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Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents' Day: A Reflection on Dwight D. Eisenhower

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Originally, Presidents’ Day was established on February 22, for George Washington’s birthday, in honor of his presidency. In the late 1960s, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in order to create more three-day weekends for the workforce. The official date, as the third Monday in February, was chosen to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12. In 1971, President Richard Nixon implemented the official holiday. Today, we hold this day to honor all of our presidents past and present. Today, I want to reflect on a fundamental leader for the D-Day invasion and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, Chief of Staff of the Army, President of Columbia University, and President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower held many accomplishments, which reflected his exceptional influence and character. We hold his sculpture here at the D-Day Memorial in honor of his courageous leadership in the preparation and invasion on June 6, 1944. In this reflection on President Eisenhower, I want to highlight his characteristics, which made “Ike” a humble and true leader.

David and Ida Eisenhower nicknamed all seven of their sons either “Big Ike” or “Little Ike.” Dwight D. Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas. When his father found a job at the Belle Springs Creamery, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where Eisenhower spent his childhood. An all-around, hardworking student, Ike enjoyed the outdoors, such as hunting and fishing, and playing baseball and football. He was known as a superb poker player, in which he developed skills of observation and assessed the other player’s mannerisms. From 1909 to 1911, he worked at the Belle Springs Creamery (produced ice, cheese, butter, and ice cream), with his father and uncle, in order to pay for his older brother, Edgar’s college tuition at the University of Michigan.
Belle Springs Creamery 

 In 1911, Ike won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he placed 2nd out of 8 candidates on the examinations. While at West Point, he continued to play baseball and football. He almost was discharged from West Point due to a serious leg injury playing football and by injuring his leg, riding horseback. The chairman of the board overrode the ruling and allowed Ike to continue at West Point. He graduated 61st out of 164, and after became a 2nd Lieutenant at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he trained recruits for WWI. Also, he worked for the first Army Transcontinental Motor Convey, the Tank Corps, and the Battle Monuments Commission. By the Second World War, these experiences made Eisenhower an exceptional and recognizable leader.   
Eisenhower in uniform from West Point. 


Dwight D. Eisenhower’s most prominent position came when he was named Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious assault in American history. From his success in the North African and Italian campaigns to his leadership in the Philippines and Far East Section of the War Plans Division, Eisenhower proved an exceptional leader. This led to his appointment as Supreme Commander, given and approved by Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall.

During preparations for the D-Day invasion, Eisenhower spent a considerable amount of time in the field talking to thousands of soldiers during their training sessions in England. He spoke to each solider as an individual, which boosted morale among the ordinary soldiers. He stated, “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful war." from Crusade in Europe, pg. 210.

In my opinion, Eisenhower’s “Order of the Day” solidified the objective for the D-Day invasion by identifying the terms of bravery and victory. Here is the video below of his “Order of the Day”: 

Here is a famous image of Supreme Commander Eisenhower speaking with men from Company E, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Specifically, his conversation was with  Lt. Wallace C. Strobel about fly-fishing in Michigan. 

The invasion was scheduled for June 5, 1944, but due to storms, the invasion was delayed to June 6, 1944. Eisenhower though, wrote in a letter on June 5 (actually dated July 5, we can understand the mistake, he had a lot to handle this day), Eisenhower accepted the blame if the Normandy invasion failed. He wrote, “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” The Allies were victorious on D-Day and secured close to 850,000 men by the end of June in Normandy, France.              

He returned home as Chief of Staff for the Army, and served as President of Columbia University from 1948-1953. His experience and heroic leadership in the eyes of fellow Americans made him a successful Republican candidate for President in 1952. He ran against Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, and won the electoral vote 442 to 89. Even though historians debate the overall success of his presidency, Eisenhower led the nation for two terms, 1953-1961, and had many substantial accomplishments. Listed below just name a few:
  • Established the First Interstate Highway System in 1956
  • Secured Civil Rights legislation
  • Sent Federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas during integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957
  • Agreed to an armistice, which ended fighting in the Korean Conflict
  • “Waged-peace” in order to solidify U.S. and Soviet relations
  • Emphasized nuclear strength during the Cold War

Campaign button used in 1952. 

He stated on January 21, 1953: "My first day at the President's Desk. Plenty of worries and difficult problems. But such has been my portion for a long time - the result is that this just seems (today) like a continuation of all I've been doing since July '41 - even before that!" 

