Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942-43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.
Eisenhower was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry and was raised in a large family in Kansas by parents with a strong religious background. He attended and graduated from West Point and later married and had two sons. After World War II, Eisenhower served as Army Chief of Staff under President Harry S. Truman then assumed the post of President at Columbia University
Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race as a Republican to counter the non-interventionism of Senator Robert A. Taft and to crusade against "Communism, Korea and corruption". He won by a landslide, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson and ending two decades of the New Deal Coalition. In the first year of his presidency, Eisenhower deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and used nuclear threats to conclude the Korean War with China. His New Look policy of nuclear deterrence gave priority to inexpensive nuclear weapons while reducing the funding for conventional military forces; the goal was to keep pressure on the Soviet Union and reduce federal deficits. In 1954, Eisenhower first articulated the domino theory in his description of the threat presented by the spread of communism. The Congress agreed to his request in 1955 for the Formosa Resolution, which enabled him to prevent Chinese communist aggression against Chinese nationalists and established the U.S. policy of defending Taiwan. When the Soviets launched Sputnik in 1957, he had to play catch-up in the space race. Eisenhower forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956. In 1958, he sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution. Near the end of his term, his efforts to set up a summit meeting with the Soviets collapsed because of the U-2 incident. In his 1961 farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower expressed his concerns about future dangers of massive military spending, especially deficit spending, and coined the term "military–industrial complex".
On the domestic front, he covertly opposed Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege. He otherwise left most political activity to his Vice President, Richard Nixon. He was a moderate conservative who continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.
Among his enduring innovations, he launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.
In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. Eisenhower's two terms were peaceful ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59. Eisenhower is often ranked highly among the U.S. presidents.
The Eisenhauer (German for "iron hewer/miner") family migrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, to North America. The Eisenhower family settled in York, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and in the 1880s they moved to Kansas. Accounts vary as to how and when the German name Eisenhauer was anglicized to Eisenhower. Eisenhower's Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors, who were primarily farmers, included Hans Nikolaus Eisenhauer of Karlsbrunn, who migrated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1741.
Hans' great-great grandson, David Jacob Eisenhower (1863–1942), was Dwight's father, and was a college-educated engineer, despite his own father Jacob's urging to stay on the family farm. Eisenhower's mother, Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower, born in Virginia, of German Lutheran ancestry, moved to Kansas from Virginia. She married David on September 23, 1885, in Lecompton, Kansas, on the campus of their alma mater, Lane University.
David owned a general store in Hope, Kansas, but the business failed due to economic conditions and the family became impoverished. The Eisenhowers then lived in Texas from 1889 until 1892, and later returned to Kansas, with $24 to their name at the time. David worked as a mechanic with a railroad and then with a creamery. By 1898, the family was self-sustaining with suitable accommodations for their large family.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called "Ike", such as "Big Ike" (Edgar) and "Little Ike" (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name. By World War II, only Dwight was still called "Ike".
In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, which Eisenhower considered as his home town. As a child, he was involved in an accident that cost his younger brother an eye; he later referred to this as an experience teaching him the need to be protective of those under him. Dwight developed a keen and enduring interest in exploring outdoors, hunting/fishing, cooking and card playing from an illiterate named Bob Davis who camped on the Smoky Hill River.
While Eisenhower's mother was against war, it was her collection of history books that first sparked Eisenhower's early and lasting interest in military history. He persisted in reading the books in her collection and became a voracious reader in the subject. Other favorite subjects early in his education were arithmetic and spelling.
His parents set aside specific times at breakfast and at dinner for daily family Bible reading. Chores were regularly assigned and rotated among all the children, and misbehavior was met with unequivocal discipline, usually from David. His mother, previously a member (with David) of the River Brethren sect of the Mennonites, joined the International Bible Students Association, later known as Jehovah's Witnesses. The Eisenhower home served as the local meeting hall from 1896 to 1915, though Eisenhower never joined the International Bible Students. His later decision to attend West Point saddened his mother, who felt that warfare was "rather wicked," but she did not overrule him. While speaking of himself in 1948, Eisenhower said he was "one of the most deeply religious men I know" though unattached to any "sect or organization". He was baptized in the Presbyterian Church in 1953.
Eisenhower attended Abilene High School and graduated with the class of 1909. As a freshman, he injured his knee and developed a leg infection which extended into his groin and which his doctor diagnosed as life threatening. The doctor insisted that the leg be amputated but Dwight refused to allow it, and miraculously recovered, though he had to repeat his freshman year. He and brother Edgar both wanted to attend college, though they lacked the funds. They made a pact to take alternate years at college while the other worked, in order to earn the tuitions.
