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Dwight Eisenhower
— 34th President of the United States —



TERM: January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961

BORN: October 14, 1890
BIRTHPLACE: Denison, Texas
DIED: March 28, 1969, Washington, D.C.
Buried in Abilene, Kansas
MARRIED: Mamie Geneva Doud, 1916
CHILDREN: John Sheldon Doud

Dwight Eisenhower's family was poorer than most people in Abilene, Kansas. He and his brothers were often teased for wearing hand-me-downs that included his mother's shoes. As a result, they became good fighters who stuck up for each other.

At age 15, Eisenhower developed blood poisoning after scraping his knee. The doctor recommended amputation, but young Ike protested and he went on to be a football star. He later had to quit playing because of a different knee injury, but he went on to coach the junior varsity squad at West Point.

Eisenhower was a career soldier who graduated from West Point in 1915. He rose through the ranks, and soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, General Eisenhower came to Washington to become assistant chief of staff in charge of war plans.

In 1942, he became commander of the U.S. forces in Europe. In 1943, he was chosen as Supreme Allied Commander with orders to mount an invasion of Europe aimed at Germany.

Eisenhower resigned from the Army in 1948. He won the Republican nomination for president in 1952 and easily defeated Adlai Stevenson for the presidency.

Eisenhower revived the stalled peace talks in Korea, thereby ending the conflict there. He campaigned for reelection anddefeated Stevenson again.

After suffering one heart attack while in office, Eisenhower suffered several after leaving office. He died on March 28, 1969 at the age of 78.


Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) was leader of the Allied forces in Europe in World War II, commander of NATO, and thirty-fourth president of the United States.

Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, Tex., on Oct. 14, 1890, one of seven sons. The family soon moved to Abilene, Kansas. The family was poor, and Eisenhower early learned the virtue of hard work. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1915. He was remarkable for his buoyant temperament and his capacity to inspire affection.

Eisenhower married Mamie Doud in 1916. One of the couple's two sons died in infancy; the other, John, followed in his father's footsteps and went to West Point, later resigning from the Army to assist in preparing his father's memoirs.

Army Career

Eisenhower's career in the Army was marked by a slow rise to distinction. He graduated first in his class in 1926 from the Army's Command and General Staff School. Following graduation from the Army War College he served in the office of the chief of staff under Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He became MacArthur's distinguished aid in the Philippines. Returning to the United States in 1939, Eisenhower became chief of staff to the 3d Army. He attracted the attention of Gen. George C. Marshall, U.S. Chief of Staff, by his brilliant conduct of war operations in Louisiana in 1941. When World War II began, Eisenhower became assistant chief of the War Plans Division of the Army General Staff. He assisted in the preparations for carrying the war to Europe and in May of 1942 was made supreme commander of European operations, arriving in London in this capacity in June.

Supreme Commander in Europe

Eisenhower's personal qualities were precisely right for the situation in the months that followed. He had to deal with British generals whose war experience exceeded his own and with a prime minister, Winston Churchill, whose strength and determination were of the first order. Eisenhower's post called for a combination of tact and resolution, for an ability to get along with people and yet maintain his own position as the leader of the Allied forces. In addition to his capacity to command respect and affection, Eisenhower showed high executive quality in his selection of subordinates.

In London, Eisenhower paved the way for the November 1942 invasion of North Africa. Against powerful British reluctance he prepared for the June 1944 invasion of Europe. He chose precisely the day on which massive troop landings in Normandy were feasible, and once the bridgehead was established, he swept forward triumphantly - with one short interruption - to defeat the German armies. By spring 1945, with powerful support from the Russian forces advancing from the east, the war in Europe was ended. Eisenhower became one of the best known men in the United States, and there was talk of a possible political career.

Columbia University and NATO

Eisenhower disavowed any political ambitions, however, and in 1948 he retired from military service to become president of Columbia University. It cannot be said that he filled this role with distinction. Nothing in his training suggested a special capacity to deal with university problems. Yet it was only because of a strong sense of duty that he accepted President Harry Truman's appeal to become the first commander of the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in December 1950. Here Eisenhower's truly remarkable gifts in dealing with men of various views and strong will were again fully exhibited.

Eisenhower's political views had never been clearly defined. But Republican leaders in the eastern United States found him a highly acceptable candidate for the presidency, perhaps all the more so because he was not identified with any particular wing of the party. After a bitter convention fight against Robert Taft, Eisenhower emerged victorious. In the election he defeated the Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson, by a tremendous margin.

Eisenhower repeated this achievement in 1956. In 1955 he had suffered a serious stroke, and in 1956 he underwent an operation for ileitis. Behaving with great dignity and making it clear that he would stand for a second term only if he felt he could perform his duties to the full, he accepted renomination and won the election with 477 of the 531 electoral votes and a popular majority of over 9 million.

