Eisenhower, Dwight D.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Fred I. Greenstein

DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER, the thirty-fourth president of the United States, was uniquely popular among post-World War II American presidents. As of 2002, only two other chief executives of that period, had been elected to and completed two terms in office. Apart from John F. Kennedy, who did not live to face the consequences of his policy of increasing military involvement in Vietnam, Eisenhower was the only postwar president who received more positive than negative ratings for his entire time in office.

In spite of Eisenhower's impressive ability to maintain the support of the American people, for roughly the decade and a half after he left the White House most scholars and other writers on the presidency judged him to have been a lackluster leader. In 1962, for example, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., asked seventy-five leading authorities on the American presidency to rank the chief executives in order of greatness. Eisenhower placed twenty-first, tied with Chester Arthur. The scholars' views of Eisenhower and his leadership fundamentally echoed the 1950s partisan rhetoric of liberal Democrats, who viewed Eisenhower as bland, good-natured, and well intentioned, but politically inept and passive. He seemed to hold a minimalist view of the leadership responsibilities of the chief executive. His success in achieving the potentially valuable political resource of popular support was inescapable. But this support was judged to be based merely on the legacy of acclaim he inherited from his World War II leadership as supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, reinforced by the appeal of his broad grin and benign countenance to the politically inattentive bulk of the electorate.

By the mid-1970s, a reappraisal of Eisenhower and his leadership was well under way. Interest in reexamining Eisenhower's presidency was spurred in part by the difficulties encountered by his successors and in part by retrospective assessments of the events that occurred while he was in office. Lyndon B. Johnson had felt obliged not to run again because his backing was so weak; Richard M. Nixon had resigned in the face of certain impeachment and conviction; Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had been defeated at the polls. Eisenhower's ability to serve two full terms while maintaining his popularity seemed to call for study and analysis. Moreover, his period in office now seemed to have been one of accomplishment rather than drift. By the summer of 1953 his administration had negotiated an armistice that ended the bloody, stalemated Korean War. Peace prevailed throughout the remainder of his presidency, in spite of major episodes that could have led to East-West military conflict. The divisive internal debate over whether the nation was endangered by Communist subversion from within had ended. Inflation rates were low, and, in general, the economy was performing well.

Other of Eisenhower's actions appeared in retrospect to be highly questionable, perhaps most notably his covert use of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to help overthrow the nationalistic Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953 and the left-leaning Ar-benz government in Guatemala in 1954. But the very fact that Eisenhower had policies worthy of attention (whatever their merit), like the fact of his popularity, seemed by the 1970s to make it necessary to reconsider the notion that his presidency was simply a time of leaderless inaction.

Fortunately such reconsideration was by then possible. In the archives of the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, and in other repositories, enormous bodies of primary source records on Eisenhower and his conduct of the presidency began to be released, many of them in successive volumes of the Department of State's invaluable documentary volumes entitled The Foreign Relations of the United States. These records constitute a window through which to view the unpublicized aspects of a president and presidency whose public and private sides were near antitheses. It is now possible to read private diary notes in which Eisenhower recorded his experiences and clarified his thinking and feelings, as well as similar records by some of his close associates, and it is possible for nonspecialists to explore such matters through a burgeoning scholarly literature on the Eisenhower years.

Eisenhower was a prolific and fluent writer of off-the-record correspondence, which provides important insights into his views and actions. His leadership also is well documented in records of his official and unofficial meetings, phone conversations, and even transcripts of his remarks in pre-press conference briefings on what information he did, and did not, choose to make public and what impressions he sought to create. From this evidence and the testimony of people who were closely associated with him, it has become clear that Eisenhower in fact was a presidential activist, but that his activism, which was grounded in a consciously articulated view of how to exercise leadership, took a distinctive and unconventional form.

The Eisenhower Approach to Leadership

Although Eisenhower resented claims that he was a weak leader, his very approach to leadership furthered this impression, at least on the part of those who had access only to the contemporary public record. The impression that he was a passive chief executive president who reigned rather than ruled was engendered both by his approach to organizing the presidency and by the tactics he used to resolve the built-in conflict between what Americans expect from their president in his dual capacity as head of state and principal national political leader.

As head of state, the American president is a symbol of unity. Like a constitutional monarch, he is expected to be an uncontroversial representative of the entire nation. As the nation's chief political leader, however, he must engage in the intrinsically divisive prime-ministerial task of political problem solving. The seeming impossibility of resolving the tension between these contradictory expectations undoubtedly has contributed to the regularity with which Americans become disillusioned with the performance of their presidents.

Eisenhower resolved this contradiction by maintaining the public stance of an uncontroversial chief of state, while concealing or playing down his political leadership, especially those machinations that are essential to effective leadership but that foster animosities and lead the president to be viewed as "just another politician." He carried out this leadership strategy through a number of tactics:

  1. In seeking to downplay the political side of his role, he frequently exercised political influence through intermediaries rather than directly or otherwise concealed his part in the cut and thrust of leadership.
  2. Similarly, he was studiously artful in employing language. His private communications to close associates are models of analytic clarity and contain informed, realistic accounts of his political strategies. But in press conferences he often was evasive or professed ignorance of matters that he felt were best not discussed, doing so in a homely, idiomatic way that enhanced public affection for and confidence in him. And in his public addresses, he worked with his speechwriters seeking to find language that was dignified yet, as he once put it, simple enough "to sound good to the fellow digging a ditch in Kansas."
  3. Eisenhower also took pains never to criticize an adversary by name, lest he demean his own role and arouse underdog sympathies for the opponent. By refusing to (as he put it) "engage in personalities," he also acted on the premise that impugning the motives of others engenders ill feeling that undermines the basic leadership task of welding political cooperation.
  4. Although he did not discuss personality publicly, much of his private reasoning and discourse involved sizing up what he called the "personal equation" of other political actors. He did this in order to use aides where they would be most effective and to anticipate how best to exercise influence. His preoccupation with personality analysis helped him to keep the political side of his leadership inconspicuous.
  5. He was a vocal proponent of generous delegation of authority, but he varied the magnitude of delegation according to his sense of his associates' capacities and of the likelihood that their actions would be consistent with his desires. Thus, his much publicized commitment to delegation did not lead to abdicating presidential power to subordinates. Nevertheless, by emphasizing this commitment he was able to reward associates by giving them credit for popular administration politics and, more important in terms of protecting himself from controversy, to allow them to take the blame for unpopular administration policies.

For scholars, most of whom equated effective political leadership with the visible displays of political pulling and hauling of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, the apolitical public persona that Eisenhower cultivated seemed evidence of his shortcomings as a chief executive. For most citizens, however, a president who seemed untarnished by politicking was worthy of approvalunless, of course, his remoteness from politics was associated with indications that the nation was being poorly managed. One reason why the public did not become discontented was that Eisenhower used his indirect leadership techniques to defuse potential sources of discontent, quietly resolving matters that, if left unsettled, would have made him vulnerable to criticism.

Just as Eisenhower worked hard at exercising political leadership inconspicuously, he expended much energy in maintaining public confidence in his performance as chief of state. Rather than resting on his prepresidential popularity with a broad spectrum of Americans (including many Democrats), he built on his acclaim as a wartime leader. A striking example of the importance he placed on winning public approval was his insistence on standing in an open car, beaming broadly, and waving to the cheering crowds when he was arriving at, or leaving, a public appearance. This was a bone-crunching physical ordeal for Eisenhower, who was the oldest man to have served in the White House at the time he left office. But he considered it essential to his leadership. More generally, he acted on the premise that in order to carry out his responsibilities with good effect he needed to win the widest possible support for his office and powers.

Eisenhower's tactics for reconciling the political with the chief-of-state aspects of the presidency were complemented by his systematic attention to organizing his presidential leadership. He increased the size of the White House staff, introducing a staff position that was controversial in the 1950s but had become traditional by the 1970sthat of the White House chief of staff. This was the position he assigned to the acerbic former New Hampshire governor Sherman Adams, labeling Adams The Assistant to the President, in contrast to other assistants whose titles lacked the initial article. He also was the first president to employ professional legislative liaison personnel, and he introduced the position of assistant

to the president for national security affairs, now popularly known as the president's national security adviser.

Eisenhower's organizational leadership was also marked by his extensive reliance on the cabinet and the National Security Council as forums within which he and his aides debated policy. Both bodies normally met weekly. In the case of the cabinet he instituted a planning staff that was responsible for ensuring that items worthy of serious discussion were on the agenda for discussion. He instituted an even more structured forum for foreign affairs discussion in the form of an expanded National Security Council (NSC), with which he also met regularly. An elaborate committee structure ensured that alternative foreign policy options were clearly explicated for council debate, and that once policies were set, plans for implementing them were made.

At the time many political observers took Eisenhower's seeming departure from the far more informal operating procedures of Roosevelt and Truman as further evidence that he had turned leadership over to a bureaucracy. We now know that Eisenhower's formal committee meetings were supplemented by his extensive informal consultations with a wide range of figures in and out of the government. Further, his cabinet and NSC meetings were as much a means of consolidating his associates around his policies as they were forums for decisive policy discussions. He himself set policy, often in unofficial meetings in the Oval Office before or after cabinet and NSC sessions. The archival record released in the 1970s makes this clear, but when he was in office many of his policies were commonly thought to have been made by committees, or by Sherman Adams, or by Eisenhower's sternly anti-Communist secretary of state, John Foster Dulles.

Antecedents of Eisenhower's Leadership

Eisenhower's approach to leadership was shaped by his military career, much of which had been closely tied to participation in civil government and public affairs for the three decades before he became president. Born in Denison, Texas, on 14 October 1890 and raised in rural Kansas, Eisenhower attended the United States Military Academy in order to get a free education. He was more interested in athletics than studies, graduating sixty-first in a class of 164. He was awakened intellectually and became a keen student of military strategy somewhat belatedly, between 1922 and 1924, when he served in the Panama Canal Zone under the gifted and inspirational General Fox Connor.

Through Connor's intervention Eisenhower was chosen to attend the elite Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After graduating first in a class of 275, he promptly was selected by the War Department for special opportunities. These included a stint in France writing a guidebook to World War I battlefields, attendance at the Army War College, and, in 1929, assignment as deputy to the assistant secretary of war.

In 1933 Eisenhower became the principal aide to the intensely politicized army chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur. From 1935 to 1940 he accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines, where they advised the Philippine president and legislature on defense policy, returning to the United States the year before America entered World War II. Just a few days after Pearl Harbor, his meteoric ascent to national and international prominence began. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall assigned him to the planning division of the War Department in December 1941. By June 1942 he had so impressed not only Marshall but also Roosevelt and Churchill that he was dispatched to England to head American troops in Europe. In November of that year he commanded the American invasion of North Africa, and by late 1943 he had been advanced to supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe. After leading the Allied invasion of Western Europe and achieving victory in the spring of 1945, he returned home to a hero's welcome.

As supreme commander Eisenhower demonstrated a remarkable capacity both to rally the troops in his command and to bring together larger numbers of civilian and military leaders with widely diverse personalities. This made him a logical prospect for public office. By the end of the war, Gallup polls showed that voters in both parties thought he would make a good president. Immediately after the war ended, President Truman offered to support him for the presidency. In 1948 there was a move by liberal Democrats (squelched by Eisenhower) to draft him for the Democratic presidential nomination.

During the war and in his postwar servicefirst as chief of staff, next as president of Columbia University (but on leave much of the time to help lead the newly formed Department of Defense), and then as first military commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)Eisenhower exhibited the same dualism that was to mark his approach to presidential leadership. The tasks he had to perform made it necessary for him to be closely involved in national and international political maneuvers, but he succeeded in defining them in neutral terms, stressing that all of his actions were based on his official responsibility to serve the wartime and postwar alliances he led and the American national interest. He displayed his buoyant personality in rallying the public, but his private propensity continued to be to act on the basis of cool logic and carefully calculated strategic planning. In short, he did not directly transfer his methods of military leadership to the presidency, but the former provided the template for much of the latter, and neither was politically innocent.

From NATO to the Presidency

Throughout 1951 and the first months of 1952, Eisenhower's base of operations was France and his principal task was establishing working relations among the NATO powers. During this period the press had regular accounts of the campaign to draft him for the presidential nomination. Meanwhile, he was persistently visited by moderate and liberal inter-nationalist politicians and businessmen who urged him to run for president, some of them Democrats but the bulk Republicans.

There is good reason to believe that he could have been elected as a candidate of either party, although the conservative economic views he publicly expressed in 1949 and 1950, when he was not on active military duty, clearly implied what he did not make explicit until early in 1952that he had been a lifelong Republican in his sympathies. The politicians who were most persistent and influential in pressing Eisenhower to become a candidate were moderates in domestic policy and internationalists in foreign policy. They, like other Republicans, were acutely aware that Democrats had controlled the White House for five terms and that President Truman's unpopularity made it possible to reverse that state of affairs. The Republicans who sought to draft Eisenhower recognized also that the overwhelming favorite among the small-town and rural Republican political leaders who could be expected to dominate the 1952 presidential nominating convention would be a dour, conservative, and distinctly uncharismatic symbol of Republican orthodoxy, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio. They were certain that Taft would not win in their own constituencies and probably would not win nationally.

Privately, Eisenhower's domestic policy views were even more conservative than Taft's. Having seen inflation cut deeply into postwar defense budgets, he was a convinced fiscal conservative. He also was skeptical about many welfare policies, but electoral realism led him to insist that his party make clear its commitment to preserve and even incrementally expand the basic New Deal welfare reforms.

Eisenhower's reflections in his private diary make it clear that he did not want to become a candidate and would not have become one simply out of disagreement with Taft's domestic policy positions. But he was deeply concerned that Taft, if elected, would undermine the internationalist foreign and national security policies he had devoted himself to shaping. Early in 1952, Eisenhower cast the die, allowing Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts to enter him in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary.

This made him a tacit candidate, but as long as he held his NATO office he refused to campaign or make campaign statements. He won the New Hampshire primary, producing clear evidence of his vote-getting power. Then he beat Minnesota's incumbent governor, Harold Stassen, as a write-in candidate in that state's primary. Thereafter he and Taft both won primaries, but the majority of the delegates were selected by party machinery, and a near majority of them were committed to Taft.

Eisenhower turned the tide when he returned to the United States, resigned his commission, and commenced an increasingly persuasive last-minute campaign just before and during the convention. Taft's majority depended on the votes of delegations from southern states, in which the Ohio senator's supporters were being challenged by Eisenhower supporters, who claimed that they had been improperly barred from delegate-selection caucuses. When procedural votes designed to bar the seating of Taft's contested southern delegates succeeded, the convention shifted in Eisenhower's direction. He was nominated by a slim majority on the first ballot, but his victory left Taft supporters embittered.

Eisenhower's campaign strategy and his handling of the period between his election and nomination reflect his preoccupation with consolidating his own forces and reaching out to broaden his strength. He immediately sought to bring his party together, most dramatically by signing a statement of Republican principles that Taft had drafted. His choice of Richard Nixon as the vice presidential nominee also was agreeable to the Taft forces. Nixon, because of the part he played in identifying the New Deal lawyer and foreign service officer Alger Hiss as an alleged Communist agent, personified the right-wing premise that the Democrats had been "soft on Communism."

Eisenhower threw himself into campaigning, traveling more than 50,000 miles by rail and air. The campaign was not without problems. He angered moderate supporters when he gave the appearance of having been conciliatory in Wisconsin to Senator Joseph McCarthy. At one point it became necessary for his running mate, Richard Nixon, to refute the accusation that as a senator he had unethically accepted financial support from a group of California businessmen. In spite of the campaign snags, Eisenhower's powerful public appeal was evident. Unlike his opponent, Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, he did not speak over the heads of his audience. When, late in the campaign, he promised to "go to Korea" if elected, implying that his military expertise would enable him to end the war, political observers correctly judged his victory to be a foregone conclusion. He garnered 55 percent of the popular vote (34 million to 27.3 million) and defeated Stevenson by a 442-to-89 electoral vote margin. He brought into office with him the first Republican Congress since 1947 and the only Republican-controlled Congress until 1995.

