texas. (National Archives)

Baker’s important observation factored directly into the departing convoy’s primary objectives. As stated in one official report, those objectives included: ‘To service-test the special-purpose vehicles developed for use in the first World War, not all of which were available in time for such use, and to determine by actual experience the possibility and the problems involved in moving an army across the continent, assuming that railroad facilities, bridges, tunnels, etc., had been damaged or destroyed by agents of an Asiatic enemy.’

At its starting point, the massive convoy consisted of 34 heavy cargo trucks, four light delivery trucks, two machine shops, one blacksmith shop, one wrecking truck, two spare-parts stores, two water tanks, one gasoline tank, one searchlight, one caterpillar tractor, four kitchen trailers, eight touring cars, one reconnaissance car, two staff observation cars, five sidecar motorcycles and four motorcycles, all of which were operated and maintained by 258 enlisted men, 15 War Department staff observation officers and 24 expeditionary officers. By the time the expedition reached San Francisco on September 6 — 62 days after setting out, the convoy had traveled 3,251 miles, at an average of 58.1 miles per day and 6.07 miles per hour.

It was truly an unprecedented undertaking in every regard, and although the mission was a success, the numbers were disappointing if not dismal. According to a report by William C. Greany, captain of the Motor Transport Corps, the convoy lost nine vehicles –‘so damaged as to require retirement while en route’ — and 21 men ‘thru various casualties’ (mercifully there was no mention of fatalities). During the course of its journey, the convoy destroyed or otherwise damaged 88 ‘mostly wooden highway bridges and culverts’ and was involved in 230 ‘road accidents’ or, more precisely, ‘instances of road failure and vehicles sinking in quicksand or mud, running off the road or over embankments, over-turning, or other mishaps due entirely to the unfavorable and at times appalling traffic conditions that were encountered.’

The after-action report of Lt. Col. Eisenhower, one of the 15 War Department staff observation officers, noted: ‘In many places excellent roads were installed some years ago that have since received no attention whatsoever. Absence of any effort at maintenance has resulted in roads of such rough nature as to be very difficult of negotiating.’ Even more vexing, many of what otherwise would have been considered ‘good roads’ were simply too narrow for military vehicles. Others were too rough, sandy or steep for trucks that in some cases weighed in excess of 11 tons. Eisenhower claimed, ‘The train operated so slowly in such places, that in certain instances it was noted that portions of the train did not move for two hours.’

The July 30 entry in the FTMC’s daily log, for example, shows it covered 83 miles in 10 hours through Nebraska, not exactly burning up the track but a good clip nonetheless at about 8 miles per hour. Just three days later, however, the convoy became mired in ‘gumbo roads,’ which slowed the rate of progress to 30 miles in 10 grueling hours — at one point even causing 25 of the expedition’s trucks to go skidding into a ditch. ‘Two days were lost in [the] western part of this state,’ Eisenhower later recorded.

For all involved, the military convoy was a learning experience, a sharp illustration of the disrepair and, more often than not, complete lack of highway infrastructure in many areas of the country, particularly the heartland. The majority of the nation’s roads and highways were simply a mess. Even the Lincoln Highway, the most famous transcontinental highway of its day, had been described as nothing more than ‘an imaginary line, like the equator’!

Eisenhower’s experience with the FTMC provided him with great insight into the logistics of moving large quantities of men and materiel across vast stretches of land and convinced him of the necessity of building and maintaining the infrastructure to do so more efficiently. Yet, as educational as his experience with the convoy had been, it would be dwarfed by the greater and far more serious challenges of World War II.

In November 1942, 21 years after the FTMC and nearly a year after the United States had entered the war, Eisenhower was appointed to command Allied forces in Operation Torch, aimed at evicting the Axis powers from North Africa.

There was much about Operation Torch to dislike from a command standpoint. Given the physical geography and the incredibly poor infrastructure of the lands he and his forces were invading, the operation was a logistical nightmare. Torch required three amphibious landings spread over 800 miles: at Casablanca, on the western coast of Morocco, and at Oran and Algiers, along the Algerian coast in the Mediterranean Sea. Each group was to hit the ground running and make all due haste east, toward the ultimate goal of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. Unfortunately for the Allies, North Africa was not well suited to the rapid movement of military convoys. The Atlas Mountains, where elevation at places exceeds 13,000 feet, spanned virtually the entire area of operations, and the infrastructure, where it existed, was generally poor at best.

The fact that Casablanca was more than 1,000 miles west of its objective meant a longer, more vulnerable supply line and much slower going when speed was essential. According to historian Stephen Ambrose, many, including Eisenhower, ‘could see no good reason to terminate the seaborne phase of the amphibious assault 1,000 miles away from the objective, which itself was on the coast and could be reached quicker on ship than on foot.’ Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, however, was concerned that if all three landing sites were within the Mediterranean it might tempt Adolf Hitler to invade Spain, giving him the opportunity to blockade the Straits of Gibraltar and strangle the seaborne Allied supply lines.

The race to reach Tunis before it could be reinforced with Axis troops found the Allies at a decided disadvantage. Axis troops moved with ease through Benito Mussolini’s Italy and onto Sicily, approximately 150 miles off the Tunisian coast, little more than a long ferry ride. The Allies, according to Ambrose, were, by comparison, ‘dependent on unimproved dirt roads and a poorly maintained single-track railroad.’ When the Allied heads of state began to lament the slow advance, Eisenhower barked back that, in spite of commandeering every vehicle that would move, he was hindered by the complete absence of organized motor transport. Moreover, the Luftwaffe’s strong presence over the Mediterranean prevented shipping supplies that far into the sea.