The President

Eisenhower's strength as a political leader rested almost entirely upon his disinterestedness and his integrity. He had little taste for political maneuvers and was never a strong partisan. His party, which attained a majority in both houses of Congress in 1952, lost control in 1954, and for 6 of 8 years in office the President was compelled to rely upon both Democrats and Republicans. His personal qualities, however, made this easier than it might have been.

Eisenhower did not conceive of the presidency as a positive executiveship, as has been the view of most of the great U.S. presidents. His personal philosophy was never very clearly defined. He was not a dynamic leader; he took a position in the center and drew his strength from that. In domestic affairs he was influenced by his strong and able secretary of the Treasury, George Humphrey. In foreign affairs he leaned heavily upon his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. He delegated wide powers to those he trusted; in domestic affairs his personal assistant, Sherman Adams, exercised great influence. In a sense, Eisenhower's stance above the "battle" no doubt made him stronger.

Domestic Policies

To attempt to classify Eisenhower as liberal or conservative is difficult. He was undoubtedly sympathetic to business interests and had widespread support from them. He had austere views as to fiscal matters and was not generally in favor of enlarging the role of government in economic affairs. Yet he favored measures such as a far-reaching extension of social security, he signed a law fixing a minimum wage, and he recommended the formation of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. After an initial error, he appointed to this post Marion B. Folsom, an outstanding administrator who had been a pioneer in the movement for social security in the 1930s.

Civil Rights

But the most significant development in domestic policy came through the Supreme Court. The President appointed Earl Warren to the post of chief justice. In 1954 the Warren Court handed down a unanimous decision declaring segregation in the schools unconstitutional, giving a new impetus to the civil rights movement.

Eisenhower was extremely cautious in implementing this decision. He saw that it was enforced in the District of Columbia, but in his heart he did not believe in it and thought that it was for the states rather than the Federal government to take appropriate action. Nonetheless, he was compelled to move in 1957 when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus attempted to defy the desegregation decision by using national guardsmen to bar African Americans from entering the schools of Little Rock. The President's stand was unequivocal; he made it clear that he would enforce the law. When Faubus proved obdurate, the President enjoined him and forced the removal of the national guard. When the African Americans admitted were forced by an armed mob to withdraw, the President sent Federal troops to Little Rock and federalized the national guard. A month later the Federal troops were withdrawn. But it was a long time before the situation was completely stabilized.

The President's second term saw further progress in civil rights. In 1957 he signed a measure providing further personnel for the attorney general's office for enforcing the law and barring interference with voting rights. In 1960 he signed legislation strengthening the measure and making resistance to desegregation a Federal offense.

Foreign Policies

In foreign affairs Eisenhower encouraged the strengthening of NATO, at the same time seeking an understanding with the Soviet Union. In 1955 the U.S.S.R. agreed to evacuate Austria, then under four-power occupation, but a Geneva meeting of the powers (Britain, France, the U.S.S.R., and the United States) made little progress on the problem of divided Germany. A new effort at understanding came in 1959, when the Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States. In friendly discussions it was agreed to hold a new international conference in Paris. When that time arrived, however, the Russians had just captured an American plane engaged in spying operations over the Soviet Union (the Gary Powers incident). Khrushchev flew into a tantrum and broke up the conference. When Eisenhower's term ended, relations with the Kremlin were still unhappy.

In the Orient the President negotiated an armistice with the North Koreans to terminate the Korean War begun in 1950. It appears that Eisenhower brought the North Koreans and their Chinese Communist allies to terms by threatening to enlarge the war. He supported the Chinese Nationalists. Dulles negotiated the treaty that created SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization) and pledged the United States to consult with the other signatories and to meet any threat of peace in that region "in accordance with their constitutional practices…." This treaty was of special significance with regard to Vietnam, where the French had been battling against a movement for independence. In 1954 Vietnam was divided, the North coming under Communist control, the South (anti-Communist) increasingly supported by the United States.

In the Near East, Eisenhower faced a very difficult situation. In 1956 the Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. The government of Israel, probably encouraged by France and Great Britain, launched a preventive war, soon joined by the two great powers. The President and the secretary of state condemned this breach of the peace within the deliberations framework of the United Nations, and the three powers were obliged to sign an armistice. These events occurred at a particularly inauspicious time for the United States, since a popular revolt against the Soviet Union had broken out in Hungary. The hands of the American government were tied, though perhaps in no case could the United States have acted effectively in preventing Soviet suppression of the revolt.

In the Latin American sphere the President was confronted with events of great importance in Cuba. Cuba was ruled by an increasingly brutal and tyrannical president, Fulgencio Batista. In 1958, to mark its displeasure, the American government withdrew military support from the Batista regime. There followed a collapse of the government, and the Cuban leftist leader, Fidel Castro, installed himself in power. Almost from the beginning Castro began a flirtation with the Soviet Union, and relations between Havana and Washington were severed in January 1960.