Even before the returns were in, Eisenhower exhibited the knowledge of government he had acquired over the years and his predilection for organizing his leadership systematically. On election eve he persuaded a Detroit banker, Joseph Dodge, to become his first director of the key planning organ of the presidency, the Bureau of the Budget. During the time between election and inauguration, it was Dodge's task to act as an observer from within the bureau while Truman's final budget was being prepared and to identify ways it could be cut to Republican dimensions. Eisenhower simultaneously announced the appointments of cabinet members and White House aides, including the aides who were to fill the new staff positions he had devised, such as a White House chief of staff, a presidential national security assistant, and a head of congressional liaison. A little-noted appointment to an unpaid but important positiona body for proposing the reorganization of government agencieswent to his brother and closest confidant, Milton Eisenhower, whose Washington experience had begun in the Coolidge administration.

Several of the announcements of cabinet appointments were delayed and made from his residence between 29 November and 5 December, when (for security reasons) Eisenhower secretly made his inspection trip to Korea. The procession of appointees leaving his home during this period provided his cover storythat he was at his home selecting appointees. Eisenhower arranged for the people he had selected for his cabinet to be flown to Wake Island in the mid-Pacific. Returning to the United States from Korea by ship, he met with this group, beginning his efforts to encourage solidarity and a common sense of purpose among his principal associates.

A Republican Presidency Takes Hold: 19531955

In January 1953, when Eisenhower took office, not a single Republican member of the Eighty-third Congress had ever served with a Republican president. To Eisenhower it was as important to build solid links to Capitol Hill as to create a spirit of cooperation among his cabinet and staff. In particular, he cultivated Taft, who was an effective and loyal, if sometimes contentious, administration supporter, serving as Senate majority leader until shortly before his death in the summer of 1953.

The channels from president to Congress had to be numerous in the Eighty-third Congress and the three Democratic-controlled Congresses that followed. The close balance between the parties and the divisions within them made it necessary for bipartisan coalitions to be shaped to advance Eisenhower's legislative goals. His conservative economic policies received the backing of Taft Republicans and southern Democrats. In seeking to introduce moderate welfare reforms, he relied on the more liberal, mostly eastern members of his own party and on northern Democrats. His internationalist foreign policy programsfor example, extension of the reciprocal trade program and appropriation of foreign aid fundsdrew support from the internationalist Republicans, who had been at the forefront in seeking his nomination, but they received more backing from Democrats than from members of their own party.

After Taft's death, Eisenhower developed a working relationship, but one that was less than reliable, with the next Senate Republican leader, the bellicose and politically inept William Knowland. Eisenhower worked officially with Knowland, but following his regular practice of carefully supplementing formal with informal organization, he found a variety of allies who unofficially made up for Know-land's shortcomings. Because bipartisanship was necessary to pass legislation but was controversial to supporters of each party, Eisenhower often met without public announcement in the residential quarters of the White House with the two pragmatic southerners who led the congressional Democrats, Senator Lyndon Johnson and Congressman Sam Rayburn, both of Texas.

Two of Eisenhower's initial policy efforts were in the area of national security. One was the short-run effort to bring the lingering Korean conflict to a close and the other the long-run aim of reconfiguring the nation's general national security posture. Ending the fighting in Korea was by no means simple. The truce talks had long been stalled, and the Chinese Communists and North Koreans were so well entrenched that even if pushing them back had been militarily and politically feasible, it would have been too costly in lives and money to contemplate. Hiding his hand from the American people and the Western allies, who would have undermined his actions by public protest, he leaked through channels friendly to the Chinese the message that he was prepared to use extreme measures (by implication, nuclear strikes) if a truce were not concluded. Since talks promptly resumed and a settlement was reached by July, Eisenhower felt his implied threat had worked; others have speculated that the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in March may have set the process of accommodation in motion.

Eisenhower's more long-range efforts were to implement Joseph Dodge's efforts to reduce Truman's requests for the fiscal year beginning in June 1953 by $7.2 billion in expected expenditures. The major source of reduction was military spending. The strategy underlying Eisenhower's cut in defense spending came to be known as his administration's "New Look" defense policy. In contrast to the defense intellectuals who dominated strategic planning in the final years of the Truman administration, Eisenhower insisted that national security costs be systematically weighed against their economic effects on the nation. (For this reason, he made his secretary of the treasury and his budget director members of the National Security Council.) Overspending, Eisenhower maintained, was not an effective way of ensuring the nation's defense capacity. Rather, it was an unproductive waste and a self-defeating stimulus to inflation. But how could the government reduce its expenditures and maintain its commitment to contain Communism? (Much less, in the rhetoric Dulles used but never acted upon, rolling it back.) The answer was provided in the ominous-sounding phrase "massive retaliation." The United States would not commit itself to meet Communist expansion at every point where it occurred but rather would respond on its own terms, if necessary with "massive retaliatory power." An attack in an area where American and allied forces could not effectively be used might be responded to elsewhere. And the military could make up for its decreased military manpower by employing low-yield tactical nuclear weapons if necessary or, in dire circumstances, by striking the Soviet heart-land.

As a strategistin the game of bridge as well as in military and political affairsEisenhower was aware of the dangers of bluffing. The nuclear component of the New Look was meant to be a deterrent to the adversary, not a response that would readily have been made. Eisenhower's congenital proclivity to play his cards close to his vest makes it impossible to say whether under any circumstance short of a total war he would in fact have used nuclear weapons if circumstances seemed to make that advantageous. His private communications, however, show that he was profoundly aware of the devastating consequences a nuclear war would bring, and he always left tactical ambiguities in those of his statements which implied the possibility of using nuclear weapons.

Typically the hard-line anti-Communist pronouncements of the Eisenhower presidency were made by Secretary of State Dulles, sometimes using phrases Eisenhower himself had drafted. Eisenhower concentrated on playing the contrasting role of peacemaker and seeker of East-West rapprochement. In December 1953 he received accolades for one such efforta speech at the United Nations proposing that the nuclear powers make available raw materials for research on peaceful applications of atomic energy ("Atoms for Peace"). At still another level, fully concealed from public visibility, Eisenhower and his foreign policy associates periodically employed the CIA in covert Cold War operations, including another 1953 action, the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh's government in Iran, and the overthrow of the left-leaning government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

In December 1953, Eisenhower called a three-day White House conclave of Republican congressmen, at which he set forth and won agreement to a carefully worked out domestic program that the administration was to submit to the second session of the Eighty-third Congress. His first year had been one of consolidation, adjustment to power, and response to immediately pressing problems. But his second year in office, leading up to the midterm election, was slated as a time for policy making and the building of a Republican record.

By the midterm elections, Eisenhower, whose active campaigning appears to have held down the normal seat loss of an incumbent party in an off-year election, was in fact able to point to such legislative accomplishments as extension of the coverage of Social Security to a number of categories of citizens who did not have retirement benefits and authorization of construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. He could also take credit for the Atoms for Peace proposal and the Korean settlement. But the year was punctuated by major activities that had not been on his agenda in December 1953, including the matters of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and the Indochina crisis of 1954.

McCarthy, a political nonentity until 1950, had become almost instantaneously visible in February of that year, when he made the unfounded charge that he had a list of Communists who were presently on the State Department payroll, busily subverting the nation. In that period of preoccupation with internal subversion and with such international events as the Communist victory in China, the very extravagance of his rhetoricmade more newsworthy because President Truman was goaded into replying to himearned the Wisconsin Republican substantial media attention. On this McCarthy built a grassroots following and became recognized within the Republican party as a figure who, if deeply irresponsible, was nevertheless a political asset.

McCarthy had felt free to allege that the Truman administration was permeated with Communists, oblivious to the negative effects of his unsubstantiated charges on the morale of the executive branch and the perception of the United States by other nations. But what would he do once his own party was in power? Eisenhower sought, with some initial success, to check McCarthy's freewheeling assaults on the loyalty of public servantsfor example, by enlisting Taft to certify that McCarthy's claim that career foreign service officer Charles Bohlen was unsuited to be ambassador to the Soviet Union was groundless. Eisenhower also acted to remedy what he himself thought were failures in the government's procedures for screening employees, instituting a program that by extending the reasons for which civil servants could be discharged as security risks took its own toll on morale in the executive branch.

In short order, it became clear that McCarthy was not going to cease his assaults on the loyalty of federal employees and, by implication, on Eisenhower's stewardship of the government. There were widespread demands that Eisenhower reply to McCarthy, some of them from his close supporters. Eisenhower's view was that public mention of a demagogic politician by the president simply enhanced that politician's support. Instead, Eisenhower periodically criticized the kinds of tactics McCarthy employed, leaving it to the press to infer that he was alluding to the Wisconsin senator. Then, in the spring of 1954, when McCarthy overreached himself and allowed his aides to seek favors for a former staff member who had been inducted into the army, the Eisenhower administration orchestrated an oblique campaign against him.

Acting on the premise that presidential efforts to purge a legislator would backfire, Eisenhower worked behind the scenes to encourage the Senate itself to conduct hearings on McCarthy's actions. Carried live on television, the Army-McCarthy hearings contributed to McCarthy's decline in public support and his subsequent formal condemnation by the Senate. His colleagues began to ostracize him, and he soon became politically impotent. Because Eisenhower's contribution to McCarthy's demise was largely indirect and behind the scenes, his seeming inaction with respect to McCarthy helped reinforce the contemporary impression of Eisenhower's political passivity.

In 1954, Eisenhower circumvented a probable foreign affairs debacle through actions that did not become known in their full dimensions until the 1980s, when the relevant classified documents became available for analysis. In the first months of that year a debate raged within the Eisenhower administration about whether to use American military force to prevent the defeat of the French forces that were at war with the indigenous Communists in Indochina. By January 1954 the Communists had trapped the cream of the French defenders at an isolated military outpost in the hamlet of Dien Bien Phu. Eisenhower feared that a Communist victory would lead to Communist triumphs in neighboring countries, which would succumb, as he put it, like a row of falling dominoes.

He recognized, nevertheless, that there were profound reasons why it would be perilous to use American military force in such an inhospitable environment, a course of action that was favored by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur Radford, and by Vice President Nixon. In extensive meetings with his associates and members of Congress, Eisenhower established strict preconditions for intervention, including formation of a multinational coalition and a grant of immediate independence to the French colonies. When the preconditions could not be met, he concluded that direct American involvement in the Indochinese conflict would not be politically feasible. Rather than fight, he supported the partition of Vietnam into a Communist North and a non-Communist South Vietnam and provided foreign aid to the latter. He also fostered formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), designed to limit the expansion of Communist North Vietnam and China.

The year 1954 also saw Eisenhower win a major legislative struggle to prevent ratification of a constitutional amendment proposed by Senator John Bricker of Ohio that was designed to limit the president's powers in making international agreements. Success required great political skill, since Bricker had won over sixty-two senators as cosponsors more than the necessary two-thirds of the Senate votes required for approval. Eisenhower's strategy was to refuse to acknowledge that his basic desires differed from Bricker's but to object persistently to any wording of the amendment that did not simply make the empty statement that no treaty could violate the Constitution. By converting the issue to one of semantics, he gave sponsors of the amendment a face-saving way to change their votes and cooperate with the extensive lobbying campaign his liaison staff conducted.

From Midterm to Second Term: 19551956

The Democratic-controlled Eighty-fourth Congress had barely convened in January 1955 when Eisenhower requested and, after sharp debate, received overwhelming support for a resolution according him power to employ military force in the strait between the Communist-controlled mainland of China and the Nationalist Chinese refuge on Formosa (now Taiwan), one hundred miles from the mainland. When the Nationalists were defeated on the mainland in 1949 and retreated to Formosa, they also maintained control of a number of small islands virtually within sight of the mainland. Late in 1954 the Communists had begun to shell the offshore islands in a seeming prelude to taking possession of them and eventually of Formosa.

Eisenhower viewed a Nationalist-held Formosa as essential to maintaining non-Communist governments on the Pacific "island barrier" running from Japan through the Philippines to Indonesia. In his view the offshore islands were militarily dispensable but politically important for maintaining the morale of the Nationalists, who hoped someday to use them to return to the mainland. The Nationalists had powerful support in the Republican party, including the zealous backing of Senate Republican leader Know-land. Knowland and the Nationalists urged American protection of the offshore islands. Congressional liberals and the British, on the other hand, urged that these vulnerable flyspecks be abandoned.

Eisenhower made certain that the "Formosa Resolution" that authorized him to use American military force to defend Formosa and areas necessary to its defense was vague with respect to those islands. It approved the defense of Formosa, but then added cryptically that the president also was authorized to use American force to defend "such related positions . . . now in friendly hands . . . required or appropriate in assuring the defense of Formosa." The offshore islands crisis subsided in April 1955, when the Chinese Communists announced at the Bandung, Indonesia, conference of African and Asian nations that as evidence of their commitment to peace they would not seek to gain control of islands in the Formosa Strait by military means.

Shortly after the Chinese action at Bandung, the Soviet Union took a step toward decreasing Cold War tensions, declaring that it was prepared to withdraw from its postwar occupation of Austria and to join the West in signing a peace treaty with that nation. Eisenhower and Dulles, who had resisted calls for a summit meeting, concluded that circumstances now permitted one, for it could be portrayed as a response to Soviet accommodation and might, without excessive danger of raising false expectations, test the Soviet willingness to advance further toward East-West agreement.

The ensuing meeting in Geneva between 18 an 23 July 1955 provided Eisenhower with an opportunity to make a widely acclaimed proposal that was even more dramatic than the Atoms for Peace speech. He called for the United States and the Soviet Union to exchange blueprints of their military establishments and for inspection flights by each nation over the other to eliminate the fear of surprise attack. His speech received widespread accolades in the press, and the conference ended with journalists writing of the promising "Spirit of Geneva." Nikita Khrushchev, whose demeanor at the conference made it clear that he was now top man in the post-Stalin "collective leadership" of the Soviet Union, broadly hinted in conversation with Eisenhower that he considered the proposal no more than a means of spying on the Soviet Union. Apart from being a propaganda coup for the United States, the "open skies" proposal anticipated the later practice, which both nations later came to take for granted, of mutual aerial surveillance by orbiting satellites. Eisenhower was well aware of the potential usefulness of surveillance; in fact, at the time he was setting in motion a highly classified program of overflying the Soviet Union with high-attitude U-2 reconnaissance planes, a program that was to have unhappy consequences in his second term.

Between the Geneva conference and the October foreign ministers' conference at which it became certain that there would be no Soviet acceptance of his program, Eisenhower suffered a major heart attack. He was stricken on 24 September 1955, in Denver, Colorado. Fortunately no international crises or immediate domestic issues required immediate presidential attention. The first session of the Eighty-fourth Congress had adjourned, having enacted a three-year extension of tariff-cutting powers that Eisenhower requested, but not much else of his legislative program.

Eisenhower was soon able to make himself understood and within weeks was conducting rudimentary public business from his bed, using Sherman Adams as his intermediary. He encouraged the cabinet and National Security Council to hold regular meetings. These sessions were presided over by Vice President Nixon, who took pains to make clear that he was serving as a mere stand-in during Eisenhower's absence, but the meetings did serve as a symbol that the government was continuing to function. Meanwhile, the list of Eisenhower's bedside visitors gradually increased, and he even held brief meetings with visiting foreign leaders.

Nevertheless, national and international affairs were bound to be in a state of uncertainty during a period when the president of the United States was hospitalized and the extent of his illness was uncertain. Republican party leaders were distressed with the prospect that their one surefire winning candidate for 1956 might not be fit to run. Individual party members who were prominent enough to seek the nominationmost conspicuously, Knowlandbegan to jockey for position. Paradoxically, and in spite of the fears of the bulk of Republicans that Eisenhower would not be able to run again, his heart attack had the effect of making him feel obliged to seek a second term.

Just as Eisenhower had originally hoped not to have to cap his military career by serving as president, he had throughout his first term considered it likely that he would serve only a single term. The fall of 1955 was the period when he could have helped enhance the stature of whoever seemed most appropriate as his successor or could have sent out signals that would encourage a field of Republican competitors to emerge. During this period, as he gradually increased his governmental activities, he had to await a medical judgment on his own health, which could not be made until early February. By the time his heart specialist reported him fit for a second term, no other Republican was available who seemed likely to win in 1956, and it was manifest that much of what he hoped to attain as president remained unaccomplished. He announced that he was willing to run again.

