What War Taught Eisenhower: D-Day and Beyond

War turned invasion’s overall commander into a pacifist

excerpted from June 06, 2004 | International herald Tribune

by John S.D. Eisenhower (son of Dwight D., 34th President of the U.S., commander of the Allied D-Day forces)

The 60th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy, on the day known in common parlance as D-Day, was once again an occasion to pause and contemplate its significance….

The experience of that 11-month campaign, plus Ike’s later service as the first military commander of NATO six years later, produced profound effects on him, changing some of his convictions and confirming others….

The most fundamental conviction that the period of Ike’s command in Europe and the Mediterranean imprinted on his mind was the cruelty, wastefulness and stupidity of war. He saw at firsthand how war destroyed cities, killed innocent people (in which I include most of the participating soldiers), wiped out national economies and tore up the structure of civilizations. Its wastefulness cut him to the bone, and its specter never left him. As a result, as president he kept the military budget as small as was consistent with the safety of the nation. He expressed his convictions eloquently in April 1953, about three months after his inauguration as the 34th president of the United States:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed….

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals….

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed 8,000 people.

Not surprisingly, the war that included D-Day had made a pacifist of the man who bore the responsibility, its supreme commander.

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