Dwight David Eisenhower is a biographer's dream and nightmare. Few men in history have had so much of their lives as part of the public record; from the time he first accepted his appointment at West Point until his final moments at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., his every move was noted.
But who was Dwight David Eisenhower? As a child of the '60s, I knew him only as a bald-headed former president, and later on, as a World War II general in a high school history text. If you're not a student of history, you probably don't know much more than that.
Yet, as Perret shows us, Eisenhower's was a life well led; more than almost anyone else of his generation, Ike realized his fullest potential from humble beginnings, and he took himself far beyond his own personal limitations. He was a leader of great armies, but not a tactical genius himself. He was a genius at logistics and at motivating people to do the things they did best. The juggling act that he performed during WWII between the egos of Patton, Montgomery, and Bradley is astonishing.
With its wealth of detail, Eisenhower almost inevitably invites conflicts of interpretation. For example, Ike's father was a dark, obsessive man whose behavior obviously affected his son. Perret tells us over and over of Eisenhower's emotional distance from those that loved him, but he never directly makes the connection between this and how the father treated the son.