At The American Legion's national convention in 1945, National Commander Edward Scheiberling hailed Eisenhower for leading more than 5 million U.S. and Allied fighting men "in the world's greatest combat effort to freedom's most memorable victory. To this supreme war effort you gave a leadership that fired your troops to immortal daring. It also inspired all of us on the homefront to carry on with increased devotion.

"We are proud to count you as a life member of our Abilene, Kan., post."

Eisenhower responded by saying the award "comes from Americans. Next, this medal comes from veterans - men who have braved the perils of the battlefield to defend their country in time of pressure."

He passed entrance exams to both West Point and the Naval Academy. Too old for Annapolis, Eisenhower landed at West Point, beginning an Army career that elevated him to five-star General of the Army near the end of World War II.

Never content sitting behind a desk, Eisenhower trained recruits while longing for an assignment in France during World War I. He feared another desk job when he was summoned to Washington shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This time, he wound up in combat, serving in Europe and Africa. Upon Germany's surrender in 1945, he became military governor of the U.S. Occupied Zone.

After the war, Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University and first supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Drafted as the Republican nominee for president, Eisenhower was elected in 1952 and re-elected four years later. His presidency saw the armistice ending the Korean War and other Cold War challenges. He died in Washington in 1969, at 78.

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