Edgar took the first turn at school, and Dwight was employed as a night supervisor at the Belle Springs Creamery. Edgar asked for a second year, Dwight consented and worked for a second year. At that time, a friend "Swede" Hazlet was applying to the Naval Academy and urged Dwight to apply to the school, since no tuition was required. Eisenhower requested consideration for either Annapolis or West Point with his U.S. Senator, Joseph L. Bristow. Though Eisenhower was among the winners of the entrance-exam competition, he was beyond the age limit for the Naval Academy. He then accepted an appointment to West Point in 1911.
At West Point, Eisenhower relished the emphasis on traditions and on sports, but was less enthusiastic about the hazing, though he willingly accepted it as a plebe. He was also a regular violator of the more detailed regulations, and finished school with a less than stellar discipline rating. Academically, Eisenhower's best subject by far was English. Otherwise, his performance was average, though he thoroughly enjoyed the typical emphasis of engineering on science and mathematics.
In athletics, Eisenhower later said that "not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest." He did make the football team, and was a varsity starter as running back and linebacker in 1912, tackling the legendary Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians that year. Eisenhower suffered a torn knee in that, his last, game; he re-injured his knee on horseback and in the boxing ring, so he turned to fencing and gymnastics.
Eisenhower later served as junior varsity football coach and cheerleader. Controversy persists over whether Eisenhower played minor league baseball for Junction City in the Central Kansas League the year before he attended West Point, where he played amateur football. He graduated in the middle of the class of 1915, which became known as "the class the stars fell on", because 59 members eventually became general officers.
Eisenhower met and fell in love with Mamie Geneva Doud of Boone, Iowa, six years his junior, while he was stationed in Texas. He and her family were also immediately taken with one another. He proposed to her on Valentine's Day in 1916. A November wedding date in Denver was moved up to July 1 due to the pending US entry into World War I. In their first 35 years of marriage, they moved many times.
Eisenhower was a golf enthusiast later in life, and joined the Augusta National Golf Club in 1948. He played golf frequently during and after his presidency and was unreserved in expressing his passion for the game, to the point of golfing during winter, and ordered his golf balls painted black so he could see them better against snow on the ground. He had a small, basic golf facility installed at Camp David, and became close friends with the Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts, inviting Roberts to stay at the White House on several occasions; Roberts, an investment broker, also handled the Eisenhower family's investments. Roberts also advised Eisenhower on tax aspects of publishing his memoirs, which proved to be financially lucrativ.
After golf, oil painting was Eisenhower's second hobby. While at Columbia, Eisenhower began the art after watching Thomas E. Stephens paint Mamie's portrait. He painted about 260 oils during the last 20 years of his life to relax, mostly landscapes but also portraits of subjects such as Mamie, their grandchildren, General Montgomery, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Wendy Beckett stated that Eisenhower's work, "simple and earnest, rather cause us to wonder at the hidden depths of this reticent president". A conservative in both art and politics, he in a 1962 speech denounced modern art as "a piece of canvas that looks like a broken-down Tin Lizzie, loaded with paint, has been driven over it."
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942 with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division (WPD), General Leonard T. Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of the new Operations Division (which replaced WPD) under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who spotted talent and promoted accordingly.
At the end of May 1942, Eisenhower accompanied Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, to London to assess the effectiveness of the theater commander in England, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. He returned to Washington on June 3 with a pessimistic assessment, stating he had an "uneasy feeling" about Chaney and his staff. On June 23, 1942, he returned to London as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA), based in London and with a house on Coombe, Kingston upon Thames, and replaced Chaney.
In June 1943 a visiting politician had suggested to Eisenhower that he might become President of the United States after the war. Believing that a general should not participate in politics, one author later wrote that "figuratively speaking, [Eisenhower] kicked his political-minded visitor out of his office". As others asked him about his political future, Eisenhower told one that he could not imagine wanting to be considered for any political job "from dogcatcher to Grand High Supreme King of the Universe", and another that he could not serve as Army Chief of Staff if others believed he had political ambitions. In 1945 Truman told Eisenhower during the Potsdam Conference that if desired, the president would help the general win the 1948 election, and in 1947 he offered to run as Eisenhower's running mate on the Democratic ticket if MacArthur won the Republican nomination.
