"I consider this to be the most important military job in the world," GeneralEisenhower told his son John in December 1950, as he prepared to leave Columbia University to go to Europe to take up his duties as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. He went on, "I am going to do the best I can in what I definitely believe to be a world crisis."
He told his childhood friend Swede Hazlett, "I rather look upon this effort as about the last remaining chance for the survival of Western civilization."
The challenges he faced were all but overwhelming. The tension, worldwide, was tremendous. In Korea, the Chinese had entered the war and inflicted a stinging defeat on U.N. forces. In Europe, NATO was under way, but it had a long way to go. Across the Elbe River, the Red Army was 175 divisions strong and aggressive. From Moscow, Stalin was hurling threats.
The only firm decision NATO had made was that Eisenhower should be the Supreme Commander. But of what? A multinational force? Independent national armies joined together in a loose alliance? How many troops? Where would they come from? Without German troops, NATO would never be able to match the Red Army. Eisenhower felt that "the safety of Western Europe demands German participation on a vigorous scale," but West Germany was not yet sovereign, was not a member of NATO, and in any case the French, Dutch,