We honor and recognize Ike for his humble and courageous way of leadership during the largest amphibious assault, which changed the course of history. We honor his leadership as President and cannot forget the crucial role he made in the lives of not only the soldiers, but for future generations. From his roots in Abilene, Kansas to the most prestigious role as President of the United States, Ike stated in his homecoming speech in 1945: "The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene."
After suffering from two major attacks, Eisenhower died on April 2, 1969 at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in D.C. due to suffering from two major heart attacks in 1965 and 1968. He is buried at the Eisenhower Center in Abilene, Kansas.


Stephen Ambrose, The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II 

Eisenhower Presidential Library, 

Stephen Ambrose, Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

70 Years Later and Their Love is Still Going Strong

Hayden Furrow, D-Day Veteran,
during a school program at the
National D-Day Memorial
What better day to share one of my favorite love stories than Valentine’s Day? I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story whether it’s a book, movie, TV show, or real life. I guess you can say that I am a bit of a romantic, even though it is hard to see unless you get me on the topic. Well today, I want to share a video about one of our volunteers, who is also a D-Day veteran, on his 70th wedding anniversary which occurred just a few days ago. Hayden Furrow is one of the sweetest men you will ever meet and his enthusiasm for sharing his story with the next generation endears him to me as an educator—it’s an experience that our school visitors will never forget. But every time I see him and he mentions his wife, Katie, he lights up like he’s back in his youth and you can tell how deeply he cares for her. Recently, a local TV station aired an interview of the Furrows on their milestone wedding anniversary, as seen at this link. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did and that their story is a reminder of the good things that life can bring.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Thursday, February 9, 2017

African American Women in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II

Hello, Again!

This week, we are featuring another blog by another one of our spring interns, Meika. She is a senior at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia and is double majoring in history and political science with aspirations to earn an M.A. in Public History and then work in history museums, historic sites, or historical societies. She’s a long-time enthusiast of World War II and we are excited to have her on board this spring! I hope you enjoy her blog on the African American women who served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.



Black nurses landing in Scotland, 1944. 
African American women were not immune to the United States’ public call to arms after America entered World War II in 1941. Women who lived in a racially segregated and discriminatory country were willing and eager to join the Allied fight against tyranny and oppression in Europe. American white women are remembered for their heroic services during World War II as WACs, WAVES, nurses, factory workers, planters of Victory Gardens, and bandage rollers.  Stories of their service are well known and constantly perpetuated during elementary school lessons of Rosie the Riveter. However, the story of black women who also served their country during World War II are less well known. One of the ways through which American black women contributed during the war was through their participation in the Army Nurse Corps.

Due to the racial segregation and discrimination in the United States, black women found it difficult to join the ranks of the would-be 60,000 women in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) during World War II.  Even though the candidates had the same training and education as most of the white women who were admitted, government quotas placed limits on the number of black women who were allowed to join the ANC in 1941. In subsequent years due to the influence of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, quotas for black nurses to join the Army Nurse Corps began to loosen up and completely abolish the quota system in 1944.

A black nurse treating a German P.O.W. in England, 1944.
Though their numbers were small in comparison to the 60,000 white nurses, the less than 600 black nurses eventually admitted to the ANC were happy to finally be able to serve their country. Despite their segregation, discrimination, and occasionally rudimentary jobs assigned to them, black nurses in the Army Nurse Corps were able to see a bit of the world during their service. Though black nurses were largely restricted to serving only in hospitals and aid stations occupied by black military men, a demand for medical care brought black nurses to England, Burma, Africa, and such faraway places such as Liberia and Australia, and other locations in the Pacific. Other nurses remained in or returned to the United States to work in convalescent, general, and station hospitals.

In addition to serving the black troops, black nurses were also provided medical care for German prisoners of war in England and in as obscure places as Arizona in the United States. Due to labor shortages in the United States, the government made use of a free source of labor: German prisoners of war, and thus transported them from Europe to work on farms or other labor sites.

The work given and sacrifice made by black nurses during World War II not only achieved progress for black nurses in the form of increased federal funding and recognition, but they also inspired a new generation of nurses. Following the eradication of the quota system in 1944, over 2,000 young black women enrolled in the Cadet Nurse Corps program and other nursing schools. The 600 African American nurses in the Army Nurse Corps deserve to become part of the narrative of American women who served during World War II and I hope that further research can be conducted and further recognition duly awarded.


For  further reading on the topic, check out “The Army Nurse Corps Introduction.” Army History.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Treatment of Black Citizens and Civilians in the Range of Nazi Germany

Hello, Friends!

