08/02/05 - eisenhower

In today's excerpt - Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower, the iconic and victorious general in World War II's European Theater of Operations, is up to intentional mischief as a student at West Point. Although he became perceived as colorless and stoic after his election as President, here is a very different side:

At West Point, "Ike had been spared having to eat the regulation fare from the day he was picked to play for Cullum Hall in his plebe year. ... [he] nonetheless organized the most daring boodle caper the Point had ever seen.

"Illicit foodstuffs were bought in from nearby Highland Falls, brought by boat to a cove at the foot of a bluff within the Academy grounds and surreptitiously hand-carried to a latrine at the top ...

"West Point was hog-tied by a nineteenth-century conception of its mission to provide the Army with men capable of leading other men in peace and war. It was a conception that relied so much on unquestioned authority backed up by draconian punishments that leadership was no more than an aspect of command.

"Ike represented something else, even at this early phase in his career. Within his character were the germs of a new approach, the modern one, which makes command but one aspect of leadership. ...

"Eisenhower would prove to be a pioneer of the modern military style, but for now he could develop his leadership skills only by mounting sub-rosa challenges to the West Point system, something that most of his classmates avoided. Long afterward, when he heard that one of them had just been promoted to a star, Ike was disgusted. 'How did he ever make general? He never broke a regulation in his life!' ...

"The need to dare to be different expressed itself, not only in sloppy housekeeping and boodle smuggling but in the way he danced at the rare hops organized to help cadets develop their social skills. Dancing was strictly regulated, like everything else. Ike showed what he thought of that at his first hop by turning his partner so quickly that her skirt rose higher than her ankles. He was reprimanded for 'improper dancing.' At the next hop, he did it again, and was reprimanded again."


Geoffery Perret




Random House, Inc


Copyright 1999 by Geoffrey Perret


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