Although anticipation of the fall election led to a partisan impasse on many of the issues before the second session of the Eighty-fourth Congress, three administration measures of consequence passed. Each initiated the kind of change that, unlike welfare-state policies, Eisenhower unambiguously favoredinvestment in natural resources and improvements in the nation's material base. In agricultural policy, the farm subsidy program was adjusted to include a "soil bank," whereby farmers, rather than being paid for growing foods that later would be stored as surplus, were given incentives to take unprofitable land out of cultivation in order to conserve and improve its topsoil. A multiyear program to improve national parks was also approved. Finally, the largest public works bill in American history was passed, creating the interstate highway program, which was to transform the country by constructing a network of limited-access, high-speed roads.

Eisenhower again ran with Nixon as the vice presidential candidate. He had attempted to persuade Nixon to step down, arguing unconvincingly that Nixon's career would be helped by serving as secretary of defense rather than seeming to be second man to the president. Unprepared to split the party by dropping Nixon, he did not achieve his aim of substituting a candidate who might be a better vote getter and more to his liking as the 1960 Republican candidate. The Democrats renominated Stevenson, pairing him with the popular Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee as vice presidential candidate. Eisenhower won handily (35.5 million votes to 26 million), increasing his share of the popular vote from 55 percent to almost 58 percent, in what clearly was a personal, not a party, victory. For the first time since early in the nineteenth century, a president was elected without control of Congress by his party.

During the final weeks of the presidential campaign two of the major foreign policy crises of Eisenhower's presidency erupted. The first was the Hungarian uprising. Since Stalin's death in 1953, there had been a series of protests of varying degrees of intensity against Soviet control in Eastern European nations. On 22 October 1956, inspired by concessions won by Polish insurgents, Hungarian students and workers began engaging in protests, seeking to broaden the base of the government and to have Soviet troops removed from their nation. After Soviet forces fired on protesters, a revolt broke out. Fighting with primitive weapons, Hungarian rebels called on the United States to help. As in other instances of Eastern European unrest, Eisenhower was unwilling to act on his administration's rhetorical stance that the Soviet Union should not just be contained but be pushed back. He lodged diplomatic protests, offered food and medical aid, and fostered immigration by Hungarians who escaped to the West before the Soviet Union crushed the rebellion on 4 November. But he would not risk general war or fight a limited war in an area in which the Soviet Union had the advantage and which was not vital to American security.

The other crisis, one that blunted the capacity of the West to brand the Soviet Union as a distinctly aggressive nation, resulted from the coordinated attacks on Egypt by two nations directly allied with the United StatesFrance and Great Britain. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had acted to nationalize the Suez Canal in the summer of 1956. Long controlled by the British, the waterway was viewed by the British and French leaders as necessary for their nations' economic survival. The two Western nations provided Israel with the military aid to make an ostensible retaliatory attack on Egypt, which had been the base for commando raids on Israel. On 31 October, on the pretext of protecting the canal, the British and French bombed Egypt and dropped paratroopers in Egypt, and Israeli troops entered the Sinai.

By 1956, Eisenhower was far from enthusiastic about the Nasser regime. The previous year he had been disposed to support Egypt's request for American aid for a major irrigation projectthe Aswan High Dambut Nasser's policies then took an anti-Western tack. Nasser purchased large supplies of arms from the Eastern bloc, recognized Communist China, and berated the West. As a consequence, the United States withheld support for the Aswan Dam, an action that immediately preceded Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal.

In spite of his aversion to Nasser, Eisenhower was convinced that open military action against Egypt on a patently hypocritical pretext would infuriate Arab and other Third World nations and would not even accomplish its immediate geopolitical purposes of securing the canal and keeping oil flowing to the West. Rather than allow the Soviet Union to take credit for condemning the Anglo-French-Israeli action, the United States introduced a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations. As a result, the United States ironically found itself voting with the Soviet Union on the same side of a resolution directed against a military intervention by its own allies at the very time it was attempting to muster world condemnation of Soviet action in Hungary. One unintended consequence of the Suez episode that would undermine Eisenhower's long-term goals was British withdrawal from an international role in the Middle East.

The 1956 election victory, as resounding as it was, left Eisenhower with major international problems. Relations with the Soviet Union were less satisfactory than they had been a year earlier and the Western alliance needed mending. His problems in the initial period of his second term, moreover, were not only in foreign policy.

Eisenhower as a Lame-Duck President: 19571958

Eisenhower was the first president who was constitutionally limited to two terms under the Twenty-second Amendment. Thus, he took office as an official lame duck. Conventional wisdom is that other leaders will take such an official less seriously, on the assumption they can wait him out rather than reach accommodations with him in order to bring about policy outcomes. Resolving to turn his status as a president who could not run again to his purposes, Eisenhower made it clear that precisely because he did not have to think about reelection, he would feel free to take politically unpopular or unconventional actions.

He began the first session of the Eighty-fifth Congress with an unconventional action, one that, like much that occurs in politics, had unanticipated effects. The budget he was presenting to Congress had been shaped in the latter part of 1956, when he was unable to concentrate single-mindedly on making certain that proposed expenditures were kept to a minimum. Wanting to make clear that budgets of the magnitude of his 1957 recommendation for the 1958 fiscal year should not be viewed as a precedent and evidently also interested in cutting back from his present requests, he took the unprecedented step of having his treasury secretary, George Humphrey, release a statement stressing the importance of holding down spending on the same day the budget went to Congress.

Humphrey's statement was carefully worded so that it did not contradict Eisenhower by criticizing the present budget request, but in the final minutes of the press conference that followed his statement, Humphrey made headlines by using the colorful phrase "a depression that will curl your hair" to refer to the likely consequence of continued large budgets. The press and, more provocatively, Democrats smarting from the recent election defeat took Humphrey's statement to be a revolt against Eisenhower's message of the same day. In subsequent months Humphrey's statement was frequently mentioned by budget-cutting congressmen, who in particular attacked the foreign-aid and overseas-information programs that were central to Eisenhower's program but politically vulnerable. Most of the proposed cuts were restored, but only after special messages to Congress on Eisenhower's part.

While no debacle, Eisenhower's foray into unconventional lame-duck politics led to the kind of polemics and political gamesmanship he deplored and was not an effective maneuver. Indeed, Eisenhower's recollection in his memoirs was that the first session of the Eighty-fifth Congress was the low point of his presidency in executive-legislative relations. The session did, he granted, yield one major enactmentthe first national civil rights law since Reconstruction.

Eisenhower held the traditional conservative view that changes in deeply held beliefs and traditions cannot be legislated, but rather must evolve from education and changing social conditions. In 1954, when the Supreme Court reversed its 1896 decision allowing racially segregated schools, Eisenhower was quick to point out that since school segregation had been legal for the past half century, it was understandable that southern whites would initially resist the Court's new reading of the Constitution. He consistently refused to express an opinion about the desegregation decision, arguing that it was improper for a president to enter the judicial domain and pronounce on Court actions. Undoubtedly he also was influenced by his personal background and political base. A number of his prewar army duty stations had been in the South, and some of his strongest supporters were white southerners.

During his first term he had kept his 1952 campaign commitment to take those actions on behalf of civil rights that were clearly within his administrative power as chief executive. These included enforcing desegregation in the District of Columbia and in federal shipyards in the South. The steps taken in desegregating the shipyards typify the kind of nonconfrontational resolution of heated issues that Eisenhower favored. No announcement was made that desegregation was taking place. Instead, teams of maintenance workers were brought in on weekends, when the yards were closed, and instructed to paint out the signs designating race on rest rooms, drinking fountains, and eating places. The employees were quietly encouraged to use any facilities they chose, and the supervisory personnel were instructed not to interfere. Desegregation occurred without conflict. Only after the fact was it made public that Eisenhower had acted on his campaign promise.

A new bill designed to proceed in one of the less deeply emotional, but nevertheless important, areas of racial discriminationvoting rightswas drafted by the Justice Department early in Eisenhower's second term. Eisenhower's reasoning in proceeding in the area of voting was that if southern blacks had the vote, their power at the polls would enable them win other rights. The law that eventually emerged from Congressthe Civil Rights Act of 1957did not have effective enforcement provisions. Its major accomplishment was the creation of the federal Civil Rights Commission, which through its regular reports focused attention on rights abuses, as well as the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

School desegregation was a far more explosive issue in the 1950s than voting rights. Many southern white parents were determined at all costs, including use of violence, to ensure that their children were not "mixed" with black children in the schools. Southern political leaders were prepared to back them up. One such leader, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, initiated the kind of direct federal-state confrontation over a racial issue that Eisenhower had been striving to avoid.

In compliance with the Supreme Court ruling that desegregation of schools should proceed with "deliberate speed," the city of Little Rock had instituted a program in which desegregation would begin at the high school level in September 1957 and in later years work down to lower grades. Faubus employed the National Guard to bar black students from entering Little Rock's Central High School, ostensibly to prevent civil disorder. Eisenhower requested Faubus to meet with him and thought he had won Faubus' agreement not to interfere with desegregation. Faubus then withdrew the National Guard and stood aside while a massive mob of anti-integrationists descended on Little Rock, ready to do violence to any black students who entered the high school.

Faced with a blatant disruption of the constitutional order, Eisenhower acted decisively by calling the Arkansas National Guard into federal service so that Faubus could no longer command it and by sending regular army troops into Little Rock to disperse the mob and maintain the peace while black students proceeded to attend the high school. The episode was forced on Eisenhower, but when it became necessary for him to take action, he did so effectively, using a military contingent so large that there was no danger of resistance. He explained to associates that he had substituted federal troops for the National Guard in order not to pit Arkansan against Arkansan.

Eisenhower turned to Congress for foreign policy support early in the Eighty-fifth Congress, as well as for backing on his budget and civil rights proposals. In the aftermath of Suez, Egypt became increasingly tied to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet influence in the area increased more broadly. In addition the Middle East was marked by continuing rivalries between the Arab states and exacerbated Arab-Israeli tensions. Eisenhower met in January 1957 with leading congressmen of both parties to discuss the Near Eastern power vacuum and the danger that the Soviet Union might succeed in establishing itself in that strategically vital area. He requested that Congress pass a resolution, similar to the Formosa Resolution, authorizing a United States commitment of troops to the area if any of the governments requested assistance. It was an indication of the decline in Eisenhower's influence with Congress that the resolution was more hotly debated and approved by a smaller margin than the Formosa Resolution had been.

The most dramatic and politically consequential challenge to Eisenhower's leadership in 1957 was not the budget, civil rights, Little Rock, or the passage by Congress of the Eisenhower Doctrine, as the resolution on the Middle East came to be called. Rather it was an ostensibly scientific eventthe launching by the Soviet Union on 4 October of Sputnik, the first space satellite. By making it obvious that the Soviet Union had achieved the capacity to produce rockets of sufficient power to propel an object into outer space, Sputnik had obvious implications about the respective military strengths of the two superpowers.

In the months before the Sputnik launching, the Soviet Union claimed to have rockets capable of propelling intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to the United States. The Soviet success in putting a satellite in orbit (and soon after a much larger one) was not matched by the United States until January 1958.

By then, Lyndon Johnson had initiated hearings examining the entire question of American versus Soviet military strength. For the remainder of Eisenhower's time in office, a "missile gap" was alleged to exist by major forces within the Democratic party, led by Johnson, Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, and the man who was to win the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The missile-gap controversy continued through the 1960 presidential campaign and contributed to the strategic point of view that led the Kennedy administration to engage in a massive escalation of missile production between 1961 and 1963. In fact, Eisenhower and a handful of his closest associates were well aware that the Soviet Union had virtually no ICBM production under way. Their information came from the highly declassified aerial photographs of the Soviet Union obtained on high-altitude U-2 plane flights that the Soviet leaders privately protested but did not refer to in public, lest they acknowledge an area in which they were vulnerable to the United States.

Eisenhower sought to reassure Americans and their allies that although the Soviet Union might for the moment have greater capacity to produce long-range rockets, in toto the West was well defended, since it could retaliate against a Soviet attack with bombers and with intermediate-range ballistic missiles based in allied nations. Resisting crash increases in spending for missile development programs, Eisenhower took a number of other steps to enhance and highlight the American commitment to retain sufficient military strength to deter a Soviet attack.

In the immediate aftermath of Sputnik, Eisenhower set up a presidential science advisory council and installed a full-time science adviser in the White House. In the 1958 legislative session he proposed, and succeeded in having enacted, the National Defense Education Act, which made available college scholarships for students specializing in the sciences, mathematics, and foreign languages. He also used the new atmosphere of national emergency to achieve legislative changes in the organization of the Defense Department that he had been seeking since he was army chief of staff. These changes increased the influence of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the individual military services and ostensibly reduced the capacity of the military services to vie with one another for appropriations and duplicate one another's programs.

The American space program was visibly under way by the 1958 midterm election. In addition, two Cold War episodes that, if they had been differently handled, might have caused voter disaffection had been resolved or had subsided. On 15 July, acting consistently with the Middle East resolution, Eisenhower dispatched a force of United States Marines to Lebanon at the request of its president, Camille Chamoun. The Western-oriented Lebanese government seemed to be threatened by the aftereffects of a proNasser coup in Iraq. By 25 October the situation had fully stabilized and American troops were withdrawn. Meanwhile, in August, on the other side of the world, mainland China resumed shelling the anti-Communist forces on the offshore islands. Armed with superior aircraft weaponry by the United States and provided with a technology for supplying the islands, the besieged Nationalists held. By October, shelling from the mainland was reduced to an alternate-day ritual that permitted supply of the islands. The conflict eventually vanished from the headlines.

Although the Eisenhower administration seemed by election time to have allayed the foreign policy concerns of most members of the general public (though not of its Democratic critics), the 1958 off-year voting saw a major Democratic surge in congressional strength. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats' strength increased to 282154, their greatest margin since 1938. In the Senate the increase from 49 to 64 brought the Democrats to their highest level since 1940. Thus, Eisenhower was fated to spend his final two years with a Congress in which a strong bloc of liberal Democrats would be pressing for social legislation that he found unacceptably liberal and for a more costly military commitment than he was prepared to countenance.

The Democratic gains appear mainly to have had economic causes. Late in 1957 the economy slipped into a major recession. By the middle of 1958 the recession was over, but the experience of a significant economic downturn reinforced the long-standing tendency of voters to associate the Republican party with economic hard times. An undoubted further contribution to the 1958 Republican losses and the election of the liberal Eighty-sixth Congress was the controversy in the months immediately before the election that led to the resignation of the chief White House staff aide, Sherman Adams. When he was governor of New Hampshire, Adams and his family had formed a friendship with the family of the New England textile manufacturer Bernard Goldfine. Early in 1958, congressional investigations of federal regulatory commissions revealed that Adams had telephoned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to inquire about cases then pending that had a bearing on whether Goldfine's company was labeling its products in a manner consistent with federal regulations. Further, it came out that Adams had received gifts from Goldfinea vicuna coat, free use of a hotel suite in Boston, and a Persian rug.

Adams explained that the gifts were part of a pattern of gift giving between his family and Goldfine's, a result of their long friendship. He had intended his phone calls to the FTC as no more than a normal White House service request for information, he maintained, although he now recognized that he had been indiscreet. Eisenhower promptly announced that having acknowledged his error, Adams was to return to his duties as a valued White House aide. No sooner had Eisenhower taken this step than further hearings showed Goldfine to be an entrepreneur who habitually made gifts to public officials and declared them as business expenses. The gifts to Adams took on a new and more questionable meaning.

The recession-beleaguered Republican candidates for reelection were uniform in urging Adams to resign. Eisenhower also was quickly made aware by many of his closest supporters in the Republican party that Adams had become a liability. Evidently this became Eisenhower's own view. Nevertheless, having put himself behind Adams, he did not fire him; rather, he tried indirection, commissioning Vice President Nixon to have an "objective" conversation with Adams that was heavily stacked with arguments for resignation.