According to Ambrose, Eisenhower privately confided to Marshall that his situation was so hodgepodge and patchwork it would ‘make a ritualist in warfare go just a bit hysterical.’ Some did; others got creative. Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Anderson of the British First Army became so fed up with the logistical situation that he resorted to bringing supplies into the Tunis area by pack mule. Every bit as slow and obstinate as the four-wheeled alternative, a good mule was at least much less likely to break down in the mountains.

Although the Allies failed to beat the Axis reinforcements to Tunis, they did eventually win the race to resupply. Germany was so invested in stalemating the Soviet Union along the Eastern Front that the materiel it was allocating to Afrika Korps represented little more than the barest scraps of an almost incalculably vast resource pool. Ultimately, the fact that Allied supplies had to travel much greater distances to the front weighed little against the sheer volume of output coming from American production capacity at its peak. Operation Torch was a success, albeit belatedly. With French North Africa free from the Axis powers, Eisenhower and the Allies were finally able to turn their attention toward the big picture, namely a full-scale Allied invasion of Europe the following year.

As harrowing and dramatic as any single event during the war could be, D-Day was also, by its very nature, only the beginning of the Crusade in Europe (as Eisenhower later titled the memoirs of his experience in-theater). As jubilant as the Allied forces were after having successfully penetrated Hitler’s so-called Atlantic Wall — the layered network of coastal defenses protecting occupied France — there was an even greater challenge facing them on the other side. Several hundred miles of terrain, which the Wehrmacht had occupied for nearly four years, remained between the Allies and their ultimate objective, Berlin. Much of the worst fighting still lay ahead — not far ahead, either.

Normandy’s famous hedgerows stymied Allied advances almost from the beginning. The densely packed hedgerows and narrow roads slowed tank movements to a crawl, making them easy pickings for German units wielding the Panzerfaust (an early model of rocket-propelled grenade). The great majority of the advancing, therefore, had to be done piecemeal by slow-moving infantry. Nearly two months later, all that the Allies had to show for their efforts to push farther into the Continent was a skimpy front 80 miles wide, extending 30 miles inland at its deepest points. In an ominous throwback to World War I, commanders again began to measure their advances in yards instead of miles.

Once the Allies emerged from hedgerow country, however, the terrain significantly opened up. Lieutenant General George S. Patton was the first to break out, on August 1; by the 6th he was halfway to Paris. ‘The nightmare of a static front was over,’ Ambrose wrote. ‘Distances that had taken months and cost tens of thousands of lives to cross in World War I’ were being crossed in mere hours with minimal casualties. Even so, isolated sections of terrain proved nearly impassable. According to Ambrose, the Hrtgen Forest, ‘where roads were nothing more than forest trails,’ and the Ardennes Mountains, with their ‘limited road network,’ were hell on both tanks and infantry. There would be further setbacks not attributable to infrastructure, primarily the German counteroffensive at the Battle of the Bulge, but the Allies were headed full-bore for the Rhine, while on the Eastern Front the Red Army was bearing down on Berlin.

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It was not until the Allies broke through the Western Wall and tapped into Germany’s sprawling autobahn network that Eisenhower saw for himself what a modern army could do with an infrastructure capable of accommodating it. The enhanced mobility that the autobahn provided the Allies was something to behold, and years later was still cause for reminiscing. ‘The old convoy,’ Eisenhower wrote, referring to his experience with the FTMC, ‘had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.’

Eisenhower’s experience commanding and directing the movements of massive quantities of troops and equipment, added to his early experience with the FTMC, strengthened his recognition that America was sorely lacking in a national highway defense system. In a situation requiring the mass exodus of an entire city or region or the urgent mobilization of troops for purposes of national defense, the federal government, to say nothing of state and local entities, would have been hard-pressed to adequately respond. Moreover, the need for such critical infrastructure became that much more urgent as the Soviet Union eagerly stepped into the power vacuum created by the fall of Nazi Germany. The idyllic Allied notion that all would be right with the world following the death of Hitler and the smashing of the German armies quickly gave way to the painful realization that there is always reason to remain prepared, always someone else to fight.

Not surprisingly, therefore, when Eisenhower became the 34th U.S. president in 1953, he pushed for the building of an interstate highway system. Although Congress had first authorized a national highway system in 1944, it had always been woefully underfunded. Throwing the full weight of his presidency behind the project, Eisenhower declared to Congress on February 22, 1955: ‘Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods. The ceaseless flow of information throughout the Republic is matched by individual and commercial movement over a vast system of interconnected highways crisscrossing the country and joining at our national borders with friendly neighbors to the north and south.

‘Together, the uniting forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear — United States. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.’

As farm folks look on, a worker smooths concrete on I-70 near Boonville, Mo. (National Archives)

More than a year later, on June 29, Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, guaranteeing full, dedicated funding for the project. The National Highway Defense System (NHDS), as it was initially known, has been referred to as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the United States,’ among other such notable structures as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam and the Panama Canal. What sets the NHDS apart from those wonders, and what Eisenhower addressed as one of its greatest selling points, is the fact that it truly has strengthened and enhanced the Union (including noncontiguous states Alaska and Hawaii, as well as the territory of Puerto Rico). Only the Panama Canal, which similarly made the United States more accessible to itself by greatly reducing the time required to ship goods from coast to coast, can claim anything approaching a similar distinction.

The scope of the NHDS is underscored by its individual components. The longest east-west route, I-90, stretches more than 3,000 miles, linking Seattle to Boston. I-95 serves a similar end for north-south travel: Extending from Miami to Maine, its nearly 2,000 miles of highway cross through 15 states — including all 13 of the original colonies — and the District of Columbia. (It is also estimated to have been the most expensive route to construct, at a cost of nearly $8 billion.) Texas boasts the most interstate mileage within a single state, with more than 3,200; New York claims the most interstate routes, with 29. California is second in both categories, with just under 2,500 miles of interstate on its 25 routes.