In the meantime the United States had embarked upon a course which was to cause great embarrassment to Eisenhower's successor. It had encouraged and assisted anti-Castro Cubans to prepare to invade the island and overthrow the Castro regime. Though these plans had not crystallized when Eisenhower left office in 1961, it proved difficult to reverse them, and the result for the John F. Kennedy administration was the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs.

Assessing His Career

It will be difficult for future historians to assess Eisenhower's foreign policy objectively. Ending the Korean War was a substantial achievement. The support of NATO was most certainly in line with American opinion. In the Far East the extension of American commitments can be variously judged. It is fair to Eisenhower to say that only the first steps to the eventual deep involvement in Vietnam were taken during his presidency.

One other aspect of the Eisenhower years must be noted. The President's intention to reduce the military budget at first succeeded. But during his first term the American position with the Soviets deteriorated. Then came the Soviet launching of the Sputnik space probe in 1957 - a grisly suggestion of what nuclear weapons might be like in the future. In response, United States policy was altered, and the missile gap had been closed by the time the President left office. Unhappily, the arms race was not ended but attained new intensity in the post-Eisenhower years.

Few presidents have enjoyed greater popularity than Eisenhower or left office as solidly entrenched in public opinion as when they entered it. Eisenhower was not a great orator and did not conceive of the presidency as a post of political leadership. But at the end of his administration, admiration for his integrity, modesty, and strength was undiminished among the mass of the American people.

Eisenhower played at times the role of an elder statesman in Republican politics. His death on March 26, 1969, was the occasion for national mourning and for worldwide recognition of his important role in the events of his time.


Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first Republican President elected after the Great Depression. A “middle of the road” leader, he retained most of the Democratic New Deal programs rather than attempt to repeal them. He continued Harry Truman's policy of containment against communism but sought unsuccessfully to engage the leaders of the Soviet Union in summit diplomacy to limit atomic weapons. Although he won two elections, he was unable to make the Republican party dominant in American politics.

Elsenhower was born in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas. He graduated from West Point in 1915, ranking 61st in a class of 168. During World War I he saw no action but spent the time in training camps. After the war he was posted for a time in the Canal Zone of Panama. He graduated at the top of his class from the Army Command and General Staff School, then went to the War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He then worked as an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, army chief of staff, in Washington and later in the Philippines, returning to the United States as a lieutenant colonel in 1939. In the spring of 1941, with the rank of colonel, he distinguished himself in training maneuvers commanding the Third Army, winning promotion to brigadier general.

During World War II, Eisenhower was named chief of operations of the army in 1942 with the rank of major general. He was then named commanding general of the European theater of operations, a promotion that jumped him over 350 more senior officers. He commanded the forces that invaded North Africa in November 1942 and defeated the Axis powers by May 1943; he commanded the Italian campaign in 1943 that led to an armistice with the Italians; and he was named Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe on January 17, 1944. He made the decision to go ahead with the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944 (D Day), in spite of bad weather that might have imperiled the operation. He later called it the most difficult decision he ever made. He achieved the highest rank in the American military, five-star general of the army, in December 1944. After the war he served as army chief of staff, helping President Truman organize the new Department of Defense.

In 1948 Eisenhower retired from the army, declined offers from both political parties to run for President, and served two years as president of Columbia University, the only civilian position (other than the U.S. Presidency) he ever held. His account of the war, Crusade in Europe, was a best-seller. In 1950 President Truman recalled him to active duty to serve as the first commander of supreme headquarters, Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE), the military arm of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance of the United States, Canada, and Western European nations), a position he held for two years.

Although both parties considered him for the 1952 Presidential nomination, Eisenhower chose to enter the Republican contest and gained the support of the liberal and moderate wings of the party. He won a bitter nomination fight over Republican conservatives, led by “Mr. Republican,” Senator Robert Taft of Ohio. His victory was due in part to the efforts of Senator Richard Nixon, who helped organize the California convention delegation for Eisenhower. Nixon was rewarded with the Vice Presidential nomination. With the Republican campaign slogan “I like Ike” and a series of effective television commercials, Eisenhower won a landslide victory over Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. His coattails brought in a Republican Congress.

Eisenhower concentrated on foreign affairs. “I shall go to Korea,” Eisenhower had promised the American people, and one of his first acts was to honor that pledge and end the Korean War. The final truce agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. The following year he refused a French request to use American military might against North Vietnamese forces and instead supported the Geneva Accords that ended French involvement in Indochina. Between 1954 and 1955 Eisenhower shored up the American position in Asia by concluding a mutual defense agreement with the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan, providing military assistance to the South Korean government, cementing a strategic alliance with Japan, and giving American support to an anticommunist regime organized with U.S. assistance in South Vietnam. The United States, along with Great Britain and France, also sponsored the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), an alliance of the United States, Great Britain, France, and several Asian nations including Pakistan and Thailand, to resist communist expansion.

