One of the major aspects of the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 was testing all officers throughout the U.S. Army in their leadership skills.

Every officer from generals to platoon leaders were to be evaluated during the large scale Maneuvers.

Many officers did not excel and were removed from their command while others were outstanding and rose in rank as soon as the Maneuvers ended.

One such officer who came to Louisiana and excelled was a colonel named Dwight David Eisenhower.

The Army had first entered Louisiana in 1940 and one thing immediately evident was the lack of equipment, vehicles and supplies.

Soldiers used sticks for rifles and beer cans for bullets. There was such a shortage of equipment that World War I items were issued even if in poor condition.

At the time, there was such a severe shortage of vehicles and cavalry mounts that purchasing agents came throughout west central Louisiana and East Texas buying and “renting” horses right off the farm to fill in for trained cavalry mounts.

Most importantly, the many units soon to arrive would need a base for the upcoming Maneuvers in 194.

A highly capable Army officer was assigned the task of finding the best location for this camp.

In September 1940, Eisenhower arrived in Leesville on board the “Kay See” car, Kansas City Southern Railroads most luxurious railcar.

Eisenhower, born in Dennison, Texas in 1890, was a member of the West Point Class of 1915.

He was highly respected by the General Headquarters Staff in Washington, D.C.

Eisenhower and three officers assigned to him arrived in Leesville and rested. The next day, Eisenhower, a Mr. Porter who provided horses for the group to ride, Marvin Beaver, Mayor Jean M. King of Leesville and the army officers rode seven miles east of Leesville across the barren and cutover timberlands and stopped atop a mile long humpback ridge.

Eisenhower dismounted and looked over the area.

Due to an old football injury dating back to his days as a cadet at West Point, he used his walking stick continuously.

As Eisenhower looked over the land, he jammed his walking stick into the sandy soil and declared that this is the location where the new camp will be built.

Eisenhower had just located the site for Camp Polk, La. Little did he know that in less than a year he would return to Camp Polk as a major player in the success of the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941.

Eisenhower was still a colonel at the time of the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 with his star only beginning to rise.

As a Regular Army Colonel he was Chief of Staff for the 3rd Army that was involved in the Louisiana Maneuvers.

Eisenhower was so thorough and concise in both the planning of the maneuvers, and during the actual battles, that General Headquarters in Washington immediately saw his expertise. He continued with these duties after the maneuvers ended in September 1941.

In October 1941, he was promoted to Brigadier General.

By March 1942, he was promoted to Major General in charge of Army Operations at the War Department.

In late 1942, Eisenhower was promoted to Commanding General of the United States Forces in Europe. He commanded Operation Torch in North Africa in 1942, and Operation Husky in Sicily in 1943. He became Supreme Allied Commander of all forces in Europe and commanded the largest invasion force, and Army, in the world, which landed in Normandy France on June 6, 1944.

Eisenhower was promoted to five-star rank and stayed so until he retired.

Many legends of Eisenhower remain throughout the Natchitoches, Sabine and the Vernon

Parish area. His skillful planning helped the Blue 3rd Army to attack the Red 2nd Army at Mt. Carmel and stop General George Patton’s 2nd Armored Division’s advance toward Peason Ridge.

After the battle, the late Eileen Addison Lombard, whose father ran Addison’s Store right at the major crossroads during the Battle of Mt. Carmel, told me in an interview of how Eisenhower and other officers entering her father’s store after the battle, talked with the Addisons before leaving to further survey the battle site.

Eisenhower was known to have been in Many, La. There, he and other high-ranking officers gathered at the Vandegaer residence to discuss tactics.

Tired and dusty, he asked to take a bath at the Vandegaer residence.

Another instance of Eisenhower in Sabine Parish was at Peason. Throughout the Maneuvers, women all over the area were continuously making biscuits and frying chicken for the soldiers.

A large headquarters had been set at Peason up by the Blue 3rd Army as it advanced toward Mt. Carmel.

An officer approached the family and asked if the lady of the house would mind making breakfast for some officers at the headquarters. She fixed a big pan of biscuits, eggs and fresh bacon right out of the smokehouse.

In a short while, the officers arrived for this feast. They made small talk with the family while they ate.

As they departed, one of them slipped a $100 bill under his plate and thanked the hostess. This officer, who appreciated the hospitality and meal, was Eisenhower.

The group headed from there toward Mt. Carmel and the upcoming battle that was about to take place there.

After World War II, Eisenhower followed in the footsteps of his old commander, General George C. Marshall, by entering into American politics.

Eisenhower was elected President of the United States in 1953. He served in that office until 1961 when he was succeeded by John F. Kennedy.

Eisenhower is known as one of the country’s most able presidents.

Do you think his planning and operational skills learned in the Louisiana Maneuvers carried over to his successful tenure in the Presidency? I believe it definitely had an impact on his rise to the five-star general rank and into the Presidency.

Experience always counts on how well a person can perform a job. Eisenhower certainly had plenty of experience.

On March 28, 1969, former General and President Eisenhower died. He left his mark in American history, Army history, Louisiana history and the history of the Louisiana Maneuvers.

This is yet another great American who came through our local area during the war and proceeded to make a great impact on the nation and world.

We remember Eisenhower and the legends he left us right here in Natchitoches, Sabine, and Vernon Parish.

Rickey Robertson, a Vernon Parish native, writes a monthly historical story for Stephen F. State University Cultural Resources website. Robertson is a retired state trooper, a preacher, and a syrup maker, among many other things.