The structural achievements involved are no less staggering than the numbers. Although the ‘highway’ is often declaimed as an eyesore at worst and bland at best, the NHDS is actually composed of many unique wonders of modern engineering and ingenuity. Some of the most spectacular cross large bodies of water or ride alongside the Pacific Coast. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay, Fla., a so-called cable-stayed bridge, has been lauded by The New York Times for its ‘lyrical and tensile strength’ — indeed rows of small cables attached to two single-column pylons support the weight of the bridge below ‘like the strings of a harp.’

Several interstate routes in California and Hawaii hug the coasts, offering panoramic views of stunning Pacific seaside vistas to passing motorists.

Other achievements in interstate construction are closely associated with the ‘Not In My Backyard’ movement. Many urban areas have ‘gone green’ in recent decades, improving their routes to meet increased environmental concerns and the aesthetic needs of citizens; some projects were even forced to halt construction entirely until such concerns were addressed in advance. Worries about the safety of the endangered and much beloved Florida panther led to the construction of special underpasses along Alligator Alley, the portion of I-75 that connects Naples and Miami in Florida, allowing panthers and other wildlife to cross safely beneath the flow of traffic. One section of I-10 in Arizona that opened in 1990, the Papago Freeway, runs beneath ’19 side-by-side bridges that form the foundation for a 12-hectare [29.6 acre] urban park,’ according to Richard F. Weingroff, a former official at the Federal Highway Administration. Known as the Margaret T. Hance Park, the space was conceived as a unique solution to the vexing problem of how to maintain connections between neighborhoods divided by the interstate. In other areas, simpler concerns required simpler solutions, such as tree-lined medians, noise-reducing berms and walls, lowered speed limits and prohibitions against large trucks.

Flanked by access roads, I-35 is constructed to cut a swath through Austin, Texas. (National Archives)

A frequent complaint leveled against the NHDS is that it has stripped the adventure and romanticism from long-distance traveling. Upon the completion of I-40 (Barstow, Calif., to Wilmington, N.C.), the late CBS News commentator Charles Kuralt observed: ‘It is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. From the Interstate, America is all steel guardrails and plastic signs, and every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place.’ While the criticism is to an extent justified, it is also true that the NHDS directly serves nearly every major metropolitan area (as well as countless smaller areas of population) and is home to, or otherwise conveniently located near, thousands of tourist destinations across the country.

Some of the most intriguing and impressive tourist stops are those that are not content to simply nestle alongside the highway, but those that, like the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, literally straddle it. The Archway Monument, a 1,500-ton structure spanning 308 feet acrossI-80 in Kearney, Neb., is a celebration of frontier culture designed to resemble a covered bridge. Built to honor the thousands of pioneers who had followed the arduous route from Missouri to the West Coast during the 19th century, the Archway Monument is a living bridge to history over a modern river of asphalt, a testament to the wisdom of and need for well-planned, well-constructed infrastructure. Eisenhower would have approved of the symbolism.

Whatever else these features may be in and of themselves, they are ultimately incidental to the system’s much more vital main purpose. The NHDS, according to a 1996 report written by Wendell Cox and Jean Love 40 years after Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, was conceived and marketed as the best possible way to facilitate ‘the quick and efficient movement of military equipment and personnel’ in the event of a Soviet invasion or nuclear strike. Inspired by the autobahn, Eisenhower envisioned multilane highways — ‘broader ribbons across the land,’ as he called them — yet even at its narrowest points, the system can still accommodate all but the most cumbersome wheeled or tracked military vehicles. Also, most military bases are situated within close proximity to the NHDS, adding to the already unequaled in-country response capability of the U.S. armed forces — a fact that is every bit as comforting as the fact that there has never been occasion to use this capability to its utmost.

One widely held dual-use-related belief is that one out of every five miles of the NHDS is mandated to be straight and level, capable of functioning as an emergency airstrip. Aside from the fact that, according to Weingroff, ‘no law, regulation, policy, or sliver of red tape requires that one out of every five miles of the interstate highway system be straight,’ it is virtually impossible from an engineering standpoint. The NHDS is composed of nearly 50,000 miles of road, meaning that almost 10,000 miles would need to be straight and level to conform to the supposed one-in-five-mile rule, a figure that is wildly unrealistic. In addition, from an aerial standpoint, an airstrip every five miles is superfluous, given the speed at which modern aircraft travel. Although there are long and level stretches of highway that could function as an emergency landing strip in a pinch, they are nowhere near as evenly parceled out as the one-in-five-mile rule would suggest. (The use of highway infrastructure for an airstrip is not unheard of, however: Nazi Germany did use limited stretches of the autobahn for such purposes during World War II.)

One cannot discuss the NHDS without also mentioning its impact on the U.S. economy. It is, quite literally, the economic engine that drives this country’s prosperity. No other industrialized nation has such a sprawling and comprehensive system of roadways, though many are now seeking to emulate the U.S. model as a means toward becoming more competitive in the international marketplace. One look at the figures in the Cox and Love report and it is not hard to understand why. By 1996 the interstates, comprising just over 1 percent of the miles of public road in this country, carried ‘nearly one-quarter of the nation’s surface passenger transport and 45 percent of motor freight transport.’ During the course of its first 40 years, the system was responsible for an increase of ‘approximately one-quarter of the nation’s productivity.’ Highway transportation and directly related industries accounted for more than 7 million jobs.