Adams declared that he would follow any orders he received from the president, but that he would not resign on his own in the face of unfair charges. Rather than personally order Adams to resign, Eisenhower commissioned Meade Alcorn, the Republican national chairman, to inform him that he was damaging the party's electoral chances and that Eisenhower knew this to be the case but refused personally to fire Adams. With so blunt a message Adams resigned, but so late that questions about the propriety of his performance were grist for the midterm campaign.

"The New Eisenhower": 19591961

In January 1959, Eisenhower seemed to be entering his final two years in office as the lamest of lame ducks. The number of congressmen who were ideologically uncongenial to his policies had substantially increased. He had lost the services of Adams. In addition, Secretary of State Dulles was terminally ill with cancer. As it turned out, the period from 1959 to the end of his presidency came be viewed in the press and by many politicians as the period of "the new Eisenhower." Eisenhower was portrayed as a hitherto politically aloof president who had belatedly begun to employ the resources of his office in the political area with a vigor reminiscent of the combative styles of Roosevelt and Truman.

Eisenhower had, of course, not previously eschewed politics. He had been practicing a delicate approach of bargaining privately with congressional leaders, personally and through his personal emissaries, in order to weld legislative majorities in three closely divided Congresses. But during the period of the Eighty-sixth Congress he increasingly found it to his advantage to speak out boldly against and veto legislation that was plainly in conflict with his conception of good public policy.

Ironically, though he was less able to get policy results from the new Congress, his adversarial relationship with a major bloc in it made him seem more like an activist president. Eisenhower furthered this impression by taking highly visible steps to create a political climate that might foster an accommodation with the Soviet Union, though he took the first such step as a result of an error in communication. In the spring of 1959, he was privately urged by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan to take part with the allied leaders and Soviet Premier Khrushchev in a summit conference on such points of contention as whether West Berlin was to remain under Western control. Meanwhile, Khrushchev, who also favored a summit, proposed publicly that he and Eisenhower exchange personal visits to each other's countries. Eisenhower's general view was that unless summit conferences and personal diplomacy by national leaders followed Soviet concessions or could otherwise be seen as likely to bring about change, they would create complacency in the West and provide the Soviet Union with propaganda forums.

Eisenhower instructed Under Secretary of State Robert Murphy to pass a message of qualified acceptance to the Soviet leader Frol Kozlov, who was then completing an official visit to the United States. In so doing, he meant to stipulate that if there were previous Soviet concessions, he would be open to a summit and an exchange of visits. His qualifications were lost in the transmission, and he discovered to his chagrin that he had conveyed an invitation that was not contingent on some initial act by Khrushchev, such as the withdrawal of the Soviet threat to West Berlin.

Making a tactical virtue of what had inadvertently become a necessity, Eisenhower told reporters that only his personal prestige was at risk in a meeting with Khrushchev and that the stakes were too great for him not to attempt an unorthodox approach to seeking a better understanding with the Soviet leadership. Before Khrushchev's ten-day tour of the United States in September 1959, Eisenhower visited Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany and President Charles de Gaulle of France to stress that he would not make concessions to the Soviet leader without full consultation with them.

Khrushchev's lively ability to command press attention through his American trip persuaded Eisenhower that his own visit to the Soviet Union would at minimum have Cold War propaganda value, advertising to the world that his nation was deeply intent on settling East-West tensions. Even though foreign ministers' conferences were regularly stalemated, he also concluded that some progress in negotiation might be possible at another great-power summit meeting, since his private discussions with Khrushchev had led to a statement that the Soviet Union would not initiate unilateral action affecting West Berlin.

In the winter of 19591960, Eisenhower made two international goodwill trips, greeting foreign leaders and publics with a vigor that belied his age. In December 1959 he employed the new technology of the jet plane to visit eleven European, Asian, and North African countries on a nineteen-day trip, replete with enthusiastically cheering crowds as he traveled in motorcades, and earnestly spoke of his nation's desire for peace. His party flew to Rome and then visited the capitals of Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Greece, Tunisia, France, Spain, and Morocco.

Events in the Caribbean helped ensure that the other goodwill trip Eisenhower was able to take before the spring summit conference would be in Latin America. The Cuban government of Fidel Castro had seemed to be fundamentally nationalistic when it overthrew that nation's military dictatorship in January 1959, but the Eisenhower administration soon became persuaded that the Castro government was Communist-controlled and would provide the Soviet Union with a base for exercising influence in the western hemisphere. While seeking to destabilize Castro's government (for example, by barring sugar imports from Cuba and training Cuban émigrés for guerrilla war on the island), Eisenhower also worked to strengthen American ties to other Latin American countries. Choosing the four southernmost countries in the hemisphere for his next trip, in February 1960 he visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, coordinating these visits with announcements of increases in aid to Latin America. On these trips he also had overwhelming receptions.

Now Eisenhower, rather than Khrushchev, was making international headlines. He hoped his trips would contribute to an international climate in which the Soviet leaders would be more likely to agree to realistic steps to reduce international tensions, both at the summit conference that now had been scheduled and during his follow-up trip to the Soviet Union. Long-pending negotiations between American and Soviet diplomatic representatives and scientists had led to numerous proposals and counterproposals for arms control and nuclear test bans, and it was possible that in a changed international climate, firm agreements might be reached on these matters.

On 1 May 1960, two weeks before the summit meeting of the Western and Soviet leaders in Paris, the fateful U-2 episode occurred. Anticipating disarmament negotiations, Eisenhower had ordered a final surveillance flight over an area of the Soviet Union that he considered to have been inadequately examined for possible nuclear and missile sites. When the U-2 failed to return, a cover story was released that a plane on a meteorological expedition was lost and might have strayed over Soviet air space. Eisenhower had been authorizing overflights on the premise that if at any time the Soviet Union developed the capacity to shoot down a high-altitude "spy plane," the vehicle, including not only its film but also the pilot, would be destroyed, making proof of surveillance impossible.

As it turned out, the Soviet Union recovered the plane, film, and pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who admitted to his mission. The Soviet announcement was not made until after Eisenhower had personally denied that such flights occurred. Eisenhower immediately reversed himself and acknowledged that flights had taken place for five years under his direction and that they were necessary to provide the West with reliable information about Soviet military capabilities and intentions.

Under these unpropitious circumstances, Eisenhower traveled to Paris on 15 May to meet with the Soviet premier. He appropriately titled the chapter in his memoirs on the Paris meeting "The Summit That Never Was." Bringing with him the wreckage of the U-2 plane, Khrushchev insisted that Eisenhower apologize and punish those responsible for its flighta responsibility Eisenhower already had personally assumed. The demand was couched in terms that left no room for Eisenhower to proceed and effectively terminated his presidential peace-making efforts, including his projected visit to the Soviet Union, although he did make a goodwill trip to Asia.

By early in 1960, Vice President Nixon had Succeeded in building up enough delegate support to ensure him the Republican nomination. Running to succeed a still extraordinarily popular president with whom he had been closely associated, Nixon was a more promising bet for election than Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate. Although Nixon was better known and Kennedy's Catholicism cost him votes, the Massachusetts senator won in one of the closest elections in American history.

Eisenhower was deeply disappointed by the Republican defeat and the resulting likelihood that many of the policies to which he was committed would be reversed. He turned to preparing the Kennedy administration for its accession to power, personally briefing Kennedy and his associates on two occasions and ordering that all government agencies cooperate with Kennedy's appointees in easing the transition to the new administration.

Aftermath and Retrospect

A few months after Eisenhower left office, Congress restored to him the lifetime rank of General of the Army. His military service, which had begun at West Point in 1911 and continued until he resigned to run for office in 1952, resumed. As had been the case before 1952, Eisenhower assumed the nonpolitical status of a member of the military, although he now felt free to take a moderately active part in the Republican party and speak out for Republican domestic programs.

Behind the nonpolitical facade, he maintained the same private preoccupation with the detailed working of public affairs that had marked his pre-presidential career. Private diary entries show that Eisenhower was displeased with the statecraft of both Kennedy and Johnson. Nevertheless, he held it to be his responsibility to support them in public on matters affecting national security. Thus, he made a point of being photographed with Kennedy after his successor's efforts to launch an invasion of Cuba failed, and he met unofficially with Johnson, advising him at length on the conduct of the Vietnam conflict. By the time of Nixon's nomination in 1968, Eisenhower was bedridden after multiple heart attacks. He nevertheless broadcast a message to the Republican convention from his hospital bed and advised the Nixon administration until a few weeks before his death on 28 March 1969.

In retrospect, many of Eisenhower's accomplishments seem to have been what from a latter-day perspective might be described as constructively negative. They were outcomes that did not occur, but that might have ensued were it not for his efforts to resolve conflicts and prevent potential catastrophes. The conflict in Korea was ended; further fighting in Indochina was avoided; McCarthy was defused; inflation rates were held down; the Western alliance held fast; and in spite of many circumstances that might have provoked war, the seven-and-a-half years after the Korean settlement saw no American troops in combat.

Eisenhower's dual policy of limiting the expansion of the welfare state and of curbing costly, potentially provocative military escalation was reversed by his successors. The Kennedy administration greatly expanded missile production. (In later years, opponents of an American weapons buildup often cited Eisenhower's warning in his farewell address against the influence of the "military-industrial complex.") And the Johnson administration expanded welfare programs massively. By the final decades of the twentieth century, however, there was renewed interest in curbing domestic expenditures and limiting weaponry. And there was a new fascination with the statecraft of a president who had succeeded in keeping the support of Americans for two full terms. Thus, the Eisenhower presidency seems both to have had important consequences during his time in office and to provide lessons for future presidencies.


The most thorough account of Eisenhower's pre-presidential career is Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 18901952 (New York, 1983). Eisenhower provides a crisp, somewhat impersonal account of his wartime leadership in Crusade in Europe (Garden City, N.Y., 1948). For Eisenhower's memoir of his presidency, see his rather dry two-volume report in The White House Years: Mandate for Change, 19531956 and Waging Peace: 19561961 (Garden City, N.Y., 1963, 1965). More of a sense of the man is given in his anecdotal but shrewdly reasoned and wry At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Garden City, N.Y., 1967). The fullest picture of the private Eisenhower emerges in The Papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Baltimore, Md., 1970); close to thirty volumes are anticipated. See also Robert H. Ferrell, ed., The Eisenhower Diaries (New York, 1981).

The most comprehensive scholarly account of Eisenhower's presidency is Stephen A. Ambrose, Eisenhower: The President (New York, 1983). The specialized literature on Eisenhower in general and his presidency in particular is growing rapidly. Early contributions to what by the mid-1980s became a steady flow of contributions include Fred I. Greenstein, The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (New York, 1982; rev. ed., Baltimore, 1994); Gary W. Reichard, The Reaffirmation of Republicanism: Eisenhower and the Eighty-third Congress (Knoxville, Tenn., 1975); and Richard H. Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention (Austin, Tex., 1982). A good starting point for grasping Eisenhower's world outlook is H. W. Brandes, Jr. Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and American Foreign Policy (New York, 1988). On Eisenhower's role in sending the first troops to Vietnam see David L. Anderson, Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 19531961 (New York, 1991).

A spate of recent scholarship has produced other specialized studies on details and significant issues of Eisenhower's time in office: Craig Allen, Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, and Prime-Time TV (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1993); Isaac Alteras, Eisenhower and Israel: United StatesIsraeli Relations, 19531960 (Gainesville, Fla., 1993); Michael R. Beschloss, MAYDAY: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 Affair (New York, 1986); Robert A. Divine, The Sputnik Challenge (New York, 1993); Robert J. Donovan, Confidential Secretary: Ann Whitman's Twenty Years with Eisenhower and Rockefeller (New York, 1988); Richard G. Hewlett and Jack M. Holl, Atoms for Peace and War, 19531961: Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission (Berkeley, Calif., 1989); R. Alton Lee, Eisenhower and Landrum-Griffin: A Study in Labor-Management Politics (Lexington, Ky., 1990); Stephen G. Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anti-Communism (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1988); Duane Tananbaum, The Bricker Amendment Controversy: A Test of Eisenhower's Political Leadership (Ithaca, N.Y., 1988); and Raymond J. Saul-nier, Constructive Years: The U.S. Economy Under Eisenhower (Lanham, Md., 1991).

For a valuable review of the growing body of Eisenhower scholarship see Chester J. Pach, Jr., and Elmo Richardson, The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, rev. ed. (Lawrence, Kans., 1991), pp. 263272. For further sources consult R. Alton Lee, comp., Dwight D. Eisenhower: A Bibliography of His Times and Presidency (Wilmington, Del., 1991).

Recent works include Steve Neal, Harry and Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Postwar World (New York, 2001); Geoffrey Perret, Eisenhower (New York, 1999); William B. Pickett, Eisenhower Decides to Run: Presidential Politics and Cold War Strategy (Chicago, 2000); and Tom A. Wicker, Dwight D. Eisenhower (New York, 2002).

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 23 2018

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Excerpt from "The Chance for Peace" address delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

Published in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Volume 1953

"Now a new leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its links to the past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its future is, in great part, its own to make. This new leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its history, by the will to stay free. This free world knows, out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty."

O n April 16, 1953, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He titled his address "The Chance for Peace," in response to statements made by the new premier of the Soviet Union, Georgy Malenkov (1902–1988). Soviet premier Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) had died in March and, with his death, his terror-filled dictatorship at last ended. Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) became the new Soviet Communist Party leader, the secretary general, a very powerful position.

Malenkov hoped to focus on Soviet internal issues and domestic economy and the well-being of the Soviet people. In strong contrast to Stalin's views that capitalism and communism could not peacefully coexist in the world and that war was inevitable, Malenkov declared peaceful solutions existed to solve the international Cold War problems. In early April, he had proposed talks to reduce military forces in Europe so he could concentrate more on Soviet issues. In response, President Eisenhower delivered his "Chance for Peace" speech.

During World War II (1939–45), Eisenhower had become a legend as a commanding general. Before being elected to the U.S. presidency in November 1952, Eisenhower had served as a U.S. army general in World War II. In December 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) made Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces to lead a massive invasion across the English Channel at the Normandy shores of France. Eisenhower executed a brilliant plan and was able to keep the strong, diverse personalities of the other Allied commanders focused toward the common goal of pushing back the occupying Germans. After liberating France, Eisenhower was promoted to a five-star general in December 1944. He was victorious at the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and began moving troops into Germany. In the final months of the war, Eisenhower decided to let Soviet troops march on and take Germany's capital city of Berlin. He hoped to foster goodwill with the Soviets in anticipation of postwar cooperation and to avoid some difficult fighting for his own troops.

Following the German surrender in May 1945, Eisenhower returned to a hero's ticker-tape parade in New York City and spoke to an enthusiastic joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C. President Roosevelt then sent him to Germany as head of the U.S.-occupied zone in Germany. There, he tried to cooperate with Stalin on postwar policies, but Stalin ignored key agreed-upon points such as allowing free elections in Eastern European countries. Shortly thereafter, in November, Eisenhower returned to Washington, D.C., to replace General George C. Marshall (1880–1959) as army chief of staff. Eisenhower retired in February 1948 as an extremely popular World War II general. He wrote the bestseller Crusade in Europe and served as president of Columbia University for two years. Then President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) talked him into commanding the Allied forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The organization was a newly formed military alliance between Western European countries and the United States and Canada.

The U.S. Republican Party leaders had been trying unsuccessfully to talk Eisenhower into running for political office for several years. They finally convinced him to run in the 1952 presidential election. Eisenhower chose Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994), a young U.S. representative from California

with a strong anticommunist record, as his vice presidential running mate. Immensely popular with the public, Eisenhower won easily. The public had grown dismayed with President Truman, who had been unable to direct the Korean War (1950–53) to a successful end and had "allowed" a communist takeover of China in 1949. Also, in November 1952, the United States had detonated the world's first hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) on the Marshall Island of Eniwetok. The H-bomb exploded with the force of 10 million tons (9 million metric tons) of TNT—one thousand times more force than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945. The world had become a more dangerous place.