There were foreign policy successes in other parts of the world as well. In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) organized a coup that brought down an anti-American government in Iran. Then the Eisenhower administration organized the Central Treaty Organization, a military alliance between several Middle Eastern nations and the United States. In 1954 the CIA organized a coup against Jacobo Arbenz, the leftist president of Guatemala, and installed a pro-American leader. In 1956 Eisenhower insisted that France and Great Britain withdraw their troops from Egypt and end their attempt to topple Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Eisenhower did not confront Soviet military power directly. When Soviet forces crushed East German workers in 1953 and a full-scale revolution in Hungary in 1956, the United States made no move to respond. In dealing with the Soviets, Eisenhower showed respect for their military might and preferred peaceful negotiation. In 1955 he held a summit meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Geneva. There he made an “open skies” proposal to allow each nation's air force to fly over the other's territory in order to conduct peaceful surveillance and reduce the military threat on both sides. The Soviets turned him down.

In domestic affairs Eisenhower expected Congress to take the initiative. He proposed combining the New Deal social agencies into a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which Congress approved, as well as an increase in Social Security payments and the minimum wage. He proposed only one major new additional domestic program, the interstate highway system. Eisenhower concluded the St. Lawrence Seaway agreement with Canada, which benefited U.S. ports on the Great Lakes by improving their access to the Atlantic Ocean in winter months. He proposed a constitutional amendment to allow 18-year-olds to vote, but Congress took no action on it. In the 1954 midterm elections Congress went back to the Democrats, which forced Eisenhower to adopt a bipartisan stance in domestic and foreign policy. Rather than claiming credit as a Republican, he worked closely with Democratic leaders to gain their support.

The least successful aspect of Eisenhower's first term involved his failure to stand up forcefully to Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican–Wisconsin). McCarthy had charged that some members of the State Department and the army were part of a communist conspiracy. Though almost all his allegations proved unfounded, his mean-spirited investigation severely hurt morale in many government agencies. Eisenhower was slow in responding to McCarthy, though some have argued that he played a “hidden hand,” working with Vice President Nixon and Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson in maneuvers designed to weaken the senator. Eventually the Senate censured McCarthy for his unfair tactics of smear and innuendo.

Although Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955 and had an operation to relieve an intestinal blockage the following year, his health was good enough for a second term. He was reelected over Adlai Stevenson in a landslide victory in 1956. But Congress remained in the hands of the Democrats, the first time a President had been elected without winning either House since Zachary Taylor's victory in 1848. Eisenhower's second term was marked by health problems; he had a stroke in 1957. Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union in 1959. Eisenhower used federal troops to enforce federal court orders desegregating the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, but gave tepid support to other civil rights initiatives, leading congressional Democrats to pass their own civil rights measures in 1957 and 1960.

In 1957 Eisenhower announced the Eisenhower Doctrine, approved by Congress, that assured stability to nations threatened by communist subversion or aggression. In July 1958, to back up this doctrine, U.S. Marines landed in Lebanon to bolster the government against threats of civil war. When communist China starting shelling the islands of Quemoy and Matsu and threatened to invade them, Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Navy to escort Nationalist Chinese ships to resupply the islands.

In 1957 the Soviets launched a Sputnik satellite into outer space, challenging the United States for technological dominance and leading many Americans to think that the nation needed new leadership. With unemployment rising and the nation entering a recession, the midterm elections of 1958 led to a stunning loss for the Republicans in Congress and in gubernatorial elections. The Democrats, now controlling both houses, assumed control of domestic policy-making. They held hearings on shortcomings in national preparedness, science, education, and the space program, and they passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 as well as a law that provided federal funding for science and foreign language education.

Eisenhower's foreign policy began to suffer setbacks as well. In 1959 Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba, and it soon became apparent that he was establishing the first communist regime in the Western Hemisphere. Then in 1960 Eisenhower planned a summit meeting with the Soviets to advance his arms limitations proposals. On May 1, 1960, shortly before the summit, the Soviets shot down an American U-2 reconnaissance plane over their territory; Eisenhower denied that the plane had been over Soviet territory, then had to admit the truth when the Soviets displayed the captured American pilot, Gary Francis Powers. The Soviets insisted that Eisenhower apologize for these flights, and when he refused, they broke up the summit conference. Khrushchev withdrew an invitation for Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union. Later, Eisenhower toured the Far East but was forced to cancel a visit to Japan because of anti-American sentiment.

Eisenhower was popular throughout his two terms and probably would have won the next election had he not been the first President forbidden by the 22nd Amendment to stand for a third term. Although he campaigned for Republican nominee Richard Nixon in 1960, Nixon was defeated by Democrat John F. Kennedy, who ran a campaign highly critical of the Eisenhower administration.