Indirectly related industries have felt the uptick, as well. In the restaurant business alone, employment ‘has increased more than seven times the rate of population growth,’ according to the Cox and Love report. By making ‘`just in time’ delivery more feasible’ while simultaneously reducing tractor-trailer operating costs by as much as 17 percent compared with other roadways, the NHDS has played a major role in making the electronic marketplace a workable phenomenon for all parties involved: retailers, delivery companies and consumers alike. Perhaps the most telling figure is the return rate of $6 for every $1 spent on highway construction. Consider also that in the 10 years since those figures were generated, several factors — population expansion, the advent of e-commerce, our national reluctance to fly following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — have conspired to place an even greater share of traffic onto our nation’s highways. The many differences separating 2006 from 1996 notwithstanding, the conclusion of the Cox and Love report concerning the economic impact of the NHDS remains as true today as the day it was written: ‘By improving inter-regional access, the interstate highway system has helped to create a genuinely national domestic market with companies able to supply their products to much larger geographical areas, and less expensively.’

For most of us, though, the dual-use military features and the economic benefits of the NHDS are barely an afterthought. The interstate is a way to get to work, to go downtown, to shave 30 minutes off the drive to grandma’s house. Often it is the backbone of that uniquely American pastime, the road trip. Sometimes it’s just a headache. Occasionally it becomes a lifeline out of harm’s way.

In 1990 the National Highway Defense System was renamed the Dwight David Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways under an act of Congress signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. As tributes go, it was perfectly appropriate. ‘Of all his domestic programs,’ Ambrose wrote, ‘Eisenhower’s favorite by far was the Interstate System.’

For all its detractors’ criticism, the interstate system, more than any other project in the past 50 years, has encouraged an unprecedented democratization of mobility. It has opened up access to an array of goods and services previously unavailable to many and created massive opportunities for five decades and three generations of Americans. It has made the country more accessible to itself while also making it safer and more secure, outcomes that in almost any other undertaking would prove mutually exclusive. ‘More than any single action by the government since the end of the war, this one would change the face of America,’ Eisenhower wrote in 1963. ‘Its impact on the American economy — the jobs it would produce in manufacturing and construction, the rural areas it would open up — was beyond calculation.’ The clarity of his vision and the resiliency of his words are inarguable. The Eisenhower Interstate System has grown to be valuable beyond its original intent and is a lasting tribute to American ingenuity, ability and strength of purpose.

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This article was written by Logan Thomas Snyder and originally published in the June 2006 issue of American History Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to American History magazine today!

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Dwight D. Eisenhower: Douglas MacArthur’s Aide in the 1930s

One of the most enigmatic relationships in modern military history was that of Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. Their often-turbulent association spanned virtually the entire decade of the 1930s, during which time Eisenhower worked almost exclusively for MacArthur in a multifaceted role of secretary, adviser, staff officer, and, frequently, whipping boy. Theirs was a relationship that began with great promise and ended in a lifelong enmity between two of the most important figures of World War II.

Douglas MacArthur had risen to the army’s highest and only four-star rank in 1930 after a brilliant career that mirrored the exploits of his famous father, Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur Jr., who had earned the Medal of Honor on Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, in November 1863. Obsessed with emulating his father, MacArthur became first captain of the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, graduated first in his class, and was recommended for but never awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits during the Veracruz, Mexico, expedition in April 1914.

MacArthur’s valor under fire in the famed 42nd ‘Rainbow’ Division was legendary and earned him the distinction of being the most decorated American soldier of World War I. As the superintendent of West Point from 1919 to ’22, MacArthur instituted major reforms that finally brought the archaic military academy into the twentieth century.

By contrast, Eisenhower graduated from West Point in 1915 with an indifferent academic record and no firm belief that the army represented a permanent career choice. To his dismay, he spent World War I commanding a tank training center at Camp Colt, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Frustrated by his failure to see combat in France, and convinced his military career might never recover, Eisenhower nevertheless emerged from the war with a glowing reputation as a troop trainer.

He soon came to the attention of Brig. Gen. Fox Conner, perhaps the army’s most brilliant intellectual, who rejuvenated and further sharpened Eisenhower’s already significant appetite for reading and studying history. Under his intense one-on-one tutelage, Eisenhower’s military education began to take shape in the early 1920s in Panama. In the narrow world of the interwar military, where budgets rather than military necessity ruled supreme, Conner was a steady voice of reason who repeatedly warned Eisenhower of future danger from a resurgent and aggressive Germany.

When MacArthur became the army’s youngest-ever chief of staff in 1930, the most highly regarded staff officer in the War Department was a balding forty-year-old major named Dwight D. Eisenhower. That Eisenhower would eventually be chosen to toil exclusively for MacArthur was, in retrospect, inevitable. From the time of his assignment to the general staff in late 1929, his drive, initiative, and seemingly endless capacity for producing well-organized and thoughtful staff work had made Eisenhower an invaluable commodity to the men who ran the War Department. Eisenhower was not only exceptionally loyal to his bosses but was, according to Stephen Ambrose, ‘able to think from the point of view of his chief, a quality both MacArthur and [George] Marshall often singled out for praise. He had an instinctive sense of when to make a decision himself and when to pass it up to his boss.’

Eisenhower was one of MacArthur’s few subordinates who could objectively judge both his virtues and his flaws. Never one to freely dispense praise, Eisenhower’s greatest compliments were reserved for MacArthur: ‘He did have a hell of an intellect! My God, but he was smart. He had a brain.’ All genius has its price, and for MacArthur it was an inviolate belief in his own infallibility. ‘MacArthur could never see another sun, or even a moon, for that matter, in the heavens as long as he was the sun,’ Eisenhower told biographer Peter Lyon.

Eisenhower was by equal measures awed and repelled by MacArthur. Although impressed by his genius, his charm, and his flattery toward a junior officer, he deplored MacArthur’s posturing and unwillingness to accept advice. On balance, however, Eisenhower viewed their relationship as positive.

As it happened, the two men were very heavy smokers, thoroughly addicted to nicotine. They were both ideal candidates for lung cancer. Although neither ever contracted the deadly disease, Eisenhower’s years of smoking undoubtedly contributed to his later health problems.

