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William J. Donovan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109385).

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Donovan, William Joseph (01 January 1883–08 February 1959), lawyer, soldier, and intelligence official, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Timothy Patrick Donovan, a railroad yardmaster, and Anna Letitia Lennon. After starting college at Niagara University, Donovan transferred to Columbia University from which he received an A.B. in 1905 and an LL.B. in 1907. He joined the law firm of Love and Keating in Buffalo. In 1912 he and Bradley Goodyear formed a partnership that merged with Buffalo’s leading firm, O’Brian and Hamlin, to become O’Brian Hamlin Donovan and Goodyear. Hamlin’s withdrawal led to the firm’s dissolution in 1920. Meanwhile, in 1914, Donovan married socially prominent Ruth Rumsey. They had two children....

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Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117123 DLC).

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Eisenhower, Dwight David (14 October 1890–28 March 1969), U.S. Army general and thirty-fourth president of the United States, was born in Denison, Texas, the son of David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, shopkeepers and laborers. When Eisenhower was a year old, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas. He was a bright, competitive, ambitious, and athletic boy, a bit above average as a student. In 1911 he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 1915, after graduating in the middle of his class, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. There he met Marie Geneva “Mamie” Doud ( ...

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Grant, Frederick Dent (30 May 1850–12 April 1912), soldier and government official, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Ulysses S. Grant, a soldier and, later, U.S. president, and Julia Dent (Julia Dent Grant). Fred, as he was known, led a normal childhood until his father’s rise during the Civil War afforded opportunities for extraordinary experiences. Ulysses S. Grant allowed Fred to accompany the armies during the Vicksburg campaign (Mar.-July 1863) and to escort him to Washington, D.C., when he went to be commissioned lieutenant general (Mar. 1864). Fred never served as a soldier, but he came under hostile fire while with his father, displaying coolness that General Grant acknowledged by an honorary staff appointment....

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Alexander Haig. Gouache on illustration board, 1984, by Eraldo Carugati. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Haig, Alexander Meigs, Jr. (02 December 1924–20 February 2010), general, White House chief of staff, and secretary of state, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alexander M. Haig, Sr., a lawyer, and Regina Anne (Murphy) Haig. His father died when he was young, and he was raised in the Roman Catholic faith by his mother. After graduating from Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in 1943, Haig enrolled at the University of Notre Dame. Two years later he transferred to West Point Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1947....

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Hershey, Lewis Blaine (12 September 1893–20 May 1977), military officer and director of the Selective Service System, was born in Steuben County, Indiana, the son of Rosetta Richardson and Latta Freleigh Hershey, a farmer. Hershey was raised in northeast Indiana by his father after the death of his mother in 1898. Showing little interest in the family farm, he entered Tri-State College in Angola, Indiana. Working part time as a deputy sheriff, he also played varsity basketball and belonged to several college dramatics clubs. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1912, and he graduated with honors in 1914 with bachelors degrees in arts and pedagogy. His first professional job was as principal of Flint High School in rural Indiana....

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Johnson, Hugh Samuel (05 August 1882–15 April 1942), army officer and government administrator, was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, the son of Samuel L. Johnson (originally Johnston), a lawyer and rancher, and Elizabeth Mead. Seeking better economic opportunities, his family moved successively to Greenburg, Emporia, Greenwich, and Wichita, Kansas, before finally settling in 1893 in Alva, Oklahoma, in the newly opened Cherokee Strip. There Johnson grew up on the “frontier,” attended Northwestern Normal School (1897–1899), and in 1899 won admission to West Point....

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Walter Bedell Smith Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93383).

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Smith, Walter Bedell (05 October 1895–09 August 1961), military officer, ambassador, and government official, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of William Long Smith and Ida Francis Bedell, who earned a comfortable living as silk buyers. A relative had fought in every American war since the Revolution, and all that Bedell, as he was called from childhood, ever wanted to be was an army officer. An exceptionally bright but indifferent student who trained as a machinist at vocational high school, he lacked the influence to secure an appointment to West Point. The day he turned sixteen, therefore, Smith enlisted in the Indiana National Guard. Within a year he was made company sergeant, and in 1916 he accompanied the expedition to Mexico....

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Tipton, John (14 August 1786–05 April 1839), soldier, American Indian agent, and senator, was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, the son of Joshua Tipton and Janet Shields, farmers. Tipton’s father was killed by American Indians in 1793. In 1807 Tipton’s mother, with four children, migrated to Harrison County, Indiana Territory. Tipton bought land and operated a ferry at the mouth of the Salt River. Although without formal education, he became an effective writer and a forceful speaker. In 1807 he married his cousin Martha Shields. They had three children before divorcing in 1817. In 1811 Tipton joined a militia company and marched to Tippecanoe, where his battlefield heroism won him a captain’s commission. He served in the War of 1812, continuing in the Indiana militia, and his leadership abilities led to his rise to major general in 1822....