After the election, Eisenhower delivered a famous farewell address in which he warned the American people of the potential dangers involved in the “military industrial complex” that had been created to produce weapons for the armed forces.

After retiring to private life in 1961, Eisenhower published his Presidential memoirs and lived at his farm at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He died of heart failure in 1969.


Supreme Allied Commander 1944 – 5, Chief of Staff of the US army 1945 – 8, Supreme Commander NATO 1950 – 2, President 1953 – 61 David Dwight Eisenhower — he was later to transpose the first two names — was born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to parents of German-Swiss Protestant descent. At the age of 2, his family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where his father worked as a mechanic in a creamery. He was keen to have a military career and was admitted to the US Military Academy at West Point. He was also a keen football player, but a knee injury put paid to his playing days. His first military posting was to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he met and married Mamie Doud. During the First World War he trained tank battalions in the USA and from 1922 to 1924 was stationed in the Panama Canal. He impressed his superiors and was sent to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating first in a class of 275. In 1933 he was appointed as an aide to General Douglas MacArthur. In 1941 he demonstrated a remarkable capacity for co-ordination in battle manœuvres and was soon promoted to the rank of temporary brigadier-general. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he was appointed Chief of Staff to General George C. Marshall and helped draft the strategy for the war. In 1942 he became Allied Commander-in-Chief for the invasion of North Africa. In December 1943 he was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and masterminded the D-Day invasion for the liberation of Europe. Eisenhower — by now holding the rank of General of the Army — proved an effective strategist, co-ordinator, and leader, ensuring that a diverse body of often strong-willed military commanders stayed in line. He entered the war as an unknown soldier and ended it as a national hero.

After the end of the war, Eisenhower became Chief of Staff of the US army and supervised demobilization and a reorganization of the armed forces. After being allowed to retire in 1948, he became President of Columbia University. He turned down an approach from both Republican and Democratic activists to run for President of the USA. In 1950, President Harry S Truman called him back into the service of his country appointing him Supreme Commander of the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a post he held until 1952, when he was persuaded to run for the Republican nomination for President. He retired from army service in June 1952 and won the nomination against Senator Rober H. Taft. He won a clear victory in the general election, winning almost 34 million votes against 27 million cast for his Democratic opponent, Adlai Stevenson. He was inaugurated on 20 January 1953.

Eisenhower's presidency was to be noteworthy as much for what it did not do as for what it did. Eisenhower presided over a period of calm in American life. He saw his presidency as a response to the radicalism of the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt. He was a conservative, espoused no radical policies, but sought no return to the status quo ante. There was no attempt made to undo the measures of the New Deal. The decade was one essentially of peace. An armistice was achieved in Korea. Domestically, some modest social reforms were implemented, including the passage in 1957 of a Civil Rights Bill. For most of his presidency, Congress was controlled by the Democrats. Of the proposals put before Congress, he had a respectable success rate, most measures getting through, the percentage only dipping at the end of his presidency. The country enjoyed a period of economic prosperity and Eisenhower appeared to epitomize the era.

Problems that Eisenhower encountered were not usually of his own making. The anti-Communist crusade of Senator Joe McCarthy carried over from the Truman to the Eisenhower presidency. Eisenhower declined to engage publicly in dispute with McCarthy, though disapproving of his tactics. In 1954 the Supreme Court struck down segregation in schools as unconstitutional. Eisenhower disagreed with the decision — and had come to regard his nomination of Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the United States as the biggest mistake he had made — but realized he was duty bound to uphold it. When rioting broke out in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 after attempts were made to allow black children into the previously all-white high schools, he tried to persuade the state Governor, Orval Faubus, to take action to ensure that the court's order was enforced. When his attempts at persuasion failed, he dispatched federal troops to restore order.

In foreign affairs, Eisenhower declined to take action to assist uprisings in Eastern Europe but was concerned to prevent the spread of Communism elsewhere. In 1954 the USA pledged to support any member nation of the newly formed South-East Asian Treaty Organization against attack. This formed the basis of the US commitment to South Vietnam and followed the French defeat at Dienbienphu. In 1956 he pressured the UK to cease the military intervention in the Suez Canal Zone. In response to Suez, he promulgated the Eisenhower Doctrine, committing the US to aid any country in the Middle East threatened by international Communism. In 1958 he sent US ships and troops to Lebanon to support the Lebanese government against a rebellion allegedly fostered by President Nasser of Egypt. At the same time, he sought to ease tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union. However, relations with Khrushchev did not go well and a final summit meeting in 1960 failed after a US U2 spy plane was shot down in Soviet air space.

