David Eisenhower: Those in the generation of his grandfather and Ralph Hauenstein 'saved civilization'

The life stories of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ralph W. Hauenstein remarkably tracked one another in multiple ways, the grandson of the former general and president noted during a Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies virtual discussion.

On an elemental level, the two men were Midwesterners from small towns, said David Eisenhower, a noted author and historian.

They also shared deep historical ties. Hauenstein served as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army’s European Theater during World War II under General Eisenhower. And, David Eisenhower emphasized, the elders were both part of a group of men and women who saved civilization.

Eisenhower's remarks March 18 came as part of a virtual event where he was joined by Brian Hauenstein, grandson of Ralph Hauenstein, for a commemoration of what would have been the elder Hauenstein's 109th birthday. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library were also partners for the event.

David Eisenhower
David Eisenhower
Image credit - Courtesy photo

The wide-ranging discussion included a deep exploration of World War II operations as well as personal recollections by the grandsons, all of it steeped in an appreciation of the resolve their grandfathers had during the war and then afterward as they continued to find ways to help shape the country and uphold democracy.

"We do not commemorate these people nostalgically -- we recognize instead their qualities as people," Eisenhower said.

Eisenhower commented on how Ralph Hauenstein's journey wound from working as a journalist to developing intelligence -- a leap, Eisenhower affirmed, just as the war was a leap for all of those who put on the uniform.

Hauenstein was assembling information for General Eisenhower that was a matter of life and death, David Eisenhower said.

"Intelligence, which was a function (Hauenstein) had to practically invent, was vital," Eisenhower said. "The more that I have learned about World War II the more I appreciate that the margin between victory and disaster was very slight."

Brian Hauenstein recalled his grandfather as warm and approachable but he added that his grandfather's role in the war made for limited recollections.

"The thing about him is because he was in intelligence, it was tough getting a story out of him," Hauenstein said. Eisenhower added that "a fair amount of your grandfather's work product is still classified."

Eisenhower said his grandfather also was not prone to telling stories about the war. "He encouraged me to learn about the war, but he discouraged casual discussion about the war."

But there was no doubt about the effect the sustained challenges of the war had on the two men and their dedication to what it means to be an American, Eisenhower said.

"They recognized, I think, the perils that democracy faced and the importance of leadership," Eisenhower said. "They returned recognized leaders."


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