Best known as: Supreme commander of Allied forces in WWII
Name at birth: David Dwight Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower was the most famous U.S. Army general of World War II and the 34th president of the United States. A career Army man, “Ike” rose to the level of five-star general and oversaw the Allied forces in Europe, including the famous D-Day invasion of France in 1944. After the war he served briefly as president of Columbia University, then was chosen over Robert A. Taft as the Republican candidate for U.S. president in 1952. He won handily in 1952 and again in 1956, defeating Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson both times. His administration is remembered as peaceful and prosperous, despite the rise of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and China. His wife, Mamie, was known as a good hostess who was happy to stay out of politics. Eisenhower was succeeded by John F. Kennedy, who defeated Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Nixon, in the elections of 1960. Eisenhower survived a half-dozen heart attacks over 15 years before succumbing to a final attack in 1969.
Eisenhower was born David Dwight Eisenhower, sharing a first name with his father David Eisenhower. According to the Eisenhower Library website, “Since the baby David was always called Dwight, when he entered high school he changed his name to Dwight David Eisenhower”… Eisenhower was a four-pack-a-day smoker until he quit cold turkey in 1949… His grandson David married Richard Nixon’s daughter Julie in 1968… Like his contemporary Winston Churchill, Ike was an amateur oil painter… When Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 he resigned from the army, forfeiting an annual pension of nearly $20,000… Eisenhower was baptized and became a member of the National Presbyterian Church shortly after he was inaugurated in 1953.
Erwin Rommel Biography
Erwin Rommel died at 52 years old.
Born: November 15, 1891
Died: October 14, 1944
Birthplace: Heidenheim, Germany
Best known as: "The Desert Fox" of World War II
Name at birth: Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel
Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was one of the most celebrated Nazi commanders during World War II, a sly tactician whose exploits in North Africa earned him the nickname “The Desert Fox.” Rommel joined the German army in 1910 and served with distinction during World War I, in campaigns in France, Romania and Italy. His courage and daring gave him a reputation among German soldiers that spawned the saying, “Where Rommel is, there is the front.” After the war he remained in the German army as an instructor, a role that led to his publishing a book on infantry tactics in 1936. Around this time he caught the attention of Adolf Hitler, who put him in charge of security for the rallies at Nüremberg. In the early part of World War II, Rommel commanded Hitler’s personal military escort, but in 1940 he was given command of the 7th Panzer Division for the invasion of France. In 1941 Rommel was directed to shore up Italian defenses in Libya; instead of merely holding the line, he attacked British forces and soon drove them as far as Egypt. His fearlessness on the battlefield and his skill at deceiving the Allies made him a Hitler favorite and the most talked-about Nazi commander throughout 1941 and 1942. Even his loss to Britain’s Bernard “Monty” Montgomery at El Alamein (October of 1942) is considered proof of his tactical skill: Rommel led his army on a rapid 700-mile retreat with minimal losses.
In late 1943 Rommel was sent to France to direct the defenses for an expected Allied invasion. In July 1944 a British aircraft fired on Rommel’s car, killing his driver and causing a crash that gave Rommel a serious head injury. While recuperating he found out he had been implicated in a plot to assassinate Hitler (an attempt on 20 July 1944 by Claus von Stauffenberg failed). Rather than face trial, Rommel was allowed to take a fatal dose of poison on 14 October 1944. The public was told he had died of complications from his head wound, and Rommel was given a state funeral. It is generally agreed that Rommel was not involved in the plot against Hitler, and he has gone down in history as an admired military tactician loyal to Hitler and the German army.
George S. Patton, Jr. Biography
Facts about George Patton
George S. Patton, Jr. died at 60 years old.
Born: November 11, 1885
Died: December 21, 1945 (automobile crash)
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California, United States
Best known as: Commander of the U.S. Third Army in World War II
Known as “Old Blood and Guts,” George S. Patton, Jr. was one of the most colorful generals of World War II. Patton went to the Virginia Military Institute and to West Point, where he was an undistinguished student but a remarkable athlete. A cavalryman and swordsman in the U.S. Army, he served on the staff of General John J. Pershing during the 1916 pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico, and during World War I Patton fought in Europe and became an early expert in a radical new form of battle machine: tanks. After the war he continued to study tanks, learned to be a pilot and sailor and held administrative posts in the Army. During World War II he served in North Africa and Sicily before becoming the commander of the Third Army. Highly effective, he was also highly unusual: among other mild eccentricities, he wore ivory-handled Colt. 45 revolvers and (late in the war) travelled with a bull terrier named Willie. Toward the close of the war, with Patton using his tanks to their full effectiveness, the Third Army defied the odds and drove the Nazis across France and back into Germany. Patton was not known for diplomacy — in one famous incident he slapped a hospitalized soldier for what he believed was cowardice — and his outspokenness caused him to be relieved of command of the Third Army after the war.