MacArthur, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington noted, was a general in the tradition of Winfield Scott: ‘brilliant, imperious, cold, dramatic officers deriving their values and behavior from an older, aristocratic heritage and finding it difficult to subordinate themselves to civilian authorities.’ General Harold K. Johnson, U.S. Army chief of staff from 1964 to ’68 and a survivor of the Bataan Death March, viewed MacArthur as ‘a great commander in the tradition of a Caesar. [But] I don’t think that he was the human sort of man that Eisenhower was.’

By contrast, Eisenhower was representative of ‘the friendly, folksy, easygoing soldier who reflects the ideals of a democratic and industrial civilization and who cooperates easily with his civilian superiors,’ according to historian T. Harry Williams. Whereas MacArthur seemed to relish controversy and often dashed boldly into frays, Eisenhower, ‘Speaking less and smiling more than MacArthur…appeared the embodiment of consensus rather than controversy. MacArthur was a beacon, Eisenhower a mirror.’ That two such polar opposites could survive each other without conflict occurs only in fiction. By 1932, although still officially assigned to the office of Assistant Secretary of War Frederick H. Payne, Eisenhower had long since become MacArthur’s de facto military secretary. That year he found himself involved in one of the most disgraceful incidents in American history and the most personally repugnant and controversial event of his military service under MacArthur.

In 1924, Congress had voted to award to some 3.5 million veterans what were called Adjusted Compensation Certificates–basically bonds masquerading as one thousand dollar bonuses due to mature in 1945 (or upon the death of the holder). For some it was the only asset they possessed. As America entered the 1930s, the bread line and the soup kitchen had become national symbols of the Depression, and joblessness, unrest, and privation became the catalyst for the Bonus March on Washington in the summer of 1932. The veterans believed their government had betrayed them by failing to pay the promised compensation for their World War I service. But an unsympathetic Hoover administration turned a blind eye to the plight of the former servicemen and never considered paying the bonus. When the veterans began to mount organized protests, they were stonewalled in the ill-advised belief that to react would inevitably lead to even further unrest.

More than ten thousand veterans, calling themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, converged on Washington to lobby Congress, some with their families, virtually all with no place to live and no money to afford food or accommodations. A few squatted in unoccupied, condemned buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue not far from the White House, but the largest contingent created an enormous shantytown in the Anacostia mud flats, unofficially known as ‘the Flats’ or ‘Hooverville.’ Violence broke out the morning of July 28, 1932, when District of Columbia police attempted to eject the squatters from downtown. Exceeding Hoover’s orders merely to clear the protesters, the War Department called out armed troops on that fateful July afternoon. Although Eisenhower attempted to dissuade him, MacArthur elected to personally direct the operation dressed in full uniform.

That evening MacArthur was alleged to have ignored a directive from Hoover that the army was not to pursue the protesters across the Anacostia River and clear the shantytown. The Bonus March ended after someone set fire to one the shanties, and as the few remaining veterans and their families fled into the night, Hooverville was consumed by flames. (Decades passed before historical evidence established beyond doubt that the controversial order for the army not to advance on Hooverville never reached MacArthur.)

Eisenhower thought any public comment by the army inadvisable and, as MacArthur prepared to return to the War Department, suggested his boss ought to avoid contact with the press and let the Hoover administration defend the army’s actions. During a late-night press conference, however, MacArthur was unable to resist gloating at having saved the nation from ‘incipient revolution’ by a mob of ‘insurrectionists,’ likening it to the liberation of a nation from tyranny. The press reacted to MacArthur’s outburst with almost universal condemnation.

Eisenhower was chosen to draft the official after-action report that stoutly defended MacArthur and the army; privately, he shared in the general disgust at the army being ordered to attack its own veterans, calling it a pitiful scene. About all he ever publicly said about the incident was that he had counseled MacArthur concerning the impropriety of becoming directly involved. Yet at times his attitude toward MacArthur and the Bonus March seemed rather self-serving, and his few public remarks biographer Piers Brendon described as ‘disingenuous,’ ‘bland,’ and ‘charitable.’ Eisenhower, he believes, was ‘ever ready to sacrifice plain-speaking on the altar of benevolence.’

After loyally defending MacArthur’s actions during the Bonus March for years, however, a truer expression of Eisenhower’s disdain was revealed in 1954 when he noted in his diary: ‘I just can’t understand how such a damn fool could have gotten to be a general.’ He was even more candid later during an interview with Stephen Ambrose: ‘I told that dumb son-of-a-bitch he had no business going down there. I told him it was no place for the Chief of Staff.’

The long-term damage from the Bonus March was incalculable in an era in which the military was already under fire and facing budgetary cutbacks. MacArthur and the army became the public exemplars of an ungrateful nation that rewarded its veterans by gassing, bayoneting, and shooting them. During his long and distinguished military career MacArthur was at the heart of numerous controversies, but none did more to permanently tarnish his reputation, and that of the army he headed, than the Bonus March. Eisenhower had properly anticipated trouble and offered sound advice; MacArthur, perhaps blinded by his own self-importance, had not heeded it. The lamentable result was an unmitigated public relations fiasco at a moment when the army could ill afford to become even further inconsequential.

In February 1933 Eisenhower moved into a tiny alcove no larger than a broom closet behind a slatted door adjacent to MacArthur’s large inner sanctum, to become his principal special assistant and, on occasion, his aide. MacArthur’s method of summoning Eisenhower to his presence was to simply raise his voice. Eisenhower would later write that Douglas MacArthur’spoke and wrote in purple splendor.’ Most of their discussions were really monologues in which MacArthur pontificated and Eisenhower listened, often bemused by his chief’s references to himself in the third person. Whereas George S. Patton Jr. and MacArthur believed they were men of destiny, Eisenhower had no such illusions or aspirations.