Following Stalin's death and at Malenkov's overtures of a peaceful coexistence, President Eisenhower's words in "The Chance for Peace" were not directed only at those attending a newspaper editors' conference but to all Americans, to the Soviets, and to the world as a whole. First, he described "the vastly different vision of the future" that the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union held. All in the name of protecting themselves from each other, both countries were spending vast sums of money for arms buildup. Eisenhower clearly, specifically, and with a great deal of feeling described how money for armaments, or military supplies, was taking away from "those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." He spoke of the new terrible superbombs. President Eisenhower recognized the new Soviet leadership and expressed a great deal of interest in discussing arms reduction.

Eisenhower, however, also made a number of difficult challenges to the Soviets. He called on the Soviets to consider their policies in divided Germany, to halt aggressive acts in Korea and Southeast Asia, to release thousands of prisoners of war it still held from World War II, and to allow Eastern European nations a "free choice of their own forms of government." He called on the Soviets to show how they were breaking with the past and entering a new phase of cooperation. After a listing of possible topics of discussion for armament reductions, he called for a "practical" system of inspection under the United Nations "to assure all armaments limitations that might be agreed to were properly carried out." He called on the Soviets to act, saying, "the hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples—those of Russia and of China no less than of our own country."

Things to remember while reading "The Chance for Peace":

  • Between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, was an overwhelming sense of mistrust. It was difficult to come to any agreements when each feared that the other's actions were calculated to weaken the other.
  • One of Eisenhower's major presidential goals was to balance the federal budget, which would require reductions in military spending.
  • The idea of inspection systems under the control of the United Nations that could guarantee the United States and the Soviet Union were complying with any arms agreements reached was a radical new idea. The inspections dubbed "Open Skies" called for both the Soviet Union and the United States to fly inspections over the other to alleviate fears of surprise attacks.

Excerpt from "The Chance for Peace"

In this Spring of 1953 the free world weighs one question above all others: the chance for a just peace for all peoples.

To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent moment of great decision. It came with that yet more hopeful spring of 1945, bright with the promise of victory and of freedom. The hope of all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace.

The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the world.…

In that spring of victory [1945] the soldiers of the Western Allies met the soldiers of Russia in the center of Europe. They were triumphant comrades in arms. Their peoples shared the joyous prospect of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument—an age of just peace. All these war-weary peoples shared too this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power.

This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads.

The United States and our valued friends, the other free nations, chose one road.

The leaders of the Soviet Union chose another.…

This way [the United States' way] was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This was to allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing the war's wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own free toil.

The Soviet government held a vastly different vision of the future.

In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

The result has been tragic for the world and, for the Soviet Union, it has also been ironic.

The amassing of Soviet power alerted free nations to a new danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.…

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?

The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of the threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?

The world knows that an era ended with the death of Joseph Stalin. The extraordinary 30-year span of his rule saw the Soviet Empire expand to reach from the Baltic Sea to the Sea of Japan, finally to dominate 800 million souls.

The Soviet system shaped by Stalin and his predecessors was born of one World War. It survived with stubborn and often amazing courage a second World War. It has lived to threaten a third.

Now a new leadership has assumed power in the Soviet Union. Its links to the past, however strong, cannot bind it completely. Its future is, in great part, its own to make.

This new leadership confronts a free world aroused, as rarely in its history, by the will to stay free.

This free world knows, out of the bitter wisdom of experience, that vigilance and sacrifice are the price of liberty.

It knows that the defense of Western Europe imperatively demands the unity of purpose and action made possible by the

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, embracing a European Defense Community.

It knows that Western Germany deserves to be a free and equal partner in this community and that this, for Germany, is the only safe way to full, final unity.

It knows that aggression in Korea and in southeast Asia are threats to the whole free community to be met by united action.

This is the kind of free world which the new Soviet leadership confronts. It is a world that demands and expects the fullest respect of its rights and interests. It is a world that will always accord the same respect to all others.

So the new Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help turn the tide of history.

Will it do this?

We do not yet know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet leaders give some evidence that they may recognize this critical moment.

We welcome every honest act of peace.

We care nothing for mere rhetoric.

We are only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds. The opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a greater number of them waits upon no complex protocol but upon the simple will to do them. Even a few such clear and specific acts, such as the Soviet Union's signature upon an Austrian treaty or its release of thousands of prisoners still held from World War II, would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a power of persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.…

With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are ready, with renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes of our day.

The first great step along this way must be the conclusion of an honorable armistice in Korea.

This means the immediate cessation of hostilities and the prompt initiation of political discussions leading to the holding of free elections in a united Korea.

It should mean, no less importantly, an end to the direct and indirect attacks upon the security of Indochina [a former federation of states in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Cambodia, and areas that became Vietnam] and Malaya [now part of Malaysia]. For any armistice in Korea that merely released aggressive armies to attack elsewhere would be a fraud.

We seek, throughout Asia as throughout the world, a peace that is true and total.

Out of this can grow a still wider task—the achieving of just political settlements for the other serious and specific issues between the free world and the Soviet Union.

None of these issues, great or small, is insoluble —given only the will to respect the rights of all nations.

Again we say: the United States is ready to assume its just part.

We are ready not only to press forward with the present plans for closer unity of the nations of Western Europe but also, upon that foundation, to strive to foster a broader European community, conducive to the free movement of persons, of trade, and of ideas.

This community would include a free and united Germany, with a government based upon free and secret ballot.

This free community and the full independence of the East European nations could mean the end of the present unnatural division of Europe.

As progress in all these areas strengthens world trust, we could proceed concurrently with the next great work—the reduction of the burden of armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we would welcome and enter into the most solemn agreements. These could properly include:

1. The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all nations.

2. A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be devoted to military purposes [that is, to limited production of armaments].

3. International control of atomic energy to promote its use for peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic weapons.

4. A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of great destructiveness [nuclear weapons].

5. The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions by adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection under the United Nations.…

This idea of a just and peaceful world is not new or strange to us. It inspired the people of the United States to initiate the European Recovery Program [the Marshall Plan] in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with like and equal concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.

We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be productive and prosperous.

This Government is ready to ask its people to join with all nations in devoting a substantial percentage of the savings achieved by disarmament to a fund for world aid and reconstruction. The purposes of this great work would be to help other peoples to develop the undeveloped areas of the world, to stimulate profitable and fair world trade, to assist all peoples to know the blessings of productive freedom.

The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.

We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.

We are ready, by these and all such actions, to make of the United Nations an institution that can effectively guard the peace and security of all peoples.

I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purpose of the United States.

I know of no course, other than that marked by these and similar actions, that can be called the highway of peace.

I know of only one question upon which progress waits. It is this:

What is the Soviet Union ready to do?…

Is the new leadership of the Soviet Union prepared to use its decisive influence in the Communist world, including control of the flow of arms, to bring not merely an expedient truce in Korea but genuine peace in Asia?

Is it prepared to allow other nations, including those of Eastern Europe, the free choice of their own forms of government?

Is it prepared to act in concert with others upon serious disarmament proposals to be made firmly effective by stringent U.N. control and inspection?…

If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has condemned humankind to this fate.

The purpose of the United States, in stating these proposals, is simple and clear.

These proposals spring, without ulterior purpose or political passion, from our calm conviction that the hunger for peace is in the hearts of all peoples—those of Russia and of China no less than of our own country.

What happened next …

Only two days later, U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles (1888–1959) spoke at the same convention of newspaper editors. His words were harshly anticommunist, unlike Eisenhower's.

British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) had once again been elected prime minister of Great Britain in 1951. A few weeks after Eisenhower's speech, on May 11, Churchill proposed that the world leaders hold a summit meeting to relieve Cold War tensions. Dulles and West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967) argued against such a meeting. They charged that the Soviets were not sincere in peaceful coexistence but only trying to weaken the West. Furthermore, U.S. senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1909–1957) of Wisconsin had stirred up a strong fear of communists among Americans. Dulles successfully used this fear, arguing that Eisenhower's administration could not afford to appear weak in dealing with the communists. The idea of talks between Eisenhower, Malenkov, and Khrushchev faded.

In Korea, after difficult negotiations, a cease-fire agreement was signed in July 1953, bringing an end to hostilities. The new president had managed to bring an end to the stalemated Korean War in just six months (see Chapter 3).

Did you know …

  • When Eisenhower ran for president, his campaign slogan was simply "I Like Ike." On the one hand, his personable mannerisms brought a great deal of comfort to Americans. On the other hand, the Soviets considered Ike a direct threat. They reasoned that if Americans had elected a general, then they must be preparing for war.
  • Eisenhower grew up in a strong Mennonite family. Mennonites were known for their extreme pacifism, or opposition to war. Eisenhower's mother was very distressed when he went to West Point. He went to West Point in part because the education was free.
  • After the Korean cease-fire, Eisenhower would not lose another U.S. soldier to combat through the remainder of his presidency, an accomplishment of which he was immensely proud.
  • It was President Eisenhower, working behind the scenes, together with army lawyer Joseph Welch (1890–1960), who finally brought an end to Senator McCarthy's radical anticommunist campaign in Congress.

Consider the following …

  • Review Eisenhower's list of the cost of single armaments in terms of practical needs of people. Construct a chart to better visualize this list.
  • President Eisenhower used some strong imagery in his "Chance for Peace" speech. He described "humanity" as "hanging from a cross of iron." Analyze on several levels what point he was trying to convey. Think in terms of armaments and also of Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain Speech," in which Churchill warned the still-disbelieving Americans that indeed the Soviets were occupying large territories in Eastern Europe with no intention of leaving.
  • Although the speech did not result in a summit meeting between the leaders, consider what impact Eisenhower's list of possible arms control suggestions might have played in future negotiations. Was a seed possibly planted?

For More Information


Ambrose, Stephen F. Eisenhower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983–1984.

Brendon, Piers. Ike: His Life and Times. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

Burk, Robert F. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Hero and Politician. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.

Divine, Robert A. Eisenhower and the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Volume 1953. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Web Site

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum.http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu (accessed on September 11, 2003).

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 21 2018

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Born October 14, 1890
Denison, Texas
Died March 28, 1969
Washington, D.C.

U.S. president and army general

T hough highly respected for his key military role in guiding the U.S. armed forces to victory in Europe in World War II (1939–45), as president Dwight D. Eisenhower also skillfully guided the nation through eight years of the Cold War (1945–91), from 1953 to 1961. After reaching a truce in the Korean War (1950–53) during the early months of his first term in office, he succeeded in not sending U.S. troops into combat for the next seven and one-half years of his presidency. In his farewell speech as president in 1961 as the Cold War continued, the fabled war hero warned the nation of giving too much power and influence to the military services and the war industries that support them.

A pacifist background

Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, on October 14, 1890; he was the third of seven sons born to David J. Eisenhower and Ida Stover. When Dwight was a year old, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where ancestral Eisenhowers had earlier lived as part of a Mennonite community. (Mennonites are members of various Protestant groups noted for their opposition to war.) Having failed financially as a shopkeeper, Dwight's father worked at a creamery. Dwight was raised in an atmosphere of hard work and strong religious tradition. The family would read from the Bible together every night.

Eisenhower had well-rounded skills. He was athletic, bright, an above-average student, and ambitious. After graduating from Abilene High School in 1909, he worked for two years at the creamery to help pay for an older brother's college education. In 1911, Eisenhower, known as "Ike," received a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. While at West Point, Eisenhower became a football star in his first years, but then he suffered a serious knee injury that forced him to quit sports. In 1915, he graduated and was commissioned second lieutenant in the infantry at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. There, he met Marie "Mamie" Doud, daughter of a wealthy Denver, Colorado, meat packer. They married in 1916 and would have two sons, one of whom died in infancy of scarlet fever.

During World War I (1914–18), Eisenhower was in charge of tank training camps in the United States and was about to go overseas when the war ended. Following the war, he served in several assignments and, encouraged by one of his commanders, decided to become a student of military science. In the 1920s, he attended the Army Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating first in his class, and the Army War College in Washington, D.C.

World War II supreme commander

In 1933, Eisenhower became an aide to the flamboyant General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964; see entry). He accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines for several years to build up the Filipino armed forces. After the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, Eisenhower returned to Washington, D.C. He was promoted to full colonel in March 1941 and given an army command position. Gaining a strong reputation among his superiors in the army, he was promoted to brigadier general in September 1941. On December 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese surprise attack on U.S. military installations at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, he was summoned to the War Department in Washington, D.C. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) put Eisenhower in charge of the army War Plans Division. Eisenhower energetically tackled the daunting task of developing a strategy for the Allied response to Germany. He promoted the "Europe first" strategy, that is, combating the Germans first, then dealing with the Japanese in the Pacific.

Eisenhower was promoted to major general in March 1942 so he could implement his "Europe first" strategy. In May, he was placed in command of U.S. forces in Great Britain. The strategy was to first defeat the German forces occupying North Africa and then invade Europe. By July, Eisenhower was promoted again, to lieutenant general, and took command of the joint U.S.-British forces gathered for the invasion of North Africa. In February 1943, Eisenhower became a four-star general. By May 1943, Eisenhower had forced the surrender of enemy forces in Tunisia. He then led amphibious (water) invasions in July 1943, landing first in Sicily and then in Italy in September.

The time had finally come to retake Western Europe from the Germans. In December 1943, President Roosevelt made Eisenhower supreme commander of the Allied forces. Eisenhower was to lead a massive European invasion, crossing the English Channel and landing on the shores of France at Normandy. On this mission, Eisenhower would demonstrate his exceptional ability to plan complex strategies and to keep the commanders under him working together toward a common objective. In June 1944, Eisenhower launched the Normandy invasion, the largest amphibious attack in history. He orchestrated the campaign of U.S. and British forces that slowly fought their way through Western Europe toward Germany. By December 1944, after liberating France from German occupation and pressing toward Germany's border, Eisenhower was promoted to a five-star general. At that time, the German army mounted a major counteroffensive. The resulting Battle of the Bulge was the largest single battle in U.S. Army history. By the end of March 1945, the Allied forces had again gained the upper hand and were pushing into Germany.

During the final war months in Germany, Eisenhower made controversial decisions regarding the advance of Soviet

troops from the east; these decisions played a role in shaping the Cold War. Eisenhower decided to leave the capture of Berlin to the Soviet troops while he focused his forces elsewhere. He believed this would foster good relations with the Soviets and encourage postwar cooperation. His decision was also motivated by a desire to avoid some difficult fighting for his own troops. Many of Eisenhower's commanders were highly critical of his decision. They thought that the U.S. and British forces should push hard to Berlin. Instead, the Soviets took Berlin in April while Eisenhower's troops swept through southern Germany and Czechoslovakia. On May 7, Germany surrendered to the Allies. It was a crowning moment in Eisenhower's military career.

Postwar life

Following the German surrender, Eisenhower briefly returned to the United States, where he received a hero's welcome

complete with a ticker tape parade in New York City. Eisenhower also gave what amounted to a victory speech before an exuberant joint session of Congress. Roosevelt appointed Eisenhower head of the German zone occupied by the United States. (Immediately upon Germany's surrender, an Allied plan divided Germany into four zones. Each zone was occupied by troops from one of the Big Four countries of Britain, the United States, France, and the Soviet Union. Within a few years, the democratic U.S., British, and French zones became one, referred to as West Germany; the Soviet zone became known as East Germany.) Back in Germany, Eisenhower tried to carry out postwar Allied policies in cooperation with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953; see entry). However, this turned out to be a frustrating job, because Stalin ignored key policies as well as promises the Soviets had made, including the promise to allow free elections in Eastern Europe.

In November 1945, Eisenhower returned to Washington, D.C., to replace General George C. Marshall (1880–1959; see entry) as army chief of staff. Eisenhower served in that position for two years. During that period, U.S. forces were downsized from their high wartime levels, and U.S. relations with the Soviet Union continued to deteriorate. In February 1948, Eisenhower, considered the most popular World War II general, retired from the army.