President Truman, symbolizing a broad-based desire for an Eisenhower candidacy for president, again in 1951 pressed him to run for the office as a Democrat. It was at this time that Eisenhower voiced his disdain for the Democratic party and declared himself and his family to be Republicans. A "Draft Eisenhower" movement in the Republican Party persuaded him to declare his candidacy in the 1952 presidential election to counter the candidacy of non-interventionist Senator Robert Taft. The effort was a long struggle; Eisenhower had to be convinced that political circumstances had created a genuine duty for him to offer himself as a candidate, and that there was a mandate from the populace for him to be their President. Henry Cabot Lodge, who served as his campaign manager, and others succeeded in convincing him, and in June 1952 he resigned his command at NATO to campaign full-time. Eisenhower defeated Taft for the nomination, having won critical delegate votes from Texas. Eisenhower's campaign was noted for the simple but effective slogan, "I Like Ike". It was essential to his success that Ike express his opposition to Roosevelt's policy at Yalta and against Truman's policies in Korea and China, matters in which he had once participated. In defeating Taft for the nomination, it became necessary for Eisenhower to appease the right wing Old Guard of the Republican Party; his selection of Richard M. Nixon as the Vice-President on the ticket was designed in part for that purpose. Nixon also provided a strong anti-communist presence as well as some youth to counter Ike's more advanced age.
Due to a complete estrangement between the two as a result of campaigning, Truman and Eisenhower had minimal discussions about the transition of administrations. After selecting his budget director, Joseph M. Dodge, Eisenhower asked Herbert Brownell and Lucius Clay to make recommendations for his cabinet appointments. He accepted their recommendations without exception; they included John Foster Dulles and George M. Humphrey with whom he developed his closest relationships, and one woman, Oveta Culp Hobby. Eisenhower's cabinet, consisting of several corporate executives and one labor leader, was dubbed by one journalist, "Eight millionaires and a plumber." The cabinet was notable for its lack of personal friends, office seekers, or experienced government administrators. He also upgraded the role of the National Security Council in planning all phases of the Cold War.
Prior to his inauguration, he led a meeting of advisors at Pearl Harbor addressing foremost issues; agreed objectives were to balance the budget during his term, to bring the Korean War to an end, to defend vital interests at lower cost through nuclear deterrent, and to end price and wage controls. Eisenhower also conducted the first pre-inaugural cabinet meeting in history in late 1952; he used this meeting to articulate his anti-communist Russia policy. His inaugural address as well was exclusively devoted to foreign policy and included this same philosophy as well as a commitment to foreign trade and the U. N.
Eisenhower made greater use of press conferences than any prior president, holding almost 200 in his two terms. While he saw a positive relationship with the press as invaluable, his primary objective in press conferences was to maintain an indispensable direct contact with the people.
Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower adhered to a political philosophy of dynamic conservatism. He continued all the major New Deal programs still in operation, especially Social Security. He expanded its programs and rolled them into a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, while extending benefits to an additional ten million workers. He implemented integration in the Armed Services in two years, which had not been completed under Truman.
One of Eisenhower's enduring achievements was championing and signing the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956. He justified the project through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 as essential to American security during the Cold War. It was believed that large cities would be targets in a possible war, hence the highways were designed to facilitate their evacuation and ease military maneuvers.
Eisenhower's goal to create improved highways was influenced by difficulties encountered during his involvement in the U.S. Army's 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. He was assigned as an observer for the mission, which involved sending a convoy of U.S. Army vehicles coast to coast. His subsequent experience with German autobahns during World War II convinced him of the benefits of an Interstate Highway System. Noticing the improved ability to move logistics throughout the country, he thought an Interstate Highway System in the U.S. would not only be beneficial for military operations, but provide a measure of continued economic growth. The legislation initially stalled in the Congress over the issuance of bonds to finance the project, but the legislative effort was renewed and the law was signed by Ike in June 1956.
On the whole, Eisenhower's support of the nation's fledgling space program was modest until the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, gaining the Cold War enemy enormous prestige around the world. He then launched a national campaign that funded not just space exploration but a major strengthening of science and higher education. He rushed construction of more advanced satellites, created NASA as a civilian space agency, signed a landmark science education law, and fostered improved relations with American scientists.In strategic terms, it was Eisenhower who devised the American basic strategy of nuclear deterrence based upon the triad of B-52 bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).[
The Eisenhower administration declared racial discrimination a national security issue, as Communists around the world used the racial discrimination and history of violence in the U.S. as a point of propaganda attack. The day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, that segregated schools were unconstitutional, Eisenhower told District of Columbia officials to make Washington a model for the rest of the country in integrating black and white public school children. He proposed to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. The 1957 act for the first time established a permanent civil rights office inside the Justice Department and a Civil Rights Commission to hear testimony about abuses of voting rights. Although both acts were much weaker than subsequent civil rights legislation, they constituted the first significant civil rights acts since 1875.