MacArthur was squired to Capitol Hill and around Washington in a fancy, chauffeured limousine. Eisenhower, whose business frequently required him to visit Capitol Hill, took a street car or taxi and was humiliated at having to return all leftover change and file a travel voucher for reimbursement. MacArthur ‘never once offered Eisenhower a ride in or use of the car.’ Eisenhower never forgot it, and even after his two terms as president the memories still smarted. ‘No matter what happens later you never forget something like that,’ he confessed to a reporter shortly before his death.

Life with MacArthur was a vivid reminder of the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ More than twenty years after leaving his hometown of Abilene, Eisenhower was still dirt poor and faced career prospects as bleak as the economy. What little hope the military professionals of the 1930s had was vested in Douglas MacArthur, whose reputation for bravery and the reform of West Point was unmatched in the army.

Despite Eisenhower’s admiration for MacArthur, he found himself increasingly dismayed, even appalled, by his superior’s massive ego and pompous behavior. When it came to melodrama, complete with exhortations to duty and invocations to the Almighty, punctuated by exaggerated body language, MacArthur had no equal. Eisenhower was exposed to his full array of ploys and thought MacArthur would have been ‘a great actor.’ MacArthur’s most polished performance was to parade back and forth in front of a large mirror across from his desk, dressed in a Japanese silk dressing gown, an ivory cigarette holder clamped in his mouth, admiring his profile while orating. General Lewis H. Brereton, who served under MacArthur in the Philippines and, later, Eisenhower in Europe, once remarked that MacArthur ‘cannot talk sitting down.’

Before their falling-out, MacArthur’s praise for Eisenhower was both heartfelt and genuine. MacArthur valued his subordinate and bestowed plaudits upon Eisenhower in letters of commendation and consistently superior efficiency reports. In 1932 he wrote that Eisenhower was ‘one of the most outstanding officers of his time and service…he has no superior in his grade.’

During the Washington years, Eisenhower’s greatest asset was his pen. He authored anything of substance created by MacArthur or the office of the assistant secretary of war, be it speeches, letters, reports, or staff studies. Despite the drudgery of such staff work, Eisenhower was in the right place and time to be at the forefront of American military policy in the 1930s, an experience he would assimilate and draw upon in World War II. Despite his rather lowly status as a very junior general staff officer, in an era when the general staff was markedly unpopular on Capitol Hill, congressmen and senators were in the habit of contacting Eisenhower directly on matters concerning the War Department.

When it came to manipulating and taking advantage of the bureaucracy, Eisenhower had no peer. He developed a political awareness and a thorough understanding of what it took to survive in the higher reaches of the military and political jungle of the 1930s. Eisenhower’s efficiency as a general staff officer, however, came at a price. His type-A personality, with its explosive temper and relentless intensity in his work, took a heavy toll on his health. The various ailments for which he sought treatment included bursitis in his left shoulder, acute gastroenteritis, colitis, hemorrhoids, influenza, tonsillitis, an acute intestinal obstruction, and constipation; also mild arthritis, kidney problems, a dental disease, recurrent pain in his knee, and, worst of all, severe back pain. His eyesight was affected by long hours of paperwork, and his glasses’ prescription was strengthened. Years later, Ike told his son, John, ‘I always resented the years I spent as a slave in the War Department.’

MacArthur, during his second tour in the Philippines, from 1922 to ’25, had become closely acquainted with Manuel Quezon. The future Filipino president was then deeply involved in the Philippine independence movement as the leader of the Nationalist Party. The MacArthur name was still highly esteemed in the Philippines, and during a trip to the United States in 1935 Quezon implored MacArthur to become his military adviser, and easily persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send him to the Philippines. Roosevelt not only disliked MacArthur, but also viewed him as a political threat. When his five years as chief of staff ended in 1935, FDR offered MacArthur the opportunity to return to a place he dearly loved. The politically naive MacArthur accepted at once, never seeming to recognize that it suited Roosevelt to have him eleven thousand miles from Washington.

MacArthur resolved that Eisenhower would accompany him to Manila and subjected him to his full repertoire of melodramatics. Ultimately, Eisenhower’s decision had less to do with better pay or an opportunity to satisfy his lifelong yen for duty in the exotic Philippines than it did with the fact that subordinates simply did not say no to Douglas MacArthur, who sweetened the offer by permitting Eisenhower to nominate another officer to accompany them and share in the duties. Eisenhower chose an old friend and West Point classmate, Major James Basevi Ord. Also in MacArthur’s entourage was Captain Thomas Jefferson Davis, familiarly known as ‘T.J.’ He had been MacArthur’s aide since 1927, but was also a close friend of Eisenhower’s, and would faithfully serve as a key member of his staff during World War II.

With few backers to look after his interests in Washington and with no power, MacArthur had gone from a high-profile player to an also-ran. By becoming closely identified with MacArthur’s falling star, Eisenhower also put his own future squarely on the line. Then in his mid-forties and still a lowly major after more than fifteen years in grade, Eisenhower’s prospects were bleak. He entertained no illusions that he was destined for anything more than a modest rank as perhaps a junior general officer in the event of war. ‘He was tying his kite to an officer whose career was finished,’ noted historian Robert H. Ferrell.

MacArthur’s mission was to create and train a Philippine defense force to safeguard a virtually indefensible island nation. By 1936, the urgency faced by the American mission increased with each new act of Japanese aggression in Southeast Asia. Hardly anyone in Washington, however, cared about the Philippines, which were seen as not only extremely hard to defend but of no strategic importance.

MacArthur’s plan for defense of the islands was predicated on the presence of an American battle fleet to discourage a would-be Japanese invasion, yet the War Department’s Plan Orange contained no such provision. MacArthur thus became the architect of a noble but ultimately unachievable undertaking.