Struggling financially upon his retirement, Eisenhower wrote his memoirs of World War II, titled Crusade in Europe. Published in 1948, the book became an instant best-seller and made Eisenhower a wealthy man. Also in 1948, Eisenhower was named president of Columbia University, where he would stay for the next two years. During this postwar period, both the Republican and Democratic parties tried to recruit him to be their candidate for president. As revealed in diaries uncovered in 2003, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53; see entry), a Democrat, even offered to run in the 1948 election as the vice presidential candidate if Eisenhower ran for president. However, Eisenhower declined to run.

As Cold War tensions continued to build, Western Europe increasingly felt the threat of Soviet expansion. In response to this potential threat, the United States and Western Europe established a new military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In 1950, President Truman reinstated Eisenhower as supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with the job of organizing NATO forces to contain possible communist aggression. Eisenhower was hugely popular in Europe, so Truman hoped Eisenhower's presence would give some degree of comfort to the region, which was still recovering from the war.

White House years

In 1952, Republican leaders were finally able to convince Eisenhower to be their candidate for president in the fall election. Eisenhower's running mate, Richard M. Nixon (1913–1994; see entry), was a young California congressman with a strong anticommunist record. Eisenhower and Nixon took a hard-line anticommunist position in their campaign, claiming that Truman was responsible for the communist takeover of China in 1949 and the failure to secure victory in the ongoing, increasingly unpopular Korean War. At one point during the campaign, Eisenhower made the bold proposal to liberate Eastern Europe from communism.

Eisenhower easily defeated the Democratic candidate, Illinois governor Adlai E. Stevenson (1900–1965). The new president's first priority was to end the stalemate in Korea. After difficult negotiations, a cease-fire was signed in July 1953. Not another soldier was killed in combat throughout the remainder of Eisenhower's presidency. Another one of Eisenhower's goals was to balance the federal budget, which required reductions in military spending. To help achieve this goal, Eisenhower decided to emphasize the role of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Soviet aggression rather than maintaining a large traditional force and costly conventional weapons.

In the years immediately following the end of World War II, fear of the Soviets and communism began to run high in the United States. Before Eisenhower became president, U.S. senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1908–1957; see entry) of Wisconsin had begun a witch-hunt for alleged communist sympathizers in the United States. McCarthy had gone so far as to accuse President Truman of harboring communists in his administration. McCarthy persisted with similar claims when Eisenhower took office. At first, Eisenhower avoided confrontation with McCarthy; however, when the senator began attacking the U.S. Army with similar communist accusations, the president responded decisively. Working behind the scenes, Eisenhower put an end to McCarthy's radical anti-communist campaign by arranging public hearings that exposed the lack of supporting evidence for McCarthy's charges against the army.

Though some Republicans wanted him to take the offensive, Eisenhower chose not to confront communism in Korea and Eastern Europe. He selected a moderate course to combat communist expansion without committing armed forces. In April 1953, shortly after the death of Stalin, the Soviet leader, Eisenhower made several attempts to ease relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. He sought to restrict the arms race and offered an "open skies" plan, which would have allowed each of the two superpowers to do over-flight inspections of the other to alleviate fears of surprise attacks. Eisenhower also proposed that nations around the world pool their atomic research information and materials, putting all of it under the control of the United Nations; this was referred to as the "Atoms for Peace" program. New Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971; see entry) and other top Soviet officials were not receptive to Eisenhower's ideas.

Eisenhower took more aggressive action against revolutionaries in Third World countries, poor underdeveloped or economically developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Believing that the revolutions in these countries were communist-inspired, Eisenhower authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to intervene with covert, or secret, operations. In 1953, the CIA overthrew the elected government of Iran, which was thought to be procommunist, and in 1954 the same thing occurred in Guatemala.

However, in 1954, when the French appealed for assistance in Vietnam, a country where communism had already taken hold, Eisenhower chose not to respond. He did not think that the American public would support commitment of U.S. troops in Asia so soon after the Korean War. The British also refused to assist France in the conflict. The French were ultimately defeated, and an agreement was reached to divide Vietnam. North Vietnam would be communist-controlled, and South Vietnam would have a pro-Western government.

Eisenhower had participated in the conference that decided Vietnam's fate, but he refused to sign the agreement that surrendered northern Vietnam to the communists. Instead, he increased U.S. support to South Vietnam. In September 1954, Eisenhower created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a military alliance composed of the United States, France, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan. The purpose of SEATO was to contain further communist expansion in the region. Eisenhower also signed a 1954 treaty with the noncommunist Republic of China (ROC), located on the island of Taiwan. The treaty offered the ROC protection from communist Mainland China and included a guarantee from ROC leaders that they would make no attempt to invade the mainland.

Unexpectedly, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September 1955, but he was able to fully recover and resume his presidential duties in a short time. He ran for reelection in 1956 and again handily won—again over the Democratic loser in the 1952 election, Adlai Stevenson. The economy was booming, and the United States was not at war in any region of the world. However, just before the U.S. presidential election, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary to put down an uprising against the communist government. Eisenhower again refused to militarily confront the Soviets. At the same time, Egypt had seized the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The canal had been under British and French control. With Israel's cooperation, the British and French launched a surprise attack on Egypt to regain control of the canal, but they failed to advise Eisenhower of their plan beforehand.

The United States and the Soviet Union were both un-happy about the attack on Egypt, because any crisis in the oil-rich Middle East was a potential threat to their economies. In a rare instance of Cold War cooperation, the two superpowers worked together to obtain a United Nations resolution condemning the attack. Britain and France were humiliated, but the Arab nations were impressed that Eisenhower would go against longtime European friends to protect an Arab nation. However, they were also somewhat confused: First, the United States had failed to respond to Soviet aggression in Hungary; now it seemed that America was actually siding with the Soviets. To reaffirm the United States' anticommunist policy, the president announced the Eisenhower Doctrine. The doctrine stated that the United States would offer assistance to any Middle East government threatened by communist expansion. After the Hungary and Suez crises, the general public held Eisenhower in even greater esteem.

The next Cold War crisis for Eisenhower came in October 1957, when the Soviets successfully launched the first man-made satellite into orbit. (A satellite is a constructed object that orbits, in this case, the Earth.) The American public was stunned. They assumed that the Soviets had overtaken the United States in technological achievements. Through spy plane information, Eisenhower knew that was not the case, but he could not reveal this information, because the spy planes were flown in violation of international law. Under intense pressure, Congress formed committees to determine how the United States could catch up with the Soviets' technology. Much more funding was committed to science and the military. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in July 1958 to guide future space research.

The next threat of communist expansion came closer to the shores of the United States. On New Year's Day 1959, revolutionary Fidel Castro (1926–; see entry) captured Havana, the capital of Cuba, and overthrew the U.S.-supported government there. Before long, Eisenhower suspected that Castro was procommunist. Eisenhower put the CIA in charge of a top-secret plan to invade Cuba. The CIA would train a group of Cuban exiles (people who had fled Cuba) living in Florida and then provide some air support while the exiles carried out the invasion. The landing point for the small invading force was to be at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba. As it turned out, Eisenhower never launched this invasion. That task would fall to his successor, President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63; see entry). The invasion would prove a major failure.

The new Eisenhower

During his last year in office, President Eisenhower seemed to take on a new persona. He used a new four-engine jet, Air Force One, to travel the world lobbying for peace. He traveled over three hundred thousand miles and visited twenty-seven countries. Large crowds greeted him at every stop. Eisenhower invited Soviet leader Khrushchev to visit the United States in September 1959 and then proposed a summit meeting in May 1960 in Paris to discuss a nuclear test-ban treaty. Optimism was high, and Eisenhower hoped to finish his presidency on a grand note. However, on May 1, the Soviets shot down a U.S. spy plane over the Soviet Union and captured the pilot. Khrushchev, angry that the United States was spying during a period when the superpowers were working on the easing of relations, asked for an apology. Eisenhower angrily resisted giving in to a Khrushchev demand and refused to apologize. Khrushchev refused to participate in the May summit.

After a memorable farewell address, in which he urged Americans to be responsible with their economic, military, and technological power, Eisenhower retired to a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He was reinstated as a general in the army, though he only served in an advisory capacity. In his retirement, Eisenhower wrote a two-volume set of political memoirs titled The White House Years (1963–65). He also did oil paintings and watercolors and played golf. He died in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., in March 1969, shortly after his former vice president, Richard Nixon, entered the White House as president. Eisenhower was buried in a small chapel next to his boyhood home in Abilene, Kansas.

For More Information


Ambrose, Stephen F. Eisenhower. 2 vols. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983–84.

Brands, H. W., Jr. Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and American Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Brendon, Piers. Ike: His Life and Times. New York: Harper and Row, 1986.

Burk, Robert F. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Hero and Politician. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.

Divine, Robert A. Eisenhower and the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. Crusade in Europe. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948. Reprint, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years. 2 vols. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963–65.

Pach, Chester J., Jr., and Elmo Richardson. The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

Web Site

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum.http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu (accessed on September 3, 2003).

"I Like Ike"

The most popular presidential campaign slogan for Dwight D. Eisenhower was simply "I Like Ike." Eisenhower was an unusually popular American leader, first as an army general and then as president. During his eight years as president, his average monthly approval rating was a remarkable 64 percent. He was intelligent and exuded warmth and sincerity with a wide friendly grin. He showed a strong love for life and people. He was described as quick to anger and quicker to forgive.

At a time when the U.S. middle class was rapidly growing, he exhibited middle-class interests, including golf, bridge, and American Western literature. For years after his presidency, he was judged more on what did not happen during his presidency than on what did. But what he did achieve was a cease-fire agreement in the unpopular Korean War only six months after taking office. He then successfully avoided military conflict for the remainder of his two terms, despite the escalating rivalry with the Soviet Union.

On the domestic front, the United States enjoyed a period of economic growth and prosperity during his presidency. Eisenhower added to his popularity during his last two years in office by making many public appearances worldwide; while touring in motorcades, Ike would stand up

in an open car despite his advancing age, waving to cheering crowds and showing his broad grin. He also enhanced his image through televised news conferences, a new media phenomenon at that time.

Interestingly, while Americans derived great comfort from the very personable "Ike" Eisenhower, the Soviets considered Eisenhower a threatening figure. In their minds, the fact that the American public had elected a military general as president meant the United States was preparing to go to war.

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated Jun 11 2018

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Born October 14, 1890
Denison, Texas
Died March 28, 1969

Washington, D.C .

U.S. Army general and 34th
president of the United States

Unlike two other famous American military leaders of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur and General George Patton (see entries), Dwight D. Eisenhower was an even-tempered, universally liked figure with a talent for getting people to work together. His management ability was really put to the test when, as commander of all Allied forces in Europe, he led an alliance of men from all the different branches of military service and from many different countries to victory over the German army. At the beginning of the war, Eisenhower was only a lieutenant colonel, but by the time it was over he had risen to the rank of five-star general. He overcame his lack of battle experience and with his brilliant strategies and his calm, likable personality won the trust and loyalty both of Allied political and military leaders as well as the men he led. After the war, the American people demonstrated their regard for Eisenhower by electing him president.

A poor but proud family

Eisenhower was the third of six sons born to David Jacob and Ida Stover Eisenhower, who began their married life running a small grocery store in Hope, Kansas. When the store went bankrupt, David went to Denison, Texas, to find work, and his family eventually joined him there. Dwight was born in Denison, but less than a year later his father moved the family back to Kansas because he had been offered a job at a creamery in Abilene.

The Eisenhower family was quite poor—David never earned more than $100 a month—and the boys sometimes had to defend themselves against taunting and ridicule from other children. They were taught to work hard, to be independent and self-reliant. David and Ida were members of a fundamentalist Christian group called the River Brethren, and religious faith was also an important element in the Eisenhower household.

In grade school and high school Dwight was a fairly good student, but his real love was sports. It was at this time that his classmates gave him the nickname "Ike," which would stick with him throughout the rest of his life. After he graduated from high school, Dwight made an agreement with his older brother Edgar that he would work for a year while Edgar, who wanted to become a lawyer, attended college. The next year, Edgar would work while Dwight went to college. So Dwight took a job in the Abilene creamery.

Attending West Point

Then one of Dwight's friends encouraged him to take the entrance examinations for the U.S. Naval Academy and the army's Military Academy at West Point, New York. If he passed, Dwight would receive a free college education. The fact that his very religious parents were opposed to war made this a difficult decision, but he chose to take the exams.

Eisenhower passed both exams, but learned that he was already too old to apply to the Naval Academy. Even though the navy had been his first choice, Eisenhower entered West Point in 1911. Stern discipline had been part of his family life and this helped him adjust quickly to the school's rigorous routines.

At West Point, Eisenhower immediately began to pursue his main interest—sports. He played halfback on the school's football team, but an injury during his sophomore year ruined what had been a promising athletic career. Disappointed, Eisenhower lost interest in school and began to spend much of his time earning demerits (negative disciplinary marks) by smoking and playing cards. He graduated in 1915, ranking 61st in a class of 164 students.

A steadily advancing career

Eisenhower was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. At a party, he met Mamie Geneva Doud, the daughter of a wealthy Denver businessman who had brought his family to Texas for the winter. The couple fell in love and were married in July 1916 in Denver. They had two sons, Doud Dwight (who died in infancy) and John Sheldon Doud, who would become a career army officer.

In 1917, as the United States was getting ready to enter World War I, Eisenhower was promoted to captain. He wanted to join the fighting in France, but instead he was assigned to command a tank training center in Camp Colt, Pennsylvania. Despite his frustration at being stateside during the war, Eisenhower earned a Distinguished Service Medal for his performance.

Eisenhower became a major in 1920, and in 1921 he graduated from the Army Tank School at Fort Mead, Maryland. In 1922 came a turning point in his career: he was transferred to the Panama Canal Zone (now the country of Panama) to serve as executive officer to the 20th Infantry Brigade. There he met General Fox Conner, who took a great interest in this bright, capable young officer. Conner instructed Eisenhower in military history and helped him sharpen his administrative and tactical skills.

Important advice from a general

Conner told Eisenhower that in the next war—which he felt was inevitable and which he predicted would be fought by a coalition (a temporary union for a common purpose) of nations rather than one nation against another—a colonel named George C. Marshall would lead the American forces. He encouraged Eisenhower to try for an assignment with Marshall. Conner also helped Eisenhower get into the Army Command and General Staff School in Leavenworth, Kansas. This time, Eisenhower was serious about his studies and career, and he graduated first in a class of 275.

Building a good reputation

From 1927 to 1933, Eisenhower built a reputation as a resourceful, energetic staff officer. In 1933, while he was working in the office of the assistant secretary of war, Eisenhower was assigned to serve under General Douglas MacArthur, a flamboyant, opinionated figure who appreciated Eisenhower's even temper and considerable administrative skills. When MacArthur was sent to the Philippines to serve as a military advisor to that country's army, Eisenhower accompanied him; MacArthur's flamboyant style led Eisenhower to say later that he spent those years studying "dramatics" under MacArthur.

Four years later, Eisenhower returned to the United States and, now a lieutenant colonel, was made chief of staff for General Walter Krueger, commander of the Third Army at Fort Sam Houston. Just before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the Third Army took part in the biggest war games (a way of practicing warfare in order to prepare officers and troops for the real thing) the army had ever held. The brilliant strategies Eisenhower devised for this operation drew admiration from his superiors, and he was promoted to brigadier general.

A rapid rise to the top

The day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) the United States declared war on Japan. Within a week, Germany and Italy (who were aligned with Japan in a coalition called the Axis) declared war on the United States. General Marshall—now the army's chief of staff—called Eisenhower to his office and asked for his advice on what action the United States should take in Asia. Eisenhower's answer impressed Marshall, and he assigned Eisenhower to the War Plans Division.

During the first months of the war, Eisenhower's strategic talent, his skill in managing people, and his tendency to both share the credit for achievements and shoulder the blame for mistakes made him an valuable member of the team directing the U.S. military effort. His rapid rise through the ranks continued. In March 1942, he was promoted to major general, and in June he was sent to London to take command of the U.S. forces in Europe. Meanwhile, General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz were in charge of the Pacific theater (area of action).

