National Geographic : 1969 Jul
He had come directly from his transatlantic jet in the olive-drab uniform of a French general de brigade-the same two-star rank he had held on the day of victory shared with Dwight Eisenhower in Europe. Aging but still erect, one general who be came president of his country slowly saluted another. He gazed down intently at the flag draped casket for a moment; then, with a sec ond salute, he turned and was gone (page 45). Next day-the memorial day proclaimed for Ike-was to be his last in Washington. This was the day of the state funeral. As one young woman noted in her diary: "It was as if close to a half-century of history passed be fore us. The drive leading to the cathedral had turned into a parade ground for world leaders, coming to pay tribute. "Here were the old warriors I knew only from history books: General de Gaulle, re turning each salute proffered to him (his nimble Citroen like a pony among the Cadillac thoroughbreds); Gen. Alfred Gruenther, lean ing on a worn yellow cane; Omar Bradley, wearing the five stars of a General of the Army-now the only one to hold that rank. "Other men sparked memories of political victories and defeats of recent years: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Barry Gold water, Nelson Rockefeller. "Finally there were figures out of yester day's newspaper: South Viet Nam's Vice Pres ident Ky, King Constantine of Greece, Ger man Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger." "We Thank Thee for Thy Servant" In a brief but moving ceremony, Dwight Eisenhower's friend and long-time pastor, the Reverend Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, led the former President's widow, his family, and 3,300 distinguished guests in prayer. "We give Thee thanks for all the sacred memories and hallowed recollections which cluster about this hour. We thank Thee for Thy servant, Dwight David.... for his warm friendship, his transparent spirituality, his patience in suffering, and for all that endeared him to the multitudes of mankind." Now the great 12-ton bell in the cathedral's Gloria in Excelsis Tower tolled for Ike for the last time. That evening Washington bade him farewell as eight military pallbearers placed the casket aboard a 10-car special train for the 1,379-mile journey to his boyhood home, Abilene, Kansas. In final tribute the Army Band played the haunting old West Point song he loved, "Army Blue." We've not much longer here to stay, For in a month or two, We'll bid farewell to Kaydet Gray And don the Army Blue. Although the train's route was never offi cially announced, people gathered in hundreds and often thousands at grade crossings and stations along the way. As the train passed, they sang some of Ike's favorite hymns "Onward, Christian Soldiers," "Lead, Kindly Light," "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," reminiscent of a century past, when another President, Abraham Lincoln, had traveled home for the last time by train. At St. Louis, Missouri, Mamie Eisenhower spoke quietly from the rear platform, saying, "I am most grateful for all the expressions of love." On other occasions, she waved word lessly to the crowds. The throng in Abilene surpassed any in Washington, swelling the small plains town of 7,400 residents by an estimated 100,000 visitors, including former President Johnson and President Nixon. The general had chosen to rest in the chapel-like Place of Meditation at the Eisen hower Center (preceding pages), within sight of the two-story white frame house where he grew up-now a museum. Past this and other landmarks of his youth Dwight Eisenhower's casket was carried un der the noontime sun of April 2, 1969, and lowered with final military honors-three vol leys by a squad of riflemen, a 21-gun salute, and the beautiful benediction of "Taps." Almost at the same time, identical salutes were fired by designated U. S. military sta tions and naval vessels throughout the world. At sunset they fired 50-gun salutes, honoring each of the 50 states and the man who had served his country so brilliantly and so long. In the chapel at Abilene, a brother officer, Maj. Gen. Luther Miller, former Chief of Army Chaplains, pronounced the final words over Dwight Eisenhower, for the Nation and for the world: "His battles are all fought, and his victories all won.... Unto God's gracious mercy, we commend you, old friend." Store-window portrait in Abilene honors a fellow townsman come home and helps remind the Nation of the heritage of hope he bequeathed it. "There is nothing wrong with America," Dwight Eisenhower said, "that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence, and energy of her citizens cannot cure." KODACHROME BYJAMESP. BLAIR© N.G.S .