In 1957, the state of Arkansas refused to honor a federal court order to integrate their public school system stemming from the Brown decision. Eisenhower demanded that Arkansas governor Orval Faubus obey the court order. When Faubus balked, the president placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent in the 101st Airborne Division. They escorted and protected nine black students' entry to Little Rock Central High School, an all-white public school, for the first time since the Reconstruction era. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to Eisenhower to thank him for his actions, writing "The overwhelming majority of southerners, Negro and white, stand firmly behind your resolute action to restore law and order in Little Rock".
Eisenhower was a chain smoker until March 1949. He was probably the first president to release information about his health and medical records while in office, On September 24, 1955, while vacationing in Colorado, he had a serious heart attack that required six weeks' hospitalization, during which time Nixon, Dulles and Sherman Adams assumed administrative duties and provided communication with the President. He was treated by Dr. Paul Dudley White, a cardiologist with a national reputation, who regularly informed the press of the President's progress. Instead of eliminating him as a candidate for a second term as President, his physician recommended a second term as essential to his recovery.
As a consequence of his heart attack, Eisenhower developed a left ventricular aneurysm, which was in turn the cause of a mild stroke on November 25, 1957. This incident occurred during a cabinet meeting when Eisenhower suddenly found himself unable to speak or move his right hand. The stroke had caused an aphasia. The president also suffered from Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the intestine, which necessitated surgery for a bowel obstruction on June 9, 1956. He was still recovering from this operation during the Suez Crisis.
Eisenhower's health issues forced him to give up smoking and make some changes to his dietary habits, but he still indulged in alcohol. During a visit to England he complained of dizziness and had to have his blood pressure checked on August 29, 1959; however, before dinner at Chequers on the next day his doctor General Howard Snyder recalled Eisenhower "drank several gin-and-tonics, and one or two gins on the rocks ... three or four wines with the dinner".
The last three years of Eisenhower's second term in office were ones of relatively good health. Eventually after leaving the White House, he suffered several additional and ultimately crippling heart attacks. A severe heart attack in August 1965 largely ended his participation in public affairs. In August 1966 he began to show symptoms of cholecystitis, for which he underwent surgery on December 12, 1966 when his gallbladder was removed, containing 16 gallstones. After Eisenhower's death in 1969 (see below), an autopsy unexpectedly revealed an adrenal pheochromocytoma, a benign adrenaline-secreting tumor that may have made the President more vulnerable to heart disease. Eisenhower suffered seven heart attacks in total from 1955 until his death.
The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1951, and it set term limits to the presidency of two terms. It stipulated that Harry S. Truman, the incumbent at the time, would not be affected by the amendment. In 1961, Eisenhower became the first U.S. president to be constitutionally prevented from running for re-election to the office, having served the maximum two terms allowed.
Eisenhower was also the first outgoing President to come under the protection of the Former Presidents Act; two living former Presidents, Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman, left office before the Act was passed. Under the act, Eisenhower was entitled to receive a lifetime pension, state-provided staff and a Secret Service detail.
In the 1960 election to choose his successor, Eisenhower endorsed his own Vice President, Republican Richard Nixon against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He told friends, "I will do almost anything to avoid turning my chair and country over to Kennedy." He actively campaigned for Nixon in the final days, although he may have done Nixon some harm. When asked by reporters at the end of a televised press conference to list one of Nixon's policy ideas he had adopted, Eisenhower joked, "If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember." Kennedy's campaign used the quote in one of its campaign commercials. Nixon narrowly lost to Kennedy. Eisenhower, who was the oldest president in history at that time (then 70), was succeeded by the youngest elected president, as Kennedy was 43.
In January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised Address to the Nation from the Oval Office. In his farewell speech, Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold War and role of the U.S. armed forces.
Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, only thirty miles from his ancestral home of York. In 1967 the Eisenhowers donated the farm to the National Park Service. In retirement, the former president did not completely retreat from political life; he spoke at the 1964 Republican National Convention and appeared with Barry Goldwater in a Republican campaign commercial from Gettysburg. However, his endorsement came somewhat reluctantly because Goldwater had attacked the former president as "a dime-store New Dealer".
On March 28, 1969, Eisenhower died in Washington, D.C. of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The following day his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel, where he lay in repose for 28 hours. On March 30, his body was brought by caisson to the United States Capitol, where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On March 31, Eisenhower's body was returned to the National Cathedral, where he was given an Episcopal Church funeral service.
That evening, Eisenhower's body was placed onto a train en route to Abilene, Kansas. His body arrived on April 2, and was interred later that day in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Eisenhower is buried alongside his son Doud, who died at age 3 in 1921. His wife Mamie was buried next to him after her death in 1979.
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