Planning Allied strategy

Eisenhower's first task was to meet with the heads of all the British and American military services to determine a course of action. They decided that the United States would invade Axis-occupied North Africa, with Eisenhower in charge of all the ground, sea, and air forces. Called "Operation Torch," this successful campaign took place in November 1942. It was followed by the Allies' victorious invasions of Sicily and Italy in July and September of 1943.

Eisenhower was named the commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe (SHAEF), which meant that he was now in charge of all Allied forces in Europe. Eisenhower returned to London in December to plan for the Allied invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France. Nicknamed Operation Overlord, and D-Day, this campaign would have a huge impact on the course of World War II. Describing Eisenhower's role in Operation Overlord, Stephen A. Ambrose wrote that it "bore his stamp. He was the central figure in the preparation, the planning, the training, the deception, the organization, and the execution of the greatest invasion in history."

The Normandy invasion or D-Day

The invasion was to be carried out by 156,000 troops who would cross the English Channel on boats and land on the beaches of Normandy. The troops would be supported by 6,000 ships, thousands of airplanes, and a staff of 16,312 officers and enlisted men (higher-ranking soldiers who are not officers). The Allies planned to push the Germans back to their own country while the Russians pushed from the other direction—through Eastern Europe and toward Germany. Just in case the mission didn't succeed, Eisenhower prepared a press release in which he took full blame for the failure.

Operation Overlord was originally scheduled to begin on June 4, 1944, but a storm held up the invasion until June 6, when Eisenhower, heeding the advice of his trusted weather forecaster, finally gave the order. On that day, the weather did clear, allowing the men to land. Eisenhower made regular visits to the battlefields; once, in fact, he even drove off at the wheel of a jeep and strayed behind enemy lines.

The Allies spent the next few months advancing through France, and they liberated Paris in August. In December, the Germans made one last stand in the Ardennes region on the border of France and Belgium. This was called the Battle of the Bulge because the Germans' success in pushing the Allies back in that region caused a "bulge" in the front line. Although the German attack took the Allies by surprise, they won the battle. Forced back into Germany and fatally weakened, the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945.

Postwar activities

Eisenhower spent another six months in Europe as head of the occupation forces, which were Allied troops who kept order and provided assistance as the various European countries made their transitions to peacetime. Then he returned to Washington to replace General Marshall as army chief of staff. Eisenhower had become so popular with the American public that in the years immediately following the end of the war, both the Democratic and Republican parties urged him to run for president. He told them he wasn't interested.

In 1949, Eisenhower became the president of New York's Columbia University, but he left this job the next year to accept command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which had just been formed to help protect Europe from the threat of Soviet aggression.

The 34th president of the United States

Meanwhile, as the 1952 election neared, the two major political parties continued their attempts to get Eisenhower to run for president. He decided he would run—as a Republican. Backed by moderate supporters, Eisenhower beat the much more conservative Senator Robert A. Taft for the Republican nomination. He also won the national race against Illinois Democratic governor, Adlai Stevenson; in fact, Eisenhower earned the largest number of popular votes to that time.

Eisenhower brought to his office a talent for administrative efficiency and a background in foreign relations, but not much experience with domestic issues. As president he was a consensus (agreement) seeker who tended to avoid controversy if he could.

One goal of Eisenhower's first term was to end the conflict in Korea which had started in 1950. The Korean War (1950-53) involved the Communists who occupied the northern part of the country and U.S.-backed South Korea. In July 1953, Eisenhower helped to negotiate a cease-fire and truce, stating that "There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs."

Other major events of Eisenhower's first term included the 1954 Supreme Court decision to declare segregation (the separation and unequal treatment of black and white people) in public schools unconstitutional, and the campaign of Senator Joe McCarthy to expose and remove suspected Communists from the federal government, military, and other realms of American life. Eisenhower remained quiet on both these issues.

A second term as president

In September 1955, Eisenhower had a heart attack while vacationing, and his supporters feared he would be unable to run for president again. However, he had recovered by election time, and his continuing popularity led to a victory over Adlai Stevenson. His political party was not as successful, though, and the Democrats gained control of Congress.

Eisenhower's second term as president was not quite as smooth as his first. Despite his good relationship with both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, he faced opposition on some of his legislative measures from both parties. And he was forced to take action on the Supreme Court's segregation decision when a mob of angry white southerners blocked the integration of a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eisenhower sent military units to enforce the court-ordered integration.

In addition, the progress Eisenhower had made in easing the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was shattered when Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev refused to take part in a planned summit meeting with Eisenhower. Khrushchev was angered after an American U-2 spy plane that had been taking photographs of military sites in Russia was shot down. Critics faulted Eisenhower for allowing such an espionage (spy) operation to jeopardize peace between the two countries.

A relaxing retirement

In 1960, after Eisenhower's two terms as president were complete, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who had been a senator from Massachusetts, was elected to the office. Eisenhower retired and divided his time between his farm at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a home in Palm Springs, California. He continued to speak occasionally on public issues, and he worked on his memoirs. His favorite retirement activities, though, were playing golf and bridge.

Healthy and active for the first few years of his retirement, Eisenhower suffered serious heart attacks in 1965 and 1968. In December 1968 a Gallup poll showed that he still led the list of the ten most-admired Americans. He died at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 1969, and was buried in Abilene, Kansas, on the grounds of the presidential library he had established there a few years earlier.

Where to Learn More


Ambrose, Stephen. The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower New York: Doubleday, 1970.

Burk, Robert. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hero and Politician. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.

Darby, Jean. A Man Called Ike. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications,1989.

Jacobs, William Jay. Dwight David Eisenhower: Soldier and Statesman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995.

Sandberg, Peter Lars. Dwight D. Eisenhower. New York: Chelsea House,1986.

Van Steenwyk, Elizabeth. Dwight David Eisenhower, President. New York:Walker, 1987.


"The Father Figure: Dwight Eisenhower." Special Report: The Strategists of War. U.S. News and World Report (March 16, 1998): 59.

Web sites

Ambrose, Stephen and George H. Mayer. "Dwight D. Eisenhower." [Online]Available http://www.grolier.com/wwii/wwii_eisenhower.html (April 21, 1999).

Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the three million soldiers, airmen, and sailors of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II—the largest such force ever led by one person.

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 29 2018

Eisenhower, Dwight D. 1890-1969


Dwight David Ike Eisenhower, a five-star general and the thirty-fourth president of the United States, was born in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas. He entered the United States Military Academy as a member of the class of 1915, later known as The Class the Stars Fell On for the record number of general officers it produced. As a West Point cadet, he was best known for his football skills and disregard for military discipline.

His first assignment was at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he met and married Mamie Doud. When the United States entered World War I (19141918), Eisenhower expected orders to Europe; instead, he commanded a training base near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Certain his lack of combat duty meant the end of his career, his fears were compounded by the rejection of his proposals for the role of tanks in future warfare. Those concerns diminished under the mentorship of Brigadier General Fox Conner, who arranged to have Eisenhower assigned to his staff in Panama. He encouraged and inspired Eisenhower, and ensured his selection to attend the Armys staff college, where Eisenhower graduated first in his class. In the 1930s Eisenhower held key political-military posts under Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur. He chafed at MacArthurs control, and frequently requested reassignment. In 1939 MacArthur finally released Eisenhower for duty with troops.

Two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall summoned Eisenhower to serve as an Army war planner. Six months later, Eisenhower was selected to command all Allied forces in Europe. At the wars end, Eisenhower was a five-star general, chief of staff of the Army, and an international hero touted as a possible Democratic candidate for president. In 1949 Eisenhower was named president of Columbia University. Despite his lack of academic credentials, he initiated important curriculum changes and established new academic programs. Eisenhower was recalled to active duty in 1950 to serve as Supreme Allied CommanderEurope.

Eisenhower was again urged to run for president in 1952, this time as a Republican challenging isolationist Senator Robert Taft for the GOP nomination. Taft was a strong candidate, but a compromise between those urging fiscal restraint and those promoting internationalist foreign policy resulted in Eisenhowers nomination. The Korean War stalemate, and Eisenhowers campaign promise to go to Korea, contributed significantly to his victory over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.

The cold war was President Eisenhowers dominant foreign policy challenge. His efforts built a cohesive Allied defense capability in Europe, and his 1954 refusal to commit U.S. troops to support the French in Indochina is still considered one of his wisest decisions. His handling of the Hungarian uprising in 1956 and his use of the Central Intelligence Agency in covert operations were among his less successful policies. Eisenhowers domestic successes included the interstate highway system. Following the Soviet launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower refocused the space program and increased support for math and science education. He used federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce court-ordered school desegregation. Eisenhower would not, however, support a broader, proactive civil rights agenda.

Eisenhower was reelected in 1956 despite concerns about a heart attack suffered a year earlier. His second term was marked by foreign policy disappointments in Cuba, heightened SovietU.S. tensions, and charges of corruption against his chief of staff. In his final address as president, he warned against the influence sought or unsought by the military-industrial complexan imperative of the cold war with grave implications. Eisenhower died in 1969 and is buried in Abilene, Kansas, near the small home where he was raised.

SEE ALSO Cold War; Cuban Revolution; Desegregation; Foreign Policy; Military-Industrial Complex; Nixon, Richard M.; Presidency, The; World War II


Ambrose, Stephen. 1983. Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 18901952. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Ambrose, Stephen. 1984. Eisenhower: The President. New York: Simon and Schuster.

DEste, Carlo. 2002. Eisenhower: A Soldiers Life. New York: Henry Holt.

Greenstein, Fred I. 1994. The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Jacobs, Travis Beal. 2001. Eisenhower at Columbia. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Pickett, William B. 2000. Eisenhower Decides to Run: Presidential Politics and Cold War Strategy. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

Tudda, Chris. 2006. The Truth Is Our Weapon: The Rhetorical Diplomacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

Jay M. Parker

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated Jun 11 2018

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Excerpt from "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy" Speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York City, December 8, 1953

Originally published in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United
States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Volume 1953

"Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. Thus the contributing powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind."

T he hopes expressed by U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969; served 1953–61) in April 1953 in his "Chance for Peace" speech were all but dashed on August 12,1953. On that day, the Soviets answered the successful U.S. hydrogen bomb test on November 1, 1952, with their own detonation of a thermonuclear, or hydrogen, bomb. Although much smaller than the U.S. bomb, it meant that the Soviets were in the arms race for the deadliest weapons man had yet devised. Even more frightful, the Soviet H-bomb, unlike the enormous U.S. H-bomb, was small enough to be carried by a bomber aircraft.

On December 8, 1953, eight months after his "Chance for Peace" speech, Eisenhower went before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City to deliver his "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy" speech, more popularly known as the "Atoms for Peace" speech. Eisenhower, in clear, frightening language, described how both the United States and Soviet Union could annihilate each other with nuclear weapons. He proposed instead to turn the awesome atomic power into an instrument for peaceful power—to

"provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world." He called for international cooperation under the United Nations' control in setting up a nuclear material stockpile that "would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind."

Things to remember while reading "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy" speech:

  • At the time of the speech, the nuclear technology already existed to build plants to produce nuclear power.
  • Eisenhower's speech was forward-thinking and in contrast to the thinking of many U.S. military "hawks," or those eager to use the new technology to attack the Soviets.
  • Nuclear bomb development programs were proceeding ahead at a rapid pace in both the United States and the Soviet Union.

Excerpt from "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy" speech

I feel impelled to speak today in a language that in a sense is new—one which I, who have spent so much of my life in the military profession, would have preferred never to use.

That new language is the language of atomic warfare.

The atomic age has moved forward at such a pace that every citizen of the world should have some comprehension … of the extent of this development of the utmost significance to every one of us. Clearly, if the peoples of the world are to conduct an intelligent search for peace, they must be armed with the significant facts of today's existence.

My recital of atomic danger and power is necessarily stated in United States terms, for these are the only incontrovertible facts that I know. I need hardly point out to this Assembly, however, that this subject is global, not merely national in character.

On July 15, 1945, the United States set off the world's first atomic explosion. Since that date in 1945, the United States of America has conducted 42 test explosions.

Atomic bombs today are more than 25 times as powerful as the weapons with which the atomic age dawned, while hydrogen weapons are in the ranges of millions of tons of TNT equivalent [that is, hydrogen weapons are equal to millions of tons of the conventional explosive, dynamite].

Today, the United States' stockpile of atomic weapons, which, of course, increases daily, exceeds by many times the explosive equivalent of the total of all bombs and all shells that came from every plane and every gun in every theater of war in all of the years of World War II.

A single air group, whether afloat or land-based, can now deliver to any reachable target a destructive cargo exceeding in power all the bombs that fell on Britain in all of World War II.…

But the dread secret, and the fearful engines of atomic might, are not ours alone.

In the first place, the secret is possessed by our friends and allies, Great Britain and Canada, whose scientific genius made atremendous contribution to our original discoveries, and the designs of atomic bombs.

The secret is also known by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union has informed us that, over recent years, it has devoted extensive resources to atomic weapons. During this period, the Soviet Union has exploded a series of atomic devices, including at least one involving thermo-nuclear reactions [a hydrogen bomb].

If at one time the United States possessed what might have been called a monopoly of atomic power, that monopoly ceased to exist several years ago. Therefore, although our earlier start has permitted us to accumulate what is today a great quantitative advantage [the United States had more nuclear weapons stockpiled than the Soviet Union did], the atomic realities of today comprehend two facts of even greater significance.

First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others—possibly all others.

Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons, and a consequent capability of devastating retaliation, is no preventive, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression.

The free world, at least dimly aware of these facts, has naturally embarked on a large program of warning and defense systems. That program will be accelerated and expanded.

But let no one think that the expenditure of vast sums for weapons and systems of defense can guarantee absolute safety for the cities and citizens of any nation. The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb does not permit of any such easy solution. Even against the most powerful defense, an aggressor in possession of the effective minimum number of atomic bombs for a surprise attack could probably place a sufficient number of his bombs on the chosen targets to cause hideous damage.

Should such an atomic attack be launched against the United States, our reactions would be swift and resolute. But for me to say that the defense capabilities of the United States are such that they could inflict terrible losses upon an aggressor—for me to say that the retaliation capabilities of the United States are so great that such an aggressor's land would be laid waste—all this, while fact, is not the true expression of the purpose and the hope of the United States.

To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed … to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed—the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us generation from generation—and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery toward decency, and right, and justice.

Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation. Could anyone wish his name to be coupled by history with such human degradation and destruction.…

My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreements, not wars, among nations. It wants itself to live in freedom, and in the confidence that the people of every other nation enjoy equally the right of choosing their own way of life.

So my country's purpose is to help us move out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light, to find a way by which the mindsof men, the hopes of men, the souls of men everywhere, can move forward toward peace and happiness and well being.…

The United States, heeding the suggestion of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is instantly prepared to meet privately with such other countries [Great Britain, Canada, and France] as may be "principally involved," to seek "an acceptable solution" to the atomic armaments race which overshadows not only the peace, but the very life, of the world.

We shall carry into these private or diplomatic talks a new conception.

The United States would seek more than the mere reduction or elimination of atomic materials for military purposes.

It is not enough to take this weapon out of the hands of the soldiers. It must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.

The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military buildup can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon , for the benefit of all mankind.

The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. That capability, already proved, is here—now—today. Who can doubt, if the entire body of the world's scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of fissionable material with which to test and develop their ideas, that this capability would rapidly be transformed into universal, efficient, and economic usage.

To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of people, and the governments of the East and West, there are certain steps that can be taken now.

I therefore make the following proposals:

The Governments principally involved … begin now and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an International Atomic Energy Agency. We would expect that such an agency would be set up under the aegis of the United Nations.…

The Atomic Energy Agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage, and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide special safe

conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material can be made essentially immune to surprise seizure.

The more important responsibility of this Atomic Energy Agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. Thus the contributing powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.

The United States would be more than willing—it would be proud to take up with others "principally involved" the development of plans whereby such peaceful use of atomic energy would be expedited.