Although suffering a heart attack in 1955 and an attack of ileitis in 1956, Eisenhower had successfully sought re-election for a second term in 1956, winning — again over Stevenson — by an increased margin, by 35.5 million votes to 26 million. However, despite the size of the win, he did not have a significant coat-tails effect. His vote was essentially personal. Although his popularity dipped toward the end of his presidency — the result of economic downturn — he nonetheless remained a popular figure. At the end of his presidency, he warned prophetically against the growth of the "military-industrial complex" and then retired to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He died eight years later at the age of 78.

Eisenhower was subsequently to be criticized for his failure to take more decisive action to address the nation's problems. He was seen as standing aloof from the fray. Partisan attacks were left to his Vice-President, Richard Nixon. Rather than tackle social problems, he left others to take care of them. His presidency, according to critics, was marked by drift and indecisiveness. Given Eisenhower's popularity, a popularity that constituted a valuable political resource, his presidency was characterized as a lost opportunity. The election of a young, energetic John Kennedy in 1960 — who had attacked Eisenhower for allowing a "missile gap" to develop in the arms race with the Soviet Union — reinforced the growing view that Eisenhower was an old man who had not tackled key issues facing the United States. In a 1962 poll of historians, Eisenhower ranked equal 20th, at the bottom end of the "average" presidents. In a 1970 poll, he held the same position.

More recent years have seen revisionist historians argue that Eisenhower was far more effective than critics have allowed. According to revisionists, led by Fred Greenstein, he gave more time than is generally realized to the job and enjoyed doing it. Drawing on previously unavailable papers, Greenstein — in The Hidden-Hand Presidency — argues that Eisenhower was active behind the scenes, publicly making little comment or distracting attention from the issue while privately meeting with key actors to influence outcomes. This form of "hidden hand" leadership allowed Eisenhower to appear detached from partisan or controversial activity, and thus remain popular, while achieving many of the results he wanted. In the 1982 Murray poll, Eisenhower was ranked 11th in the list of presidents. In the 1995 Chicago Sun-Times poll of presidential scholars he had moved up to 9th place. The feature on which he scored highest was that of character.


Eisenhower, Gen Dwight ‘Ike’ David (1890-1969), supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe during WW II and and later a two-term US president. The holder of the latter office is the C-in-C of the armed forces, thus the presidency is a logical final step in a military career and also the reason why so many generals have been elected president in a country with a history of unquestioned civilian control.

Eisenhower's family background is fascinating. They were originally extreme pacifist Mennonite (see conscientious objection) immigrants from Germany, but his (decidedly humble) branch had briefly moved to northern Texas at the time of his birth. One might speculate about the ‘Texas effect’, because that state has produced a disproportionate number of famous US soldiers such as Audie Murphy, and during WW II the overall commanders in both Europe and the Pacific (Nimitz) were of German descent, born in Texas. There was nothing in his early life or young manhood that hinted at future greatness and when he graduated from West Point in the class of 1915 (famous for producing 59 generals out of 164 graduates— Bradley was a contemporary), he was 61st academically and 125th in discipline. He was the commander of a tank training centre and just missed being posted to Europe during WW I. In 1922 he was posted to the Panama Canal Zone where Gen Conner became the first of the patrons who were to shape his career, sending him to the Command and General Staff School, from which he graduated first out of a class of 275, then to the Army War College. He did tours in France, where he wrote a guidebook to the battlefields of WW I, then in Washington before receiving the plum posting to the Philippines as aide to the army's enormously influential ex-COS MacArthur, then organizing the new commonwealth's armed forces.

The special star that shines upon great commanders turned on the power for Ike in 1939-41, in that he was posted home before the Japanese destroyed his latest patron's forces in the Philippines, while as COS of the Third Army his planning of the largest war games ever staged in the USA, involving close to half a million men, brought him to the favourable attention of army COS Marshall, who promoted him brigadier general. When war came to the USA, he appointed Ike to the war plans division in Washington, entrusted with the planning of the Allied invasion of Europe, and promoted him major general in March 1942 as head of the operations division of the War Department. In June, Marshall selected him over the heads of 366 senior officers to command US troops in Europe and in July he was made lieutenant general. The rank of full general followed in February 1943, following his overall command of the landings in North Africa. He was again in overall command of the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy, and from the beginning of 1944 he was in London as the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, making the preparations for the invasion of Normandy.

Starting with Montgomery and at intervals ever since, critics have suggested that Eisenhower's complete lack of combat leadership made him a poor choice. To do this is to pit one's retrospective judgement against such as Marshall who chose him, Franklin D. Roosevelt who confirmed him, and Churchill who welcomed him. He was chosen precisely because he was a politician, one furthermore who had his ego sufficiently under control to be able to deal not only with the aforementioned, but also with highly competitive prima donnas like Patton and Montgomery, not to mention the French, who had to be found a role commensurate both with their limited strength and their demand to be treated as major players.

