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Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower reports for Fort Lewis duty on February 3, 1940.

HistoryLink.org Essay 8930 : Printer-Friendly Format

On February 3, 1940, Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) reports for duty at Fort Lewis. He reports as commander 1st Battalion, 15th Regiment, and the regimental executive officer. He loves the assignment and especially leading troops. November 1940 brings a new assignment, Chief of Staff, 3rd Division. In March 1941 he is promoted to Colonel and becomes Chief of Staff IX Corps. His wife, Mamie Eisenhower (1896-1979) , precedes him to Fort Lewis to establish their home at 2310 Clark Street, a two-story brick house, built two years earlier (today a plaque in the sidewalk records it as the Eisenhower quarters). Their son John (b. 1922) moves to Fort Lewis with them. They will remain at Fort Lewis until the end of June 1941. In 1953 Dwight David Eisenhower will become president of the United States.

The Making of a President

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, on October 14, 1890. In 1915 he graduated from West Point and served in the army until retirement in May 1952. His first assignments were in infantry and tank units. Eisenhower did not see combat in World War I.  Following that war “Ike,” as he was called, became an effective staff officer, notably from 1933-1935 as General Douglas MacArthur’s (1880-1960) chief military aide. In 1935 he went to the Philippines with MacArthur as the senior military assistant.

Although Eisenhower was highly regarded for his administrative skills, he longed to be with the troops. With the help of friends, he received orders to Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1939. Dwight, his wife, Mamie, and son, John, departed Manila in December 1939. They arrived in the United States on January 6, 1940,  and Ike was  placed on temporary duty at the Presidio of San Francisco.  Mamie went on to Fort Lewis and established their home.

Life at Fort Lewis

The Eisenhowers had an active social life that included off-duty participation in the officer’s club events.  Dining at the club, they came to love the china service that had a image of the post’s historic stone main gate. Today, this china is on display at the Eisenhower Museum, Abilene, Kansas. Ike spent some of his free time tending a vegetable garden behind the house and also entertaining friends with barbeque picnics. Also, on the home front, Colonel Eisenhower demonstrated a father’s pride when John, a student at Stadium High School, Tacoma, received a West Point appointment. (John would rise to Brigadier General and become a distinguished historian).  

Ike’s experience in leading troops, developing battle strategies, and administrative work set the stage for future achievements. His Fort Lewis time prepared him for greatness.  The Eisenhowers left Fort Lewis at the end of June 1941 going to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Ike received his first star, a Brigadier General, in October 1941. In August 1942 he made a brief return visit to Fort Lewis.

War Years

During the first years of the war, his planning and administrative skills led to war planning duties. During January 1944 Eisenhower assumed the awesome duties of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, planning and carrying out the invasion of France. His leadership led to a fifth star as General of the Army in December 1944.

During 1945-1948 Eisenhower held the Army Chief of Staff position. As Chief of Staff he visited Fort Lewis and the local area. In February 20-21, 1946, Eisenhower inspected McChord Field and Fort Lewis. He spoke to 2,000 veterans at the Madigan Hospital Red Cross Hall. On another Fort Lewis visit on August 15, 1947, Ike reviewed 10,000 2nd Infantry Division troops, and met with soldiers.

Presidential Visits to Washington

In 1953 Dwight David Eisenhower became the 34th president of the United States and served two terms. During his presidency, he flew out to dedicate Washington’s McNary Dam in September 1954. Ike returned to the Tacoma area on October 18, 1956, when he spoke at the University (then College) of Puget Sound with 8,000 in attendance.

On another visit, in November 1958, Dwight stayed at brother Edgar’s home on American Lake,  a time together that included golf.  Edgar Eisenhower (1889-1971), a prominent Tacoma lawyer and outstanding golfer, regularly shot a 70 on the par 72 Tacoma Golf and Country Club. He won the Washington State Seniors tournament three times. Dwight Eisenhower also made several other visits to Washington state, including one to the Century 21 World's Fair in 1961.

Dwight and Mamie retired to a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, farm. He died on March 28, 1969.  Fort Lewis honored him with a 50-gun salute and displaying the flag at half-mast for 30 days.

John S. D. Eisenhower,  General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence (New York: Free Press, 2003),  pp 19-34; Thomas D. Morgan, “Eisenhower at Fort Lewis: 1940-41: The Making of a General,” The Banner (Fort Lewis Museum), Summer 2004, pp 3-6; “Ike Plaque, Review Top Celebration” Tacoma News Tribune, 20 May 1955, p. 1. 

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Eisenhower House, home of future president Dwight Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, and their son John, 1940-1941, Fort Lewis, 2008
Courtesy Fort Lewis

General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), late 1940s
Courtesy Columbia University

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), The White House, 1950s

President Eisenhower visiting Century 21 world's fair, Seattle, 1961
Courtesy Jim Douglas

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