What happened next …

On January 12, 1954, before Soviet premier Georgy Malenkov (1902–1988) had responded to the "Atoms for Peace" speech, U.S. secretary of state John Foster Dulles (1888–1959) announced a new U.S. military strategy toward fighting communist expansion. He proclaimed that in response to any communist military aggression no matter if only small in scale, the United States would retaliate with a massive nuclear weapon response. Nuclear war seemed a drastic response to a localized hostile action. This strategy was designed to avoid war by threatening the ultimate nuclear war.

Nevertheless, Dulles contended that focusing on nuclear capability would prove much cheaper than maintaining the massive conventional air and ground forces called for in the National Security Council Report 68 (see Chapter 3). Eisenhower, for whom a sounder U.S. economy was a high priority, was interested that he could spend less on military defense by scaling down the large U.S. conventional forces and weapons while developing a much more powerful military. Eisenhower chose this path. As a result, he was able to cut the 1955 defense budget by 25 percent from the 1954 budget. Ground forces were reducedd

by 33 percent, and the air force would play a larger role. In keeping with the new policy, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces were supplied with small nuclear arms and the number of ground NATO divisions were cut by 75 percent.

By early 1955, Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) had won an ongoing power struggle since Stalin's death in 1953 with Malenkov and taken full reign of the Soviet government. He considered the new U.S. strategy as very aggressive and threatening to Soviet interests. He too was interested in strengthening the Soviet industrial and agricultural economy and spending less on large conventional armies and arms. Like Eisenhower and Dulles, he decided to concentrate on a buildup of nuclear weapons. When conflicts arose, both the Soviets and the Americans could threaten each other with nuclear war, pushing each other to the brink. The strength of both actually deterred either from starting a war. This strategy became known as brinkmanship.

Did you know …

  • Even with the peaceful words of "Atoms for Peace," mutual fear was still too great. The United States and the Soviet Union continued successfully to test hydrogen bombs. On March 1, 1954, the United States' "Bravo" tested at fifteen hundred times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. The Soviets perfected smaller H-bombs that were dropped from aircraft. Both nations stockpiled nuclear weapons.
  • The B-52 bomber, the United States' first intercontinental jet bomber capable of delivering nuclear bombs to Soviet targets, became the backbone of U.S. air power.
  • Although "Atoms for Peace" had called for arms limitations, serious talks on the matter did not occur until 1963, when the United States and the Soviets pushed each other to the brink over the island of Cuba, in a situation that came to be called the Cuban Missile Crisis (see Chapter 8).

Consider the following …

  • Is brinkmanship a valid strategy with which to avoid war? What might some pitfalls of brinkmanship be?
  • Could there be a winner in a massive nuclear war?
  • Find out what other countries in the mid-1950s possessed, or were developing, nuclear capabilities.

For More Information


Brands, H. W., Jr. Cold Warriors: Eisenhower's Generation and American Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963–65.

Marks, Frederick W., III. Power and Peace: The Diplomacy of John Foster Dulles. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993.

Pach, Chester J., Jr., and Elmo Richardson. The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Volume 1953. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Rhodes, Richard. Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Web Site

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum.http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu (accessed on September 11, 2003).

Dwight David Eisenhower

views updated May 29 2018

Dwight David Eisenhower

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.

Further Reading

Works written by Eisenhower are Crusade in Europe (1948) and his account of the presidency, Mandate for Change, 1953-1956: The White House Years (1963) and Waging Peace, 1956-1961: The White House Years (1965). For a brief summary of Eisenhower's early career see Marquis W. Childs, Eisenhower, Captive Hero: A Critical Study of the General and the President (1958). For the war years see W. B. Smith, Eisenhower's Six Great Decisions (1950). Eisenhower's election to the presidency is covered in Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., History of American Presidential Elections (4 vols., 1971). Very important is Sherman Adams, Firsthand Report: The Story of the Eisenhower Administration (1961). The most illuminating discussion of the President is Emmett John Hughes, The Ordeal of Power: A Political Memoir of the Eisenhower Years (1963). See also Robert J. Donovan, Eisenhower: The Inside Story (1956), and Merlo J. Pusey, Eisenhower the President (1956). □

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 17 2018

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Born: October 14, 1890
Denison, Texas
Died: March 26, 1969
Washington, D.C.

American president, university president, and army officer

Dwight D. Eisenhower was leader of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II (193945), commander of NATO, and thirty-fourth president of the United States (195361).

Early life

Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, on October 14, 1890, the third of seven sons. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas. His family was poor, and Eisenhower early learned the value of hard work, earning money selling vegetables and working for a creamery, a place where milk products like butter and cheese are made or sold.

Although Eisenhower was an average student, he enjoyed studying history. His heros included military figures like George Washington (17321799) and Hannibal (247183 b.c.e.). He excelled in athletics, particularly football. Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School in 1909 and then went to work for a year to help pay for his brother's college education. In 1911 he attended West Point Military Academy, where he was more interested in sports, especially football, than in his studies. Eisenhower graduated from West Point in 1915 and married Mamie Doud (18961979) the next year.

Army career and command in Europe

Eisenhower's army career was marked by a slow rise to greatness. He graduated first in his class in 1926 from the army's Command and General Staff School. Following graduation, he served under General Douglas MacArthur (18801964), becoming MacArthur's aide in the Philippines. Returning to the United States in 1939, Eisenhower became chief of staff of the Third Army. In 1941 he attracted attention with his brilliance in commanding the training of 420,000 American soldiers in Louisiana.

When the United States joined World War II (193945) in 1941, Eisenhower became chief of the War Plans Division of the U.S. Army General Staff. He helped with preparations for the war in Europe. In May 1942 he was made supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe and traveled to London in June of the same year. (In World War II, the Allied forcesFrance, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and the United Statesfought against the Axis forcesGermany, Italy, and Japan.)

Eisenhower's personal qualities were precisely right for his new position. He successfully dealt with British generals and with the strong prime minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (18741965). Eisenhower's post called for an ability to get along with people and yet maintain his own position as leader of the Allied forces. In addition to his ability to gain respect, Eisenhower also showed skill in choosing qualified people to serve under him.

In June 1942 Eisenhower was made the leader of the November 1942 invasion of North Africa. The plan for the invasion of North Africa was to trap the Axis troops led by Erwin Rommel (18911944) between British and U.S. forces. By May 1943 the North African operation had succeeded and the Allies had taken control of Africa. Despite British reluctance, Eisenhower began preparing for the June 1944 invasion of Europe at Normandy, France. After the Allies successfully landed in Normandy, Eisenhower led the forces forward triumphantly to defeat the German armies. By spring 1945 the war in Europe was over. Eisenhower became one of the best-known men in the United States and some saw a career in politics in his future.

From Columbia University to the presidency

Eisenhower denied any desire to enter politics and in 1948 left the military to become president of Columbia University. In 1950 he accepted an offer made by President Harry Truman (18841972) to become the first commander of the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO; an organization formed by many European countries and the United States, who all signed a treaty in 1949 agreeing to defend Western Europe against a possible attack by the Soviet Union). As the commander of NATO, Eisenhower's ability to deal with men of strong and differing opinions was valuable.

Although Eisenhower had not previously claimed any interest in politics, he remained popular with the American public. He became the Republican candidate in the 1952 presidential election and won by a tremendous margin. Throughout 1955 and 1956 he suffered health problems but was able to accept his party's renomination and easily won the 1956 election.

Eisenhower's strength as president was largely based upon his strong character. For most of his presidency, he was compelled to rely upon both Democrats and Republicans. As a leader, Eisenhower shared power with others and often took positions in the center. He was influenced by his secretary of the treasury, George Humphrey (18901970), and by his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles (18881959).

To classify Eisenhower as liberal (in favor of individual rights) or conservative (in favor of preserving tradition and gradual change) is difficult. He was sympathetic to business and was not in favor of enlarging the role of government in economic affairs. Yet he favored some liberal ideas, such as social security, minimum wage, and the establishment of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Civil rights for African Americans

The most significant development in domestic policy during Eisenhower's years as president came through the Supreme Court. First in 1953, the president appointed Earl Warren (18911974) to the post of chief justice. In 1954 the Warren Court declared segregation (separation according to race) in the schools unconstitutional, giving new support to the civil rights movement.

Eisenhower was extremely cautious in carrying out the Supreme Court's decision. Nonetheless, he was forced to take action in 1957 when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus (19101994) acted against the court's decision by using national guardsmen to prevent African Americans from entering schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. After various efforts to enforce the law, the president sent federal troops to Little Rock. During his second term, Eisenhower signed laws to enforce desegregation (the process of ending separation according to race), and in 1960 he made resistance to desegregation a federal offense.

Foreign policies

Eisenhower encouraged the strengthening of NATO while also seeking to improve relations with the Soviet Union. During the years since World War II, France, Great Britain, the U.S.S.R., and the United States made little progress on the problem of a divided Germany. (After World War II, Germany had been divided into four different areas, each of which was controlled by a separate countryFrance, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The area occupied by the Soviet Union eventually became Communist East Germany, and the other three areas joined to form West Germany under a democratic government.) A new effort to work out the situation began in 1959, and an international conference was planned. The conference was cancelled when Soviets captured an American spy plane over the Soviet Union.

In Asia Eisenhower worked out a truce with the North Koreans to end the Korean War (195053; a war fought between South Korea, supported by the United Nations and the United States, and North Korea). The president's secretary of state negotiated the treaty that created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). The United States pledged to consult with the members of SEATO and to help meet any threat to peace in Southeast Asia. This treaty was especially significant to Vietnam, which in 1954 was divided into North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam came under Communist control, while the anti-Communist South was increasingly supported by the United States.

Meanwhile in Latin America, Cuba was ruled by an increasingly brutal and domineering president, Fulgencio Batista (19011973). In 1958, the American government withdrew military support from the Batista regime. A collapse of the government followed, and the Cuban leftist leader, Fidel Castro (1926), took control of the government. Castro began to develop close ties with the Soviet Union, and relations between Cuba and the United States ended in January 1960.

Eisenhower's death in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 1969, was an occasion for national mourning and for worldwide recognition of his important role in the events of his time. Few presidents have enjoyed greater popularity than Eisenhower. He was widely admired for his strong character and his modesty.

For More Information

Brandon, Piers. Ike: His Life and Times. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

Brown, D. Clayton. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, 1998.

Burk, Robert F. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hero and Politician. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

D'Este, Carlo. Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. New York: Henry Holt, 2002.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. Crusade in Europe. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948. Reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Eisenhower, Dwight D. The White House Years: Waging Peace. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 196365.

Jacobs, William Jay. Dwight David Eisenhower: Soldier and Statesman. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995.

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 21 2018

Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1890–1969), World War II general and thirty‐fourth president of the United States.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.
[See also Cold War; Commander in Chief, President as; D‐Day Landing; Eisenhower Doctrine; V‐2 Incident; World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


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Stephen E. Ambrose , Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President‐Elect, 1983.
Stephen E. Ambrose , Eisenhower: The President, 1984.
R. Alton Lee , Dwight D. Eisenhower: A Bibliography of His Times and Presidency, 1991.
William B. Pickett , Dwight David Eisenhower and American Power, 1995.

William B. Pickett

Eisenhower, Dwight D.

views updated May 23 2018


(b. October 14, 1890; d. March 28, 1969) A career army officer who led the Allied Forces during World War II; thirty-fourth president of the United States (1953–1961).

Eisenhower commanded the Allied armies in World War II that landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and liberated Nazi-occupied western Europe. After the war, he served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army and then as president of Columbia University. Following the out-break of the Korean War, Eisenhower returned to uniform, becoming the first Supreme Commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in 1951. From his NATO headquarters near Paris, Eisenhower quietly encouraged leading Republicans who mobilized support for his presidential candidacy. He returned to the United States to campaign in June 1952 and won the Republican presidential nomination the next month.

Eisenhower easily defeated Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. He pledged that he would clean up the scandals over corrupt government officials and Communist subversives that had plagued the Truman administration. He also promised to go to Korea to find a way to end the unpopular, stalemated war. The combination of Korea, Communism, and corruption provided the formula for Eisenhower's victory. But also important was the trust he inspired and the popularity he enjoyed as a national hero. As his supporters put it, "I like Ike."

After an armistice halted the fighting in Korea on July 27, 1953, Eisenhower revised America's Cold War strategy. His New Look aimed at providing sufficient strength to meet Communist challenges without over-burdening the economy. A central part of the New Look strategy was overwhelming atomic strength to deter and, if necessary, wage war. Eisenhower invoked that nuclear strength during a prolonged crisis in 1954–1955 when the People's Republic of China bombarded two small islands under control of the government of Taiwan, a U.S. ally. If the United States went to war to protect Taiwan, Eisenhower said at a news conference, then he favored using tactical nuclear weapons against military targets "exactly as you would use a bullet." This Cold War confrontation, though, ended without any U.S. military action, nuclear or conventional.

Eisenhower made controversial decisions at the climax of a war that another U.S. ally, France, fought to retain its colonial control over Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the

three nations that made up Indochina. In the spring of 1954, Eisenhower refused to authorize either a conventional or nuclear air strike to rescue a trapped French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietnam. After its troops surrendered, the French government agreed at a conference in Geneva to grant independence to the Indochinese nations. The United States, however, did not sign the Geneva accords, and Eisenhower decided to use U.S. aid and influence to prevent Ho Chi Minh, the Communist leader of the anti-French forces, from establishing control over a unified Vietnam. Instead, two governments emerged, a Communist North Vietnam and a non-Communist South Vietnam. Eisenhower kept the United States out of war in 1954, but he helped create conditions for a future American conflict.

Only once did Eisenhower order U.S. combat troops into action, during a government crisis in Lebanon in 1958. The marines he sent ashore stayed just three months and suffered only a single death from hostile fire. Eisenhower, though, authorized several covert actions, including interventions that helped local leaders over-throw governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. Although these interventions achieved their immediate goals, they also created long-term problems that led to revolution or civil war. Sometimes they failed to produce even short-term success, as when the Central Intelligence Agency began training Cubans who opposed Fidel Castro for what became the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion shortly after President John F. Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower.

Even as he vigorously prosecuted the Cold War, Eisenhower hoped for improved relations with the Soviet Union. An opportunity for détente seemed to follow the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953. Eisenhower as well as the new Soviet leaders talked about curbing the arms race, and the president proposed that both super-powers contribute nuclear materials to a new international program, "Atoms for Peace." Achievements, though, failed to match rhetoric. Eisenhower proposed another new initiative, "Open Skies"—a way for both sides to use reconnaissance flights to gather information about each other's military capabilities—when he met with Soviet leaders at Geneva in July 1955. But Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, rejected "Open Skies." Still, the first Soviet-American summit in a decade raised hopes that negotiations would eventually ease Cold War tensions.

In his second term, Eisenhower hoped that his legacy would be the first major U.S.-Soviet arms control agreement, a treaty that banned the testing of nuclear weapons in the air and seas. But the Soviet downing of a U.S. reconnaissance flight on May 1, 1960—the disastrous U-2 incident—doomed any chances for a test-ban agreement during the final months of Eisenhower's presidency. Eisenhower left the White House in 1961 as a popular president who had avoided war but who was unable to achieve the détente he so earnestly desired.

Nevertheless, like George Washington, Eisenhower left a significant legacy through a warning issued in his farewell speech. Eisenhower always worried about the negative impact of excessive military spending on the civilian economy. He preferred much cheaper long-range missiles to expensive army divisions because they delivered "more bang for the buck." In his farewell address in January 1961, he warned against the "military-industrial complex." He feared that a too-close relationship among the military, defense contractors, and politicians protecting installations and factories in their home districts might distort the economy and more generally undermine the American way of life.


Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower, Vol. 2: The President. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

Bowie, Robert R., and Immerman, Richard H. Waging Peace: How Eisenhower Shaped an Enduring Cold War Strategy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Craig, Campbell. Destroying the Village: Eisenhower and Thermonuclear War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Dockrill, Saki. Eisenhower's New Look National Security Policy, 1953–61. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.

Pach, Chester J., Jr., and Richardson, Elmo. The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, rev. ed. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

Chester J. Pach, Jr.

See also:Civil Defense, 1946–Present; Foreign Aid, 1946–Present; Korea, Impact of; McCarthyism; Military-Industrial Complex; Politics and Elections; Truman, Harry S.

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