Actor George C. Scott won an Oscar for playing the general in the 1970 film Patton. The film also won an Academy Award for Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote it with Edmund North… Patton finished fifth in the Modern Pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. The competition included riding, pistol shooting, fencing, swimming and running.
Douglas MacArthur Biography
Douglas MacArthur died at 84 years old.
Born: January 26, 1880
Died: April 5, 1964
Birthplace: Little Rock Barracks, Arkansas, United States
Best known as: The American general who said "I shall return"
Douglas MacArthur was one of the best-known American military leaders of World War II, when he commanded Allied forces in the southwest Pacific. MacArthur graduated first in his class from West Point Academy in 1903, then went to the Philippines and worked as an aide to his father, General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. He served with distinction in World War I, then returned to the Philippines as major general (1922-25) and commander of the Department of the Philippines (1928-30) before a mainland posting as Army chief of staff (1930-35). In 1935 he was again sent to the Philippines to organize defenses in preparation for their independence. In 1937 he retired from the Army rather than leave his Philippine project uncompleted, but he was recalled to active duty when it became clear that war with Japan was imminent. Overrun by Japanese forces at Bataan, MacArthur was ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt to withdraw to Australia. Before MacArthur and his family escaped, he made the famous vow, “I shall return.” In 1942 he was made the supreme commander of Allied forces in the southwest Pacific and by 1945 had liberated the Philippines on the way to a planned invasion of Japan. MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945, then led the occupation forces in the reconstruction of Japan. After North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, MacArthur was put in charge of United Nations forces and successfully drove the invaders back. His enthusiasm for pushing on and attacking areas of China was not shared by President Harry Truman, who relieved MacArthur of his command in 1951. Still considered a national hero, MacArthur gave a famous address to Congress and retired. Flamboyant and confident, MacArthur has also been called arrogant and egotistical, but his amphibious campaigns in World War II and in Korea are considered brilliant examples of military strategy.
MacArthur is often cited as the source of the quote: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” He said it in his speech before Congress, but prefaced the quote by saying that it was from one of the popular “barrack ballads” he had heard as a cadet at West Point.
Harry S. Truman Biography
Harry S. Truman died at 88 years old.
Born: May 8, 1884
Died: December 26, 1972 (heart failure)
Birthplace: Lamar, Missouri, United States
Best known as: President of the United States, 1945-53
Harry Truman became president of the United States after the death of Franklin Roosevelt on 12 April 1945. Roosevelt was already the longest-serving president in U.S. history when he chose Truman, then a senator from Missouri, to be his vice presidential candidate in 1944. When Roosevelt died suddenly the next year, Truman became the 33rd president and commander in chief of U.S. forces during World War II. He made the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945, finally ending the war. Truman steered the U.S. through the post-war period with the no-nonsense Midwestern style and colorful harangues of Congress that are now his hallmark. (He placed on his desk a plaque reading “The buck stops here,” a reference to the notion of avoiding responsibility by “passing the buck.”) Truman was re-elected in 1948 in a contest many expected him to lose to the Republican candidate, Governor Thomas Dewey of New York. (A famous photograph shows Truman holding up a premature edition of the Chicago Tribune with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.”) Truman tangled diplomatically with the Soviet Union in Berlin and elsewhere, founding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and setting the tone for the nearly five decades of the Cold War that followed. He gave up politics at the end of his second term, due in part to public discontent with the U.S. involvement in the Korean War. He was succeeded as president by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
His vice president was Kentuckian Alben W. Barkley… The “S” in Harry S. Truman is just an initial; it doesn’t stand for anything… He was the captain of an artillery company during World War I; according to the Harry Truman Library, Truman and his unit “saw action in the Vosges, Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns”… The Truman Library is located in his hometown of Independence, Missouri… Truman is sometimes called a “haberdasher” because he ran a men’s clothing store in Kansas City from 1919-22; the store flopped and Truman spent years paying off his debts… Truman married the former Bess Wallace on 28 June 1919. They remained married until his death in 1972; Bess died on 18 October 1982. Their only child, Mary Margaret, was born on 17 February 1924. Margaret Truman became the author of a series of mystery novels set in Washington, D.C., including Murder at the White House (1980) and Murder at the Pentagon (1992).
Omar Bradley Biography
Omar Bradley died at 88 years old.
Born: February 12, 1893
Died: April 8, 1981
Birthplace: Clark, Missouri, United States
Best known as: American general during World War II
Omar Nelson Bradley graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1915, where he later taught mathematics. After years of administrative posts, Bradley was a brigadier general when the United States entered World War II. He commanded forces in North Africa and Sicily, then moved to command the American involvement in the D-Day invasion of 1944, ultimately liberating Paris, France from the German occupied forces. Quiet, polite and popular with enlisted men, Bradley has often been contrasted with his more colorful and blustery colleague, General George S. Patton, Jr. After the war, Bradley served in the Veterans’ Administration and as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retiring in 1953.