Eisenhower’s Cagey Counsel on Waging War Still Works

When in 1948 General Dwight Eisenhower, recently retired from the Army, was published Crusades in Europe, his memoir of the leadership of Allied forces in Europe during the Second World War, he can count on a large American audience hungry for details of a war they experienced. via. warriors or civilians on the front of the house. Eisenhower had a natural bestseller.

New paperback edition of Crusades in Europe that Vintage has just been re-released won’t generate 1948-level sales. But those who read Crusades in Europe first time will be mesmerized with what they find.

Eisenhower provides more than a clear account of how the United States and the Allies achieved victory in Europe over Germany. He offers a perspective on how America can function as a global power today without getting caught up in endless wars.

For Eisenhower, the opportunity to write Crusades in Europe , as his biographer Michael Korda pointed out, was an opportunity to earn money he could never have earned as a career employee. After raising capital, Eisenhower was left with nearly $500,000 from Crusades in Europe, an amount equivalent to more than 5 million dollars today. Doubleday, his publisher, does just as well. Crusades in Europe has sold over a million copies in the United States and has been published in 22 foreign language editions.

Eisenhower did not write his memoir slapping water, nor did he use it Crusades in Europe as a means to settle scores with military opponents. He made use of the files and diaries he had kept over the years, and he prepared for the writing by rereading Ulysses Grant’s personal recollection, which he admires because “they don’t have high blood pressure.” The result was a memoir that not only sold well, but also received critical acclaim for its prose. Like Drew Middleton, New York Times war correspondent in Europe from 1939 to VE Day, noted in his 1948 review belong to Crusades in Europe, it has the obvious thing of “elevating the book to the first class of war memoirs.”

Eisenhower’s title for his memoir is derived from the message he sent on the eve of D-Day: “Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark on a great crusade we have been striving for for months. The eyes of the world are looking at you. The hopes and prayers of freedom lovers everywhere will march with you. “

Crusades in Europe revolves around the decisions Eisenhower made to end the war with Germany as quickly as possible while keeping civilian and military losses as low as possible. It’s a tough balancing act. Eisenhower was not only up against a seasoned German army many years before the United States entered the war. He also has to deal with tough champions on his own. Nothing was immune from confrontations with the British Bernard Montgomery, who thought he should be the ground commander of the Allied forces, or with George Patton, Eisenhower’s West Pointer colleague, who in the midst of the war created a scandal by slapping a shell-shocked soldier he deemed guilty of cowardice.

In Crusades in Europe, Eisenhower considered it a “great joke” President Harry Truman’s offer of help if he wanted to pursue the presidency in 1948, but what makes Crusades in Europe so attracting the present is how it looks to the future. Eisenhower had no doubt that the United States and Russia would be bitter adversaries after the war. He wrote of America’s relationship with the Soviet Union: “The compelling necessity of the moment leaves us with no other choice,” of America’s relationship with the Soviet Union, “in terms of military readiness. full”.

At the same time, Eisenhower was willing to acknowledge the limits of American military power. In Crusades in Europe, he spoke of the fact that throughout the war, American troops never reached Berlin in time to establish control of the city before the Russians got there, as many hoped. Eisenhower has an unrepentant explanation for why he never pursued this goal. He noted that when American forces were able to enter Berlin, they were still on the Rhine, hundreds of miles from Berlin, while the Russians were firmly established on the Oder River just 30 miles from the city.

Eisenhower argued that if the United States tried to beat the Russians to Berlin, two things would happen. The Russians may have reached the city before the Americans got there, and American divisions not driving toward Berlin would be immobilized for lack of supplies. “This I feel is more than unwise; How stupid,” Eisenhower wrote of the idea that he should have been campaigning to beat the Russians to Berlin.

Eisenhower’s idea of ​​containing the Soviet Union no longer kept America stuck in conflicts that were going nowhere.

Crusades in Europe made it clear that for Eisenhower such restraint was the better part of courage. In the end of his account, Eisenhower chose to emphasize not his military victory but his belief that “rigid notions of national sovereignty” no longer made sense.

Read Crusades in Europe Nearly 75 years after it was written reminds us that when President Eisenhower ended the Korean War, he refused to send American troops to Indochina to help the French in their colonial war, and refused to joined Britain and France in gaining control of the Suez Canal in 1956 Eisenhower’s ideas for containing the Soviet Union, like that of George Kennan in his famous 1947 essay “Sources of Soviet Conduct”, included pursuing the cold war on many fronts but only ended up getting the US stuck in conflicts that went nowhere. . The kinds of interventions that in recent years have bogged down American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are precisely the kinds of interventions Eisenhower knew to avoid.

Nicolaus Mills is a professor of American literature and studies at Sarah Lawrence College and the author of Win Peace: The Marshall Plan and America Become a Superpower.


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