Eisenhower and Ord shared the duties of satisfying the divergent demands of MacArthur and Quezon. Eisenhower was already well versed in Philippine problems from his service under MacArthur in Washington. However, it became virtually impossible to persuade Washington to increase the miniscule Philippine budget. Although MacArthur never accepted the premise, it was soon evident to Eisenhower that theirs was a hopeless mission.

One of MacArthur’s conditions for accepting the job was that Quezon promote him to the rank of field marshal in the Philippine army. MacArthur’s willing acceptance of an ersatz field marshal’s commission contradicted American military tradition and appalled Eisenhower. It became one of the primary reasons for their later estrangement. MacArthur thought that such an exalted rank was quite necessary to enhance the prestige of his position. He not only accepted the title, but the extra pay of $3,980 per month, making him the highest paid military officer in the world.

When Quezon formally presented MacArthur with a gold baton as a symbol of his new position, Eisenhower nearly gagged with disgust, terming the ceremony ‘rather fantastic.’ He thought it ‘pompous and rather ridiculous’ for MacArthur ‘to be the field marshal of a virtually nonexisting army.’

Eisenhower adamantly refused to accept Quezon’s attempt to promote him to the rank of brigadier general in the Philippine army. In 1967 Eisenhower recalled to biographer Peter Lyon his furious arguments with MacArthur over what he believed was his superior’s disloyalty to the U.S. Army. ‘You have been a four-star general,’ he told him. ‘This is a proud thing. . . .Why in the hell do you want a banana country giving you a field-marshalship?’ MacArthur not only rejected his pleas but, recalled Eisenhower, ‘Oh, Jesus, he just gave me hell!’

MacArthur’s relations with the Philippine president eventually deteriorated so badly that it was Eisenhower and Ord, not MacArthur, to whom Quezon most often turned for advice. The longer MacArthur remained in Manila the more distant he became from Quezon.

Despite his status as a junior officer, Eisenhower never backed down from confronting MacArthur over policy issues he deemed impractical or impossible to carry out. The Philippine army had no workable logistical system and few qualified officers. Ord and Eisenhower repeatedly urged MacArthur to visit Washington to lobby for his program in person, which he reluctantly did in 1937.

How did Eisenhower manage to challenge one of the U.S. Army’s most autocratic soldiers with virtual impunity? Few officers of any rank ever dared to defy MacArthur, much less with Eisenhower’s vehemence. During MacArthur’s forty-eight-year military career no one ever stood up to him more forcefully than Eisenhower. The reasons had as much to do with Eisenhower’s increasing confidence in his own professional ability as with his belief that MacArthur needed him more than he needed MacArthur. Eisenhower’s flaming temper and his own considerable ego made him a match for MacArthur’s imperiousness. Each was far too stubborn to give in to the other. John Eisenhower believes that both were at fault: ‘Faced with plenty of other frustrations in the job they were trying to perform, neither man seems to have made much effort to realize what the other was going through.’

Even so, Eisenhower’s shouting matches and his defiance verged on outright insubordination. ‘Probably no one had tougher fights with a senior man than I did with MacArthur. I told him time and time again: `Why in the hell don’t you fire me? Goddammit, you do things I don’t agree with and you know damn well I don’t.” That MacArthur could have ruined his career at the stroke of a pen does not seem to have bothered Eisenhower nor, he said, did it occur to him to worry about the possible consequences.

His stormy encounters with MacArthur undoubtedly toughened Eisenhower for the enormous pressures and demands that he would face during World War II. Nevertheless, their deteriorating relations took a heavy toll on Eisenhower who, at times, wished MacArthur had actually sacked him. MacArthur, however, was too shrewd to deprive himself of Eisenhower’s services and ignored their differences.

Jimmy Ord was sent to Washington in 1937 to beg for the loan of field artillery, patrol boats, and other armaments and war materiel for the Philippines from an indifferent War Department. By this time, however, a growing awareness in Washington that Japanese aggression might well lead to war produced an unwillingness by the army to part with any of its meager supplies, and few were sent.

With Ord away, the full workload fell upon Eisenhower, who longed for his friend’s return: ‘The sooner he comes the better for me, I’m tired,’ he later recalled thinking. ‘Over a year and a half at this slavery in this climate and no leave!’

When the position of U.S. high commissioner of the Philippines was created in 1935, Roosevelt selected a powerful political ally, Frank Murphy, to fill it. Relations between the commission and MacArthur’s headquarters grew frosty. Murphy not only disliked MacArthur but also was thought to have been behind an attempt to force the closure of the military mission and MacArthur’s recall to the United States. Eisenhower became fed up with the intrigues. Murphy, he wrote in his diary in July 1937, was’supposed to have written letters home to the President and the Secretary of War demanding relief of mission. O.K. by me!! I’m ready to go. No one seems to realize how much energy and slavery Jim and I put into this d– job.’

The most stressful year of Eisenhower’s service in the Philippines was 1938. The pressures on him worsened, as he became the butt of MacArthur’s frustrations. ‘I’m worn out,’ he wrote. ‘Every time one of these `tempests in a teapot’ sweeps the office I find myself, sooner or later, bearing the brunt of the General’s displeasure. . . .I could be the fair-haired boy if I’d only yes, yes, yes!! That would be so easy too!!’ Ord and Eisenhower again clashed with MacArthur, this time over the latter’s insistence that a number of Filipino army units be assembled for a national parade through the streets of Manila as a means of invigorating public morale. MacArthur had not discussed, much less cleared, his idea with Quezon, and when Ord and Eisenhower informed him that their budget could not possibly stand such a hit without sacrificing funds needed to carry out more important projects, the pair was summarily overruled. When Quezon learned of the plan, he conveyed his displeasure to MacArthur. Embarrassed by the matter, MacArthur lamely denied he had ever ordered his staff to proceed. The chief scapegoats were Ord and Eisenhower. The parade was duly canceled, but the bad feelings between MacArthur and his two assistants were heightened. ‘Never again were we on the same warm and cordial terms,’ recalled Eisenhower.

