Tag Archives: Dwight Eisenhower

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

Happy Trails, Part 23

Please excuse this latest retirement blog so soon after the previous one, but I want to offer tribute to one of the greatest Americans … ever!

Dwight David Eisenhower served his country in two profound capacities: as a senior military officer and strategist who commanded all Allied forces in Europe during World War II; and as 34th president of the United States.

My wife and I are embarking on one of what we expect to be several lengthy trips along the interstate highway system, which happened to be Ike’s crowning achievement — in my view — as president.

We intend over time to haul our fifth wheel RV along back-country roads as well. There’s plenty to see in this great country of ours — as well as the rest of North America — that doesn’t straddle the interstate highway system.

We’ve relied almost exclusively on interstate highways to get us from point to point in our post-retirement adventures.

Ike’s vision for speeding up ground travel across the United States makes it easier for folks such as my wife and me to enjoy this newfound pursuit of ours: RV travel.

The president relied on an experience he had as a young Army officer. In 1919, he took part in a convoy that crossed the country along what was known as the Lincoln Highway. It took him weeks to make the trip.

Thirty-four years later, he took the oath as president and embarked on another journey of a political kind to persuade Congress enact the Interstate Highway Act. Construction began in 1956, with states competing for attention over which of them had the first “interstate highway.”

Whatever the case, what we have now is a remarkable network of highways. Some of the are turnpikes that require motorists to pay tolls to pass along them; we plunked down $5 at two toll booths in West Virginia, but didn’t begrudge the state one bit, as the highway is magnificent.

President Eisenhower was a visionary man, although he might not have been called one at the time he led the nation.

His legacy is laid out in every single state of this great nation.

Yep, make no mistake: I like Ike.

Still waiting for POTUS to act, sound like one

A critic of High Plains Blogger scolded me recently about how I reference the commander in chief, Donald J. Trump.

The critic wants me to use the term “President” in front of his last name. I told him I would consider it.

I’ve thought about it for a bit of time and have decided … that I cannot make that leap. I just cannot — at least not yet — connect the words “President” and “Trump” consecutively.

It’s not that I disrespect the office. Indeed, I have great respect for the presidency. I’ve harbored that respect going back to the early 1950s, when I became aware of the office and the man who occupied it.

I was born in December 1949, when Harry Truman was president of the United States. He left office in January 1953, when I was just barely 3 years of age. The first president I remember was Dwight D. Eisenhower. To borrow a phrase, I liked Ike.

My first vote for president came in 1972. I voted for George McGovern, who got trampled by President Nixon. I’ve voted for plenty of losing candidates and my share of winning ones ever since. I’ve always managed to refer to the men I voted against by their title. Why? Because they were dignified, they knew how to act and speak like the leader of the free world, the commander in chief, the head of state of the greatest nation on Earth.

The man who occupies the office now hasn’t yet learned how to do that. He keeps saying patently goofy things. He keeps behaving strangely.

Am I still angry at the outcome of the 2016 election? Sure I am. That’s patently obvious to readers of this blog; it damn sure is obvious to the critic who scolded me. I won’t apologize for harboring the anger that a profoundly unfit man got elected to the highest office in the land. Nor will I apologize for declining to refer to him by the title he earned through his election.

Donald Trump has to earn it. To date, he has fallen short. His penchant for prevarication is an outrage. His ignorance of government and the mechanics of how to govern is annoying in the extreme.

And I also am waiting for a full-throated apology for the “fake news” lie he kept alive by asserting that Barack Hussein Obama was constitutionally unqualified to serve as president of the United States. Trump kept alive the lie that Obama was born in Africa and therefore was not a “natural born citizen” of the nation he governed successfully for two terms. Donald Trump was the disgraceful godfather of the “birther” movement.

I hope the man grows into the office. I want him to succeed. Honestly, I do.

Until he does and until he demonstrates some level of the decorum the office deserves, I will refuse — with all due respect — my critic’s demand that I change the way to which I refer to the president.

What? Now he dumps inaugural parade announcer?

You can’t see me doing it, but I am shaking my head at this very moment.

The president-elect has decided to toss aside a man who’s announced the inaugural parade for the past 60 years.

He goes back to President Eisenhower’s second inaugural in 1957. He’s called them all for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Charles Brotman won’t be announcing this year’s inaugural parade because Donald J. Trump has thrown him over in favor of a freelance announcer named Steve Ray.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/313240-trump-dumps-inaugural-parade-announcer-who-has-done-them-for-60

Brotman said he was “heartbroken” and “destroyed” when he heard the news. Gentleman that he is, he says he wishes Ray well — but isn’t sure if he’ll attend the inaugural.

To be fair, the Trump team has paid tribute to Brotman, calling him “the voice” of the inaugural.

But this seems — to me, at least — to be one of those changes that is being made just for the sake of change.

Go figure, man.

 

Three words launched campaign to save the world

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“OK. We’ll go.”

Right then and right there, with those words, the order went out from the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe.

The invasion of Europe was on.