I’m excited to introduce a new contributor to our blog, Olivia. She is one of my spring interns and is working on her Masters of Art in History at Liberty University. Her primary field is Modern American Military History focusing on leadership in World War II and the Korean Conflict. Her work seeks to bring to light those leaders and subordinates whose impact is often overlooked or undervalued. She has also presented at several conferences and won an award for her work on the Japanese American Nisei Soldiers. I am very excited to have Olivia on board and hope you enjoy her post on treatment of African Americans in Nazi Germany!



The horrors afflicted by Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945 are ingrained in the world’s memory with the tragedy and loss still present in the minds of people around the globe. While the atrocities Nazi Germany afflicted on groups such as the Roma and Jewish communities are well known there are other groups, which also suffered at the hand of Nazi controlled Germany. One of these lesser-known groups the black and mulatto citizens of in reach of Nazi Germany.

Before World War I there were not many black German citizens living in Germany. When Germany lost World War I the Treaty of Versailles stated Germany was so give up her colonies in land that is present day Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, and Namibia. With the loss of these military outposts, military men and German colonial students, artisans, writers, and performers both white and black returned to Germany. Many military and colonial leaders also brought with them a system of deep racism and discrimination of black citizens. The Treaty of Versailles also stated troops were to occupy the Rhineland region of West Germany. The French assigned 200,00 soldiers both nationals and colonials to occupy the Rhineland. Racist propaganda groups in Germany quickly moved to compound the situation in order to spread racism and discrimination against blacks in the Rhineland and Germany. Propaganda viewed the black colonial French soldiers as rapist and carriers of disease. Other special interest groups blamed black soldiers for all of the unrest, rape, and murder of German women by the occupying forces, causing panic and uproar. This escalated and even resulted in Pope XV asking for the removal of black French troops and people writing to US President Woodrow Wilson demanding the removal of the black colonial troops. Even before Hitler’s rise to power, discrimination began with forbidding black citizens from holding any type of government jobs or roles in the military. Interracial marriage was also banned in Germany and all of its holdings.

However, with the rise of Hitler’s power in 1933 came wide spread persecution and further discrimination was implemented against blacks and mulattos living in Germany and the territories Hitler acquired. While there was never a program of systematic elimination, treatment of black citizens varied in levels of severity from discrimination and isolation to sterilization and medical experimentation. In Mein Kamph, Hitler stated that, “Jews had brought Negros into the Rhineland with the clear aim of running the hated while race by the necessarily-resulting bastardization.” In this statement Hitler used the previous post World War I tensions to push the German people to accepted racism and discrimination.

By 1937 the Germans decided something had to be done about the approximately 800 mixed raced children living in the Rhineland which Hitler deemed “an insult to the German Nation. Therefore, a committee created Commission Number 3, giving the German government power to start sterilizing mixed race children deemed “Rhineland Bastards”. As many as 400 German African mulatto children were gathered and sterilized, many with out the parents knowledge beforehand. Hans Hauck was a teenager at the time this organization was commissioned and was serialized by the Nazis. Hauck recalled in the documentary, “Hitler’s Forgotten Victims,” he was serialized without anesthesia. Once his procedure was completed he was given a certificate validating his procedure and told to avoid sex with German women. At the same time women who were found pregnant with mixed babies were forced to have abortions.  At the same time, persecution was also happening to the small population of full black German citizens.

Under Hitler’s rule all black citizens were banned from universities and in some cases the subjects of anthropological and medical studies, there were also cases of murder and abuse. Such is the case of Hilarius Gilges. Gilges was a 24-year-old native of Dusseldorf and an artist. In June of 1933 approximately a dozen SS officers attacked Gilges, captured, tortured, and killed the young man for his race identity and political affiliations. Today his life is memorialized in a plaza in Düsseldorf as the first marked death in Düsseldorf under the Nazi oppression. Others with similar stories are shared in published works such as Born to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany, which tales the story of Hans Massaquoi who grew up during the War in Germany.

At the time Hitler and the Nazi’s came to power there were approximately 25,000 black or mulatto citizens in Germany out of population of 65 million. Taking into account the low population proportion of black and mixed German citizens during Hitler’s rule combined with the world wide level of accustomed prejudice and discrimination toward men and women with African heritage at the time it, is easy to see how the plight of those souls tortured and maimed by Nazi practices went unheard of for so many years. However, the policies of hatred and abuse toward those deemed “impure” or “a threat to the master race” practiced by Nazi Germany goes beyond the treatment of Roma, Jews, and Russians. The torment and pain Nazi Germany inflicted on the population of men, women, and children with African decent deserves to be told in shared with the same hope of never allowing such a travesty to occur in our lifetime and in future generations.