The degree to which he continued to indulge the British need to be treated as equal partners long after American numbers and resources had become preponderant also weighs heavily in the credit balance. It may well have been one of the reasons he permitted the disastrous Arnhem operation to go forward, although there is the slightest hint of a subconscious desire to give his aggravating British subordinate enough rope to hang himself. Few historians on either side of the Atlantic have given enough weight to his overriding concern, which was the qualitative superiority of the Wehrmacht in most categories of equipment and at all levels of command except the very top. In the phrase later to be made famous by Truman, the buck stopped with Ike, and when he made his fateful decision to postpone and then proceed with the invasion of Normandy, he wrote a letter assuming full responsibility if it failed. He was right to do so, and he is equally entitled to full credit for the successful outcome not merely of the invasion but for all Allied operations in North-West Europe.

After the war, by now a five-star general of the army, he succeeded Marshall as COS and during a spell as president of Columbia university wrote Crusade in Europe, a best-seller that made him, at last, prosperous. Truman recalled him to be the supreme commander of the newly formed NATO, a task for which his skill at handling a multinational force made him eminently well qualified. In 1952 he resigned to run as the Republican candidate for president, although the Democrats had also courted him. He won comfortably, but it was at this climactic moment that he suffered an unforgivable failure of moral courage, in refusing to defend his old benefactor Marshall against a vicious personal attack by the anti-communist demagogue McCarthy, a lapse that caused Truman to refuse to shake his hand at his inauguration. With the world well launched into the Cold War, it might be argued that raison d'état precluded him from behaving like an officer and a gentleman; unfortunately the evidence suggests strongly that his calculations were those of a politician anxious to win an election, not of a statesman concerned for the moral and physical welfare of his country.

His age and his health (he had several minor and one severe heart attack during his eight years in office) did not prevent him managing a presidency that laid down the broad outlines of US policy at home and abroad for decades to come. The key word here is ‘manage’; he was not a ‘hands on’ president, but one who delegated authority and insisted that his staff should bring only matters of the highest political importance to his personal attention. This of course begged the question of what were matters of the highest importance, but the country was in the midst of the largest sustained economic boom of all time, the US had if not a nuclear monopoly, at least a great preponderance of weapons and the means to deliver them, and many of the tough decisions that faced his successors were simply not all that urgent between 1953 and 1961.

He was not a man to meet trouble halfway, but in retrospect we can see that the nation was halfway to quite a lot of troubles when he left the presidency. Among these were the implications of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, which Eisenhower affirmed by signing the 1957 Civil Rights Act and by sending federal troops to Arkansas to enforce school desegregation. Another was Vietnam, to which he dispatched the first US advisers, and yet another was the green light he gave to a number of CIA operations to overthrow foreign rulers perceived to be hostile to US interests. He bequeathed one of the least well conceived of these, against Castro in Cuba, to his successor John Kennedy, and it duly blew up in his face. These were not the products of cannons running loose, as future presidents were to claim, but central to the policy of containment Ike worked out with his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, whose brother Allen ran the CIA.

At the close of his presidency, Ike came under attack for, of all things, having spent too little on the military and thus ‘allowing’ the Russians to catch up, as dramatized when they were the first to launch a satellite into earth orbit in 1957. They were nowhere near catching up; the ‘missile gap’ Kennedy made much of during the 1960 presidential election did not exist, and both he and Eisenhower knew it. But the latter, had he been given to introspection, might have concluded that the anti-communist rhetoric that served to glaze his own goose in 1952, was sauce for the Democrat gander eight years later.

During his farewell address he warned of the hidden power of the ‘civil-military complex’ and this remains one of the least well understood of all his often cryptic utterances. He was the last US president who believed in a decentralized state, where the powers not specifically allocated to Washington remained with the individual states, and he had an intuitive understanding of the manner in which the political economy of war and of the ‘military preparedness’ that Kennedy made so much of must work against that vision. A good part of the explanation for his endorsement during his presidency of the sort of cloak and dagger operations that he had frowned upon as a general was that he thought thereby to fulfil his constitutional obligation to assure the security of the nation without involving it in the heavy expenditure that would, and has, undermined the intent of the constitution itself.

His greatness as a general will always be disputed by those who do not understand that politics and war are one and the same. Whether or not he is judged to have been a great president seems to revolve entirely around whether the person who makes the judgement believes that government is a solution, or a problem. Dwight Eisenhower, with his roots very firmly in the tradition of those who came to the USA in order to be free of state interference, was of the latter persuasion.


