'Doughboys into GIs: From the Great War to D-Day'
By Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site
Jun 4, 2022
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Denison, Texas -- Join the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site on Thursday, June 9 at 6:00 p.m. as we welcome guest speaker Dr. Hunt Tooley. Hunt Tooley is Professor of History at Austin College. As a historian, he studies war, revolutions, and peace in the modern world. He is the author of three books, including The Great War: Western Front and Home Front. Dr. Tooley will give a special talk, "Doughboys into GIs: From the Great War to D-Day," exploring how the legacies of the War to End All Wars molded the next battle for Europe. Admission is free.

When the Armistice was declared in 1918, the world proclaimed the "Great War," the "War to End all Wars." Exhausted by four years of brutal warfare, Western nations wanted to beat their swords into plowshares. However, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was a ticking timebomb waiting to explode.

For the United States, the response to World War I was to retreat inward. Isolationism reigned supreme during the American Interwar Period (1919-1939). A huge symbol of this removal from the world stage was the Defense Act of 1920. It restricted the U.S. Army to 296,000 men, stagnating the growth of the Interwar Army. Few attempts were made to modernize or train troops for active military service.

The complacency and stagnation of the overall US military during the Interwar period made Dwight D. Eisenhower's career so startlingly different. Eisenhower was one of only a handful of Army officers who recognized that the Treaty of Versailles was a ticking time bomb. Convinced that the grievances of World War I were not settled, Eisenhower's career developed to respond to and address the failures of World War I to fight a stronger campaign when the fragile Treaty of Versailles exploded. Eisenhower developed his career by addressing three concerns:

1) Fighting with a coalition army

World War I brought France, Russia, Britain, and the United States together. This alliance was unstable, however, and was rife with issues. General Fox Conner, Pershing's Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, was intimately aware of these issues. It led him to develop three rules of war for a democracy: Never fight unless you have to, never fight alone, and never fight for long. Conner was an influential mentor to a generation of officers, including Eisenhower and George Marshall. These officers used these principles to create a more efficient coalition during World War II, culminating in creating the position of Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

2) The carnage of World War I was partially caused using Napoleonic tactics with modern weapons.

Technology that now defines modern warfare, including tanks, planes, and automatic weapons, was first tested in France's trenches. Eisenhower's first command post was Camp Colt, where his task was to train the first tank battalion. Despite the lack of actual operational tanks, training strategy, or overarching tank doctrine, Eisenhower saw the future of warfare. In 1920, Eisenhower and Major George S. Patton each published an article in the prestigious Infantry Journal proposing a potential tank doctrine for the next war. Both were severely reprimanded. This didn't stop either man. The push by both men during the interwar years to develop tank doctrine led to the pivotal use of tanks during World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Normandy campaign.

3) Mobilization of men and supplies

One of the most challenging issues faced by the United States at the beginning of both the Great War and World War II was how to mobilize resources. Eisenhower was uniquely positioned to be one of the leading authorities on military mobilization by the outbreak of World War II. As a junior officer, he had on-the-ground experience trying to supply the newly organized 57th Infantry Division. In the 1930s, Eisenhower expanded this experience to a national level. While stationed at the War Department under General George Van Horn Mosely, Eisenhower was the key architect of a national military mobilization plan. Under General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines, he helped develop, train, and mobilize the new Phillipino Army. These experiences made him the go-to man in 1941, as the United States struggled to organize a new national army.