Eisenhower believed that by failing to back his own staff MacArthur had been disloyal. He was furious at MacArthur for in effect branding him a liar to Quezon, an act he deemed the ultimate disloyalty. ‘I am not a liar,’ he challenged, ‘and so I’d like to go back to the United States right away.’ Realizing that for once he had gone too far, MacArthur placed an arm around Eisenhower’s shoulder and turned on all of his considerable charm, brushing their clash aside with the comment: ‘Ike, it’s just fun to see that damn Dutch temper. . . .It’s just a misunderstanding, and let’s let it go at that.’ In fact, the incident irreparably damaged their relationship. Although Eisenhower restricted voicing his resentments to a small circle of intimate friends, he never forgave MacArthur and later related to his friend Robert L. Eichelberger that the incident had been the last straw in their deteriorating relationship.

Nevertheless, in early 1938 Eisenhower willingly agreed to a one-year extension in Manila at the urging of both Quezon and MacArthur, a decision made more out of loyalty to the president than allegiance to MacArthur. Yet Eisenhower began to suspect that his days in Manila were numbered after MacArthur disputed an increase in Eisenhower’s per diem from the Philippine government. The increase was duly awarded, but Eisenhower thought MacArthur’s opposition hypocritical. Eisenhower’s growing disenchantment was exacerbated by the untimely death of Jimmy Ord in January 1938, the result of a freak airplane accident. Ord’s death left Eisenhower thunderstruck and grieving at the loss of a dear friend whom he had loved like a brother.

Eisenhower had not only lost his friend but also gained a cold-blooded rival. At Eisenhower’s own recommendation, Ord was replaced by Major Richard Sutherland, a dour infantry officer who remained in MacArthur’s service throughout World War II, rising to become his chief of staff. Ruthlessly ambitious, Sutherland was universally disliked and openly schemed to get rid of Eisenhower, who failed to recognize the full extent of Sutherland’s determination to undermine his standing with MacArthur. The perfect opportunity arose in 1938, when Eisenhower returned to the United States for several months. Sutherland filled in for him, and only after he returned to the Philippines did Eisenhower learn that he had lost his job and had been cast into an insignificant role.

On September 1, 1939, war erupted in Europe when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland, using a bogus pretext to crush a valiant but hopelessly outgunned Polish army in a matter of days. Britain and France responded by declaring war against Germany. For the time being the United States remained neutral.

It was clear to Eisenhower that this was a war America could not long avoid. If he was to fulfill his ambition to play a meaningful role before facing an inevitable forced retirement, he had to make something positive happen. His duty in the Philippines brought it home that while he still appeared youthful, he had indeed slipped into middle age and possessed few prospects other than more years of toil for a man for whom he had lost respect. Angry and frustrated, Eisenhower was reminded on a daily basis that his ‘reward’ for more than six years of working for MacArthur was a demotion.

Eisenhower asked to be relieved of his duties in Manila effective in August 1939 and met immediate opposition from both MacArthur and Quezon. However, no amount of persuasion or inducements, including a large cash offer and other perks from Quezon, who dangled a virtual blank check, would dissuade Eisenhower. ‘I’m a soldier. I’m going home. We’re going to go to war and I’m going to be in it,’ he proclaimed.

What conclusions can we draw from the seven years these two strong-willed men served together? For his part, MacArthur was utterly intolerant and unforgiving of those who he believed had betrayed him. Noted Eichelberger, who had known MacArthur since 1911 and served as a corps commander under him during World War II: ‘The most outstanding characteristic of Gen. MacArthur was his vivid hatreds. He talked to me many times about his dislike for FDR and his statements about Gen. Marshall and Gen. Eisenhower were rich, rare and racy.’ Eisenhower’s ‘betrayal’ by leaving his service in 1939 earned him MacArthur’s enmity, which was destined to reach monumental proportions as Eisenhower’s star began to rise during World War II.

Publicly, Eisenhower would later downplay his conflict with MacArthur: ‘Hostility between us has been exaggerated. After all, there must be a strong tie for two men to work so closely for seven years.’ Privately, Eisenhower not only deeply resented his many years of being used like Kleenex, but had grown weary of MacArthur’s shameless politicking and his imperiousness in Washington and Manila that repeatedly obliged Eisenhower to play the intermediary. Their disparities and often stormy clashes notwithstanding, each had profited from the relationship: MacArthur from the services of a brilliant staff officer, and Eisenhower from the experience gained in high-level politics in Washington and Manila that would shortly serve him well.

Despite their divergent personalities, Eisenhower was capable of separating MacArthur’s virtues from his shortcomings. His unflattering observations on MacArthur made between 1932 and ’40 were more the product of frustration than of animosity. Moreover, Eisenhower had been smart enough to realize how much he had to learn from MacArthur, and later told MacArthur’s official biographer that he was ‘deeply grateful for the administrative experience gained under General MacArthur’ that helped prepare him for ‘the great responsibilities of the war period.’

Eisenhower’s intelligence, seemingly unlimited capacity for sheer hard work, and superb organizational skills had proven invaluable to MacArthur, albeit in what was ultimately the losing cause of Philippine military preparedness. Yet Eisenhower left Manila in December 1939 with a great sense of relief and with no expectation that he was poised to assume greater responsibilities. Recalling his Philippine Islands experience in 1941, Eisenhower simply declared, ‘I don’t give a hoot who gets credit for anything in the P.I. I got out clean–and that’s that!’

This article was written by Carlo D’Este and was originally published in the Winter 2003 edition of MHQ. For more great articles, subscribe to MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History today!

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