Dwight D. Eisenhower "Ike", graduated from West Point in 1915 ranked 61st in a class of 164 better known for his abilities on the football field than in the classroom. Upon graduation from West Point he seriously considered a civilian life, rather than pursuing a commission. He spent WWI in the United States in a logistics position, and was not sent to Europe. In the interwar period he again considered leaving the military and a career which he considered at a dead end.
At the beginning of WWII his rank was lieutenant colonel. When his friend George Patton was given a field command, Eisenhower asked for a position on Patton's staff which was denied by United States Army Chief of Staff George Marshal.
The position George Marshal ultimately appointed Ike to was Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Eisenhower was appointed December 1943), an advancement over nearly 400 more senior officers.
My question is: Why was Ike, with no combat experience, chosen to lead? How had he transformed his career from logistical support to the fast track during peace time? Were their any specific postings, commanding officers, personal decisions which were instrumental in this transformation? Where had he first come to the attention of George Marshall?
From Jos in the Comments:
The idea that (in the above question) a mediocre ltn-col is told he's in the running for the 5 star general position is preposterous.
There were actually two occasions where Eisenhower was nearly placed on Patton's staff. Both times Marshal interceded. The first time was Sept 1940 the second time was April 1942.
The first occassion, Patton asked Ike if he would be interested in a subordinate command position.
General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence by John Eisenhower page 46-47
Patton had no intention of remaining a brigadier general, however, nor did his friend George Marshal, Chief of Staff, intend that he do so. By Sept of 1940 Patton was daily expecting to take command of the entire 2d Armored Division, not just a single brigade. In the process of finding officers to staff his new command he wrote to Ike, his old friend from twenty years earlier, suggesting that the latter request transfer from the Infantry to the Armored Corps, specifically to Patton's 2d Armored Division.
Ike was pleased and flattered. At the time his sights were set only on commanding a regiment in the coming war, and an armored regiment sounded even more exciting than the 15th Infantry. He responded immediately and enthusiastically. "I suppose it's too much to hope that I could have a regiment in your division," he (Eisenhower) wrote, "because I'm still almost three years away from my colonelcy. But I think I could do a damn good job of commanding a regiment."
two weeks later Patton followed up with word he would request Ike as chief of staff. Patton finishes his letter with the flourish: "Hoping we are together in a long and BLOODY war."
The exchange, of coarse, came to nothing, because Ike's services were considered too important at other, higher echelons--successively as chief of staff at 3d Infantry Division, IX Corps.
The Second Time was in April of 1942
Two Generals Apart: Patton and Eisenhower
Patton and Eisenhower's next meeting came in April of 1942. Prior to this meeting, both men competing for the same position as commander of the European campaign, a position which Eisenhower later received. Before he received this position Eisenhower wanted to do something different. He wanted to join his old friend, who was to go to war while Eisenhower was sitting in a desk job. Eisenhower wrote to Patton, "Maybe I'll finally get out of this slave seat, so I can let loose a little with you. By that time you'll be the ‘black jack' of the damn war." Eisenhower wanted to join Patton on the front lines. He was hoping he would be sent there by Army Chief of Staff, George Marshall (1880-1959), however, he was given the rank of Major General and the position of the United States Commander of the European front (June of 1942).
Eisenhower would be advanced to Supreme Allied Commander Europe Dec 1943.