Distinguished man of letters and former Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief Korda (Journey to Revolution, 2006, etc.) stylishly and sympathetically restores Dwight D. Eisenhower to an eminent place in the military and political pantheon.
The author begins in 1942, when Ike gained instant fame as supreme commander of the European theater of operations and began the dogged strategic planning that would defeat Nazi Germany. The long-postponed Allied invasion of France finally took place on June 6, 1944, and it showcased Ike’s skillful ability to manage staggering logistics and bring together the kind of manpower that the effort demanded. His sincerity, grasp of detail and lack of ceremony made it impossible for even the British and French not to like the unassuming, hardworking general. Korda too is evidently enchanted by the decency of his subject, for whom “duty would always come first.” Unscholarly and outdoorsy in Mennonite Kansas, Ike escaped small-town Abilene by attending West Point. Second Lieutenant Eisenhower married Denver debutante Mamie Doud in 1916, and they began a trying, peripatetic Army life that required long absences on Ike’s part and enormous amounts of suffering and forgiveness on Mamie’s. After tours of duty in Panama and France, in 1932 Eisenhower found his first mentor in General Douglas MacArthur, under whom he worked for six years at the War Department and then in the Philippines, building up America’s “arsenal of democracy.” With the outbreak of World War II, Ike was summoned to London to make order out of chaos, squired around by glamorous volunteer driver Kay Summersby, who may or may not have been his lover. (The author demurely chooses not to judge.) Korda’s command of military history is impressive in the wartime chapters. He treats Eisenhower’s two-term presidency more summarily, but hails Ike’s little-regarded devotion to keeping America out of war and the groundwork laid for the Civil Rights movement.
An engaging history, guided by an elegant, witty sense of characterization.