The West Point years were formative ones for Eisenhower. He learned to endure the pressures and indignities of the Plebe year, and in turn, discovered his acute distaste for the hazing he was expected to inflict upon others as a Yearling. On the football field, Eisenhower experienced the exultation of stardom and crushing disappointment when a series of knee injuries brought his glory days to an abrupt and painful end. In bitter reaction, Eisenhower smoked too much, studied too little, and accumulated an impressive list of demerits. Despite this setback, Eisenhower emerged as a natural leader, serving as junior varsity football coach and yell leader. Although he did not apply himself academically at West Point, Eisenhower still managed to graduate in the upper half of the Class of 1915. This group of men would be later known as the class "The Stars Fell On."
Following graduation, second lieutenant Eisenhower was first assigned to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. On a beautiful October day in 1915, he was on duty, assigned to walk the post and inspect the guard. Fellow soldier and new friend, Gee Gerow, recognized Eisenhower from across the street and beckoned him to join the casual lawn party where the Doud family of Denver were among the guests. Although he had recently "sworn off women," he pursued eighteen-year-old Miss Mamie Geneva Doud with singular determination. They were married in the Doud home on July 1, 1916. Ike and Mamie set out on a ten-day honeymoon in Colorado and on to Kansas to visit Dwight's parents and brother Milton at Kansas State College.
Those first years took Eisenhower to military posts in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and, then, back again to Georgia and Maryland. Frequently, Eisenhower coached the posts' football teams, an assignment he initially balked at, however, as one of his West Point performance reports stated, he was "born to command." Although felt great satisfaction training World War I recruits for effective overseas duty, he was very impatient for his own chance to ship out to France. Eisenhower applied, reapplied, and lobbied his superiors for an assignment to combat duty--even to the point of reprimand--and was resentful at having missed out on "his" war. For two months in the summer of 1919, Eisenhower volunteered to participate as a Tank Corps observer in the War Department's First Transcontinental Motor Convoy. It was often a frustrating journey: a train of trucks moving little more than six miles an hour across the country, broken down or mired in mud on a daily basis. Weighed down by numerous moves and Ike's professional frustrations, these were both difficult and happy years for Ike and Mamie. In 1917, they became the proud parents of Doud Dwight, nicknamed Icky, but their world fell apart when he suddenly died of scarlet fever at age three.
Nineteen-twenty-two proved to be instrumental, both personally and professionally for Eisenhower. Mamie gave birth to their second son, John Doud and Eisenhower began serving as Executive Officer to General Fox Conner. A highly respected Army officer in the Panama Canal Zone, Conner assumed the role of mentor to the younger Eisenhower. Under Conner's tutelage, Eisenhower immersed himself in the seminal works of history, military science, and philosophy. It was Conner who explained the inevitability of World War II to Eisenhower. With Conner's assistance, Eisenhower was accepted into the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the Army's elite graduate school. In 1926, he graduated first in a class of 245 of the Army's finest young officers. Eisenhower had established a reputation for himself among officers of the small, peacetime United States Army.
While in Fort Benning in 1927, Eisenhower was selected by General John "Black Jack" Pershing to write for the American Battle Monuments Commission in Washington and Paris. It was in this period that Eisenhower was introduced to the geography, cultures, and people of Europe, knowledge that would prove invaluable a decade later. When his tour completed in 1929, Eisenhower reported to the War Department. One of his assignments was to develop a plan to mobilize manpower and equipment for the Army should there be another war. It was from this position that he was transferred in 1933 to serve as chief military aide, largely to write speeches, reports and policy papers, under Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army Chief of Staff.
In 1935, Eisenhower accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines as assistant military advisor, and there he reluctantly remained until late 1939. His primary mission of building a viable Filipino Army proved to be both frustrating and elusive. As the end of his assignment approached, Europe was at war again. Despite MacArthur's pressure to remain in the Philippines and President Quezon's handsome offer of a blank contract for his services, Eisenhower was never tempted. He was not going to miss this war.
In early 1940, Eisenhower was briefly stationed at Ft. Ord, California before receiving a more permanent assignment in Ft. Lewis, Washington. For the next two years, Eisenhower's assignments gave him many opportunities to exercise his natural leadership talents. The experience and skills he had aquired over twenty-five years served him very well. In June 1941, Colonel Eisenhower was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston. Here he served as Chief of Staff for the Third Army, under General Walter Krueger. Eisenhower received national attention for his bold leadership in the Louisiana Maneuvers. Eisenhower was promoted to brigadier general a few months before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that served as the catalyst for the United States' entry into World War II.
Eisenhower was then transferred to the War Plans Division in Washington, DC, where Army Chief of Staff George Marshall tested his abilities. Marshall was impressed with Eisenhower's thinking, organizational and people skills, and as a result, he was promoted to Major General by March of 1942. In May, Eisenhower arrived in England on a special mission to build cooperation among the Allies as Commanding General of the European Theater. So began his rapid rise in rank and fame. By November, he was named Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in North Africa, and carried out Operation Torch. In 1943, Eisenhower had his second test as Commander of the Allied Forces that invaded Sicily and Italy. In December 1943, Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, and the planning of Operation Overlord began. Eisenhower was tasked with the challenge of bringing together land, sea, and air forces that culminated in the D-Day invasion of the European continent.
D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. In December of that year, Eisenhower earned his fifth star when he was promoted to the rank of General of the Army. When Germany surrendered in May 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the US Occupied Zone. By then, Dwight D. Eisenhower had earned the respect, admiration, and affection of people around the world and was treated as an international celebrity. Eisenhower quickly became the centerpiece of speeches, grand parades, and throngs of admirers as grateful nations throughout Europe honored him. In June of 1945, Eisenhower returned to a hometown hero's welcome in Abilene, Kansas.
In November 1945, Eisenhower was selected as Chief of Staff of the United States Army. On February 7, 1948, he resigned from the Army to serve as President of Columbia University. At President Truman's request in 1950, Eisenhower took a leave of absence from Columbia University to command the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Here he labored with Allied nations to build an organization around the idea of "concerted, collective, unified action." Eisenhower took a nearly impossible task and turned his vision for Europe and the United States into a reality. During this time, a grassroots effort took shape to persuade Eisenhower to run for President. The Draft Eisenhower Movement swelled to a crescendo that he could no longer ignore. In preparation for what was to come, Eisenhower retired from active service, resigned his commission, and headed home to Abilene to formally announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.