General of the U.S. Army Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a terrible dilemma. The weather over the English Channel had been horrible. The invasion of France had been delayed once already. Hundreds of thousands of men had assembled and prepared in Great Britain for Operation Overlord.

Ike then caught a bit of a break. The weather was going to cooperate — more or less — on June 6, 1944. That’s when he decided to issue the order.

The men set out in ships. They boarded landing craft and hit the French coastline along five beachheads. American and British soldiers stormed four of them; Canadians stormed the fifth one.

Eisenhower had drafted two statements in preparation for that event, one to proclaim victory on the beach, the other to take full responsibility in case it went badly. He didn’t have to deliver the latter statement.

It has become fashionable in the present day to invoke Ike’s memory as we discuss the merits of the individuals seeking the U.S. presidency. Those who defend the current Republican presumptive nominee’s lack of government experience often cite Eisenhower’s own lack of such qualifications when he ran for president in 1952.

No, he didn’t have that kind of experience. All he did, though, was save the world from tyranny.

Eight years after saying simply, “OK. We’ll go,” the presidency became his for the taking.

So it was on this day 72 years ago that thousands upon thousands of young men followed their commander’s order.

May God bless them all.

Anti-Cuba lobby still flexes its muscle

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The anti-Castro/Cuba lobby in the United States has been outsized for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps we are witnessing this week the latest manifestation of that muscle-flexing as President Obama tours the tiny island nation and gets skewered by those on the right for doing what many others of us think is the right thing.

Which is to normalize relations  with the communist regime.

It’s a curious thing to watch the head of state of the world’s most powerful nation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of a dirt-poor Third World state. Then to have that tinhorn lecture the leader of the Free World about whether the United States should keep possession of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay gives the Cubans a dubious and overstated standing — and then to have critics pounce on Obama for taking it!

To what do we owe this strange juxtaposition?

I believe it’s the power of that Cuban-American community that resides mostly in Florida.

The community had its birth in the late 1950s when Cubans fled their nation that had been taken over by Fidel Castro and his gang of communists. They took up residence in Florida and began immediately pressuring the U.S. government to do more to destroy Castro.

President Eisenhower heard them. He formulated plans to invade Cuba and then handed the keys to the Oval Office over to President Kennedy in January 1961, who then launched the Bay of Pigs invasion.

It didn’t turn out well for our side. The Cubans squashed the small force, took prisoners and then crowed about how the big, bad U.S. government was intent on destroying them.

Then we had that missile crisis in 1962. JFK took care of it by blockading the island, forcing the Soviet Union to “blink” and remove the offensive missiles.

By 1991, the Evil Empire had vaporized. Cuba was left without its major benefactor.

Still, five decades after the revolution, Cuba has remained a communist dictatorship. Fidel Castro handed the power over to his brother, Raul, who welcomed President Barack Obama to his nation.

Is Cuba a nation to be feared? Do we tremble at the thought of normalizing relations with this tiny nation? No. Why should we? We’re the big kids on the block. Heck, we’re the biggest kids on the planet!

Our politicians, though, have been told to fear Cubans by that overblown Cuban-American community.

So here we are. The president of the United States is making history simply by visiting an island nation that sits within spittin’ distance of our southeastern-most state.

Sure, the Cubans must do more to improve human rights on their island. The president should tell them so.

I don’t know why we should sweat so much over whether Raul Castro listens to us. He and that backwater government he runs can’t do us any harm.

My own sense is that normalization of relations with Cuba by itself is going to do more to bring reform to a nation that needs it in the worst way. Soon enough, the Cubans will see what the rest of the world really looks like.

They also are likely to see how their giant neighbor just over the horizon relishes the fruits of liberty.

Then they might start demanding it from their leaders.

 

GOP contest is a two-man match race

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Will Rahn, writing for the Daily Beast, has concluded that the Republican Party presidential primary campaign has settled into a two-man race.

It happens to comprise perhaps the two unlikeliest candidates of the field . . . but there’s a third highly unlikely guy out there who’s been left in the dust.

Donald J. Trump vs. Ted Cruz.

That’s who the GOP has left to decide in this primary battle, Rahn writes.

A part of me is saddened  by that possibility. Another part of me wonders if either Trump or Cruz really and truly can defeat whomever the Democrats nominate.

It’s looking a bit dicier at this moment for one-time prohibitive Democratic favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton. She once was thought to be invincible. No longer.

Still, I am trying to grasp the notion of either Trump or Cruz being able to defeat Clinton in a national election. I cannot get there.

Both men represent the so-called “outsider” wing of the party, even though Cruz has been a member of the U.S. Senate since January 2013; I guess that means he isn’t an entrenched member of Congress.

The once-enormous GOP field had a number of highly qualified individuals seeking the presidential nomination. My favorites, if you consider their skill and experience, were John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Rand Paul. They remain my personal favorites.

Then we had Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon seeking election to the only public office he’s ever sought. He isn’t qualified and that’s all I intend to say about that.

The rest of the field? I’ll just shrug.