Dwight David Eisenhower was born to David and Ida Stover Eisenhower in Denison, Texas, 14 October 1890. The following year, he, his parents, and two brothers moved to Abilene, Kansas, his father's childhood home. After graduating from high school, Eisenhower received appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and in 1915, he was commissioned second lieutenant. Following U.S. entry into World War I, he commanded the U.S. army tank corps training center at Camp Colt near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In the postwar years, Eisenhower held staff positions under the most accomplished and influential officers in the U.S. Army, including Generals John J. Pershing, Fox Conner, and Douglas MacArthur. In the process, he became a military strategist, rising slowly through the ranks from major to brigadier general. In World War II, Gen. George C. Marshall, army chief of staff, appointed Eisenhower to command of the War Plans Division (later the Operations Division) of the Army General Staff; then to supreme command sequentially of the Allied invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and of Normandy, France, as well as being Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Eisenhower accepted the German unconditional surrender for the Western Allies on 8 May 1945. Returning to the United States as a five‐star general (general of the army), he accepted appointment as army chief of staff. After overseeing the demobilization of the army and writing a best‐selling war memoir, Crusade in Europe, in 1948, Eisenhower retired from the army and became president of Columbia University.

Not long after the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, President Harry S. Truman called him back to active duty as the first supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a position Eisenhower retained until May 1952, when he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. He was elected thirty‐fourth president of the United States and served two terms. His health became a problem beginning in the mid‐1960s, and he died on 28 March 1969.

A man with two distinguished careers—one as a professional soldier and the other as political leader and statesman—Eisenhower was the subject of more than the usual amount of controversy, much of which was unnecessary. The first area of controversy concerned his performance as Supreme Allied Commander. American critics observed his swift rise through the ranks after the outbreak of World War II despite a lack of combat experience and erroneously attributed it mainly to “Ike's” genial manner. The British, especially Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery, whose army had defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in 1942, questioned Eisenhower's strategy for the Battle for Germany. Instead of Eisenhower's planned broad advance, aimed at surrounding the Ruhr industrial heartland and destroying the German Army, Montgomery advocated a narrow (“pencil thrust”) aimed across the northern European plain at Berlin. Eisenhower had read military history, including the works of the Prussian military intellectual Carl von Clausewitz, and had studied the art of war under the supervision of the leading American strategists. Accordingly, he stayed with his objective and methods of attaining it. The British High Command later admitted—and American historians agree—that Eisenhower's approach was correct. Like most commanders, he had some setbacks, but his achievements were large. They included the movements that turned back the unforeseen German attacks at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in February 1943, and at the Ardennes—the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. That month, Congress bestowed on him a fifth star and the rank of general of the army.

The Eisenhower presidency, in retrospect one of the most successful of the modern era, also involved controversy, reflected by the fact that not long after he left office, historians ranked him only twenty‐second in polls of presidential effectiveness. Many contemporary critics focus on his frequent relaxations, golf and trout fishing. And after his heart attack in 1955 and a slight stroke in 1957, pundits doubted his stamina. They condemned his failure publicly to repudiate the anti‐Communist demagogue, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. Civil rights advocates criticized the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 for not going far enough. Other critics incorrectly said Eisenhower turned over U.S. foreign policy to John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state. The Soviet launching of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, testing of intercontinental missiles, and shooting down of an American U‐2 reconnaissance airplane (1960) brought charges that Eisenhower had weakened American defenses, allowing an alleged “missile gap” to develop with the Soviet Union. The president, they also charged, used the Central Intelligence Agency to put the United States on the side of right‐wing dictators in Third World nations such as Iran and Guatemala.

More recently, history has been kinder to the Eisenhower presidency. Eisenhower retained many of the approaches to social, economic, and foreign policy that the American people had come to accept during the Great Depression and World War II, while at the same time altering those laws and policies that discouraged economic growth and stifled initiative. Congress, with administration prodding, strengthened and expanded Social Security, authorized the national system of interstate highways and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and brought Alaska and Hawaii into the Union. The economy flourished, the gross national product growing 70 percent to $520 billion from $365 billion. As a Republican and a conservative, Eisenhower received criticism from the liberals. But since he refused to roll back the social policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he also irritated the right wing of the GOP. To the dismay of both, he refused to confront McCarthy, working instead to bring “McCarthyism” to an end by terminating executive branch cooperation with the senator's scattershot investigations. And though Eisenhower doubted the capacity of federal legislation to bring racial justice, his appointment of Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 encouraged some hope for blacks against discrimination. In his national security policies, Eisenhower obtained a negotiated armistice in Korea, increased U.S. military readiness, especially in airpower, and completed his predecessor's policy of containing Communist expansion by establishing a worldwide system of treaties and alliances. He increased U.S. assistance to South Vietnam but refused to authorize the use of U.S. combat forces there. The archival record shows that Eisenhower, not Dulles, was in active charge of U.S. foreign policy. The CIA did assist undemocratic forces in the Third World, but the allegations about a “missile gap” were without merit. The United States had a commanding lead in missile development when Eisenhower left office. By the 1980s, he had moved to ninth place in the ranking of presidential performance.











This web page was last updated on: 10 December, 2008