Hauenstein Center celebrates historical founder


Bela Golden

Dwight Eisenhower and Ralph Hauenstein both worked in Intelligence during WW2. (Courtesy Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies)

Autumn Pitchure, Staff Reporter

On Thursday, March, 18, Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center of Presidential Studies hosted author and historian David Eisenhower for a presentation called “Eisenhower, Haunstein, and the Men and Women who Saved Civilization.” David Eisenhower is the grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson, who shared stories about his grandfather as well as Colonel Ralph W. Hauenstein, who, under General Eisenhower, served as Chief of the Intelligence Branch in the army’s European Theater. To honor their founder and namesake on what would be his 109th birthday, the Hauenstein Center, partnered with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library welcomed David Eisenhower to share stories about Hauenstein’s work in intelligence during World War II.

“Eisenhower and Hauenstein had similar paths and it was remarkable how they tracked one another,” Eisenhower said. “They were colleagues in the war, they were both mid-westerners, from small towns, were both leaders. They possessed opportunity, understood it, and embodied optimism.”

The Hauenstein Center is something that generates, creates and maintains an appreciation for the opportunity and obligation to lead. It promotes effective and ethical leadership acknowledging that for Americans this opportunity is possible.

“In the 1930s and 1940s, Western Civilization had problems,” Eisenhower said. “After World War I, which was a devastating experience for the western democracies, there was a sense of ‘never again,’ especially for Americans who had gone across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in a great war.”

Though the United States didn’t join WW2 until 1941, many Americans saw the country’s eventual participation on the horizon. Dwight Eisenhower had remained in the Army in the 1930s with a premonition that war was coming, while Hauenstein joined the CCC in the 1930s with a feeling that American democracy was going to be challenged in an important way.

“In 1939, Winston Churchill beams a message to his British colleagues and to Americans,” Eisenhower said. “With the announcement of a state of war, the prime minister said that ‘if these great trials are to come upon us, there is a generation ready to prove itself not unworthy of those who have laid the foundations of our laws and shaped the greatness of our country. We are fighting to save the whole world from Nazi tyranny. This is a war viewed in its inherent quality to establish the rights of the individual and to establish and revive the stature of man.’”

By 1940, the United States was providing military supplies and assistance to the Allied countries combating the Axis Powers.

“Ralph becomes trained in military service during that period as though this sixth sense is propelling him into theatre operations,” Eisenhower said. “Within a matter of months of Churchill’s speech, Hauenstein would be back in uniform and was dispatched to Iceland as the United States began to spell the British-owned station in various locations around the world.”

Days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States entered the war in earnest on the side of the Allied Powers.

“The more that I have learned about World War II in the course of my research, the more I appreciate that the margin between victory and disaster is very slight in the 1930s and the 1940s,” Eisenhower said. “It was absolutely essential to know our enemy and essential to make every effort to deny the enemy knowledge of us.”

Hauenstein left family and friends for a long period of time to face the hazards of duty in a remote area in order to assemble accurate information about the war.

“Dwight Eisenhower was not far behind Ralph,” Eisenhower said. “In fact, practically everywhere Eisenhower went, Ralph Hauenstein was there to greet him.”

Hauenstein moved to Grand Rapids when he was twelve years old. In 1941, he began working as an intelligence officer in Iceland and soon gained the rank of colonel. During World War II, he was promoted to Chief of Intelligence for the European Theater of Operations under General Dwight Eisenhower. A notable part of his existence was the liberation of the German concentration camp at Dachau. His WWII experiences changed his life and allowed him to see the need for ethical and effective world leaders.

Today, the Hauenstein Center of Presidential Studies generates, creates and maintains an appreciation for the opportunity and obligation to lead. Its programming is still guided by the memory and legacy of its founder.