In the last week, we have been exposed to everything from the threat leveled toward attendees of the Inauguration of Donald Trump being punched in the throat, to the intention of lawmakers that they will make “history” by boycotting the ceremony and the festivities, to the plans of some to stage a coup because they believe that the election was hacked by the Russians. Lots of Vitamin D, which in this case stands for Drama with a capital D, and no matter where you land politically, it is embarrassing.
In the midst of this, a fresh breeze engendered by a look back in time has emerged in the form of a wonderful book written by Fox News Correspondent Brett Baier. It is about one of my greatest heroes, President Dwight David Eisenhower. There are a number of reasons why Ike is so dear to my heart. The first is that he was my grandfather’s lieutenant during WWI. Ike and my grandfather, Ernest Glenn Hersman were married in the same year, 1916. Ike married Mamie, and my grandfather married Mimi, the former Mary Gertrude Turner. Gumbo, (our nickname for our grandfather) had stories about Ike, one of which involved getting sent by Lt. Eisenhower on a 20-mile ruck march for being inebriated, but I digress. We all loved Ike; he was the man under whom my dad served during WWII, and one of the few times I saw my dad cry was when we watched Ike’s funeral on our old black and white TV in the spring of 1969.
Mr. Baier chose to write his book largely because, in his view, Eisenhower was one of the most under-appreciated Presidents ever, and Bret felt the things he discovered about Ike are most helpful for the times in which we live. It is not at all well known that Harry Truman did not handle Ike winning the Presidential election of 1952 in what we would consider a mature manner, and while Harry didn’t blame it on the Cold War, the rift between them was so great that Ike and Bess did not go in for the traditional pre-Inauguration breakfast with the Trumans.
Instead, they sat outside in the car. In turn, after the ceremony, Ike offered to fly the Trumans home, and Harry declined his offer. They took the train instead. All of this in an era of much better manners than those of our era of social media, as well as inviolate protocol as far as the “peaceful transfer of power,” was concerned and yet, our nation survived. I believe we will again.
For his book, Baier did an incredible amount of research, and was allowed to read old letters and other documents stored in boxes that had long been forgotten, and whose significance had never been perceived. His work has paid off, and Three Days In January is a monster best seller.
Ike was someone who despised politics and over-inflated egos. He had to deal with notable arrogance during WWII in the form of Generals Patton and Bradley, and I am sure that by the time JFK was elected, he was more than ready to get back to his home in Kansas. I have visited that home, and the similarity between it and my grandparents’ house was almost eerie.
Three Days In January focuses on the way Eisenhower handed over the country to JFK, a man young enough to be his son. It discusses Ike’s farewell address, something which would turn out to be uncomfortably prescient. It is carefully crafted, meticulously organized, and a superb look into times that on the surface appear to have been far more innocent than ours.
The picture used for the cover of the book shows that one of Ike’s most important tasks came not long after JFK was inaugurated. Kennedy came to need everything Ike had been through, both as a president as well as a general, to guide us through the Cuban Missile Crisis. The new President flew the former President to Camp David, and together they came up with a way to read what was going on with Castro and get us through it. However, true to form, Ike didn’t try to grab any glory. He just found a way to serve his country once again, and his example as well as the story is a true pleasure.