We’re going to be left with Trump and Cruz fighting it out to the end, says the Daily Beast writer.

It appears to me at least that the Republican Party is morphing into a political organization that some truly great Americans — Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater — wouldn’t recognize.

 

 

Trump plan = Operation Wetback

operation-wetback

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to round up all illegal immigrants hiding in the United States and ship ’em all back to their home countries.

He’ll do it humanely.

Sure, Donald.

We tried that once in this country. President Dwight Eisenhower — one of the better presidents this country ever elected — launched Operation Wetback in the 1950s.

The program didn’t work too well.

It carried a disparaging name attached to Mexican immigrants. Agents fanned out across the country and rounded up the immigrants, sent them to detention centers and then shipped them off. Many of those individuals died while being held or while they fended for themselves under terrible conditions.

Trump has used the program as a benchmark for the kind of initiative he said he would launch if — perish the thought — he were to be elected president of the United States next year. At least he doesn’t identify it by the name it was given when Ike decided on the immigrant roundup.

President Obama, interviewed tonight on ABC News, talked about the images that would be flashed around the world as “deportation agents” took parents away from their children and prepared to send them back to their native country.

“That’s not who we are,” the president said.

No, it is not.

But yet, Trump continues to gain traction with his party’s primary voter base by declaring his intention to hire 25,000 officers and deploy them to hunt down every single one of the estimated 11 million individuals who are here illegally.

Is the leading GOP candidate seeking to redefine this country?

 

How would Ike fare in today’s GOP?

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EISENHOWER STATE PARK, Texas — Sitting here amid the trees that are rustling in a light breeze, my mind tends to wander.

I’m thinking at this moment about the man after whom this beautiful park is named: General of the Army Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States of America.

I am thinking especially of how he might react to what has become of his beloved Republican Party. My hunch? He’d be furious at what has happened to it.

Think of any contemporary Republican today who’d have the courage, as Ike did in 1960 — as he was preparing to leave after two terms in the White House — to warn the nation of the perils of the “military-industrial complex.”

Ike knew all about that. He retired from the Army with five — not just four — stars on his uniform. He earned general of the Army status merely for leading Allied forces in their successful fight against Nazi/Fascist tyranny in Europe.

When he ordered the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France, he wrote two statements, one in the event our forces succeeded — and one in the event they failed. He obviously never delivered the second set of remarks.

We’ve heard much this election cycle about “anointment” of presidential nominees, namely Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 1952, just seven years after returning home from World War II, Ike was anointed by the Republican Party to be its nominee. He won in a landslide and was re-elected four years later in similarly impressive fashion.

He wouldn’t like the rancor that has developed today. He wouldn’t condone efforts to shut down the government to suit the tastes of a minority wing of his party. He wouldn’t tolerate the intense partisanship that stalls important projects that need to be done for all Americans.

Ike’s signature achievement as president arguably was the development of the massive interstate highway system that connected a nation along its three coasts. These days, members of his GOP are fighting efforts just to maintain the system that President Eisenhower pushed through Congress.

Ike’s birthplace in Denison is just a few miles south of the park that carries his name. We visited it once years ago, so we likely won’t return on this visit. We’re going to enjoy the park named in this great man’s honor.

And I’ll keep wishing his once-great party eventually returns to its senses.

 

 

Castro’s VP stakes on the rise

Julian Castro has the chops to be vice president of the United States.

I’ll lay that out right now. He’s as qualified to be VP as, say, Dan Quayle or Spiro Agnew. Heck, even Richard Nixon was considered a young buck when Dwight Eisenhower selected him to run as vice president in 1952; then again, Ike could have run with a trained chimpanzee and still been elected in a landslide that year.

Castro’s stock as a potential running mate on a Democratic ticket led by Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be rising.

The Big Question: Does Castro’s presence on a Democratic presidential ticket deliver Texas to the Democrats? It’s not going to happen.

However, it could make Texas more competitive than it otherwise would be.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/12/houston-castro-avoids-veep-chatter/

Castro is the highly charismatic former mayor of San Antonio who now serves as housing secretary. He’s had his federal job for less than a year and wasn’t mayor of Texas’s second-largest city all that long before moving to Washington.

He did light up the Democratic National Convention in 2012 with a stirring keynote speech.

Castro’s ties to the Hispanic community are quite obvious, given his name. What’s more, the name “Castro” doesn’t carry quite the negative political baggage it once did in this country, given that Fidel Castro is now out of power in Cuba and the United States is on the verge of establishing normal diplomatic relations with its former enemy. Sure, it’s still a commie state, but it poses no threat to the United States of America.

These things occasionally have a way of reversing themselves. Someone else could emerge from nowhere to become the next favorite to join Hillary Clinton. Heck, someone else also could emerge — from the same nowhere — to bump Clinton out of her shoo-in status to become the Democrats’ next presidential nominee. Do I think either event will occur? Umm, no — definitely not the latter.

For now, it’s fun to watch Julian Castro navigate his way through the treacherous world of political punditry and speculation.

The young man already is adept at dodging the obvious questions that keep coming at him.