Bringing to the
Presidency his prestige as commanding general of the victorious forces
in Europe during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower obtained a truce
in Korea and worked incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions
of the Cold War. He pursued the moderate policies of "Modern Republicanism,"
pointing out as he left office, "America is today the strongest,
most influential, and most productive nation in the world."
Born in Texas in
1890, brought up in Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower was the third of seven
sons. He excelled in sports in high school, and received an appointment
to West Point. Stationed in Texas as a second lieutenant, he met Mamie
Geneva Doud, whom he married in 1916.
In his early Army
career, he excelled in staff assignments, serving under Generals John
J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, and Walter Krueger. After Pearl Harbor,
General George C. Marshall called him to Washington for a war plans
assignment. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in
November 1942; on D-Day, 1944, he was Supreme Commander of the troops
After the war, he
became President of Columbia University, then took leave to assume supreme
command over the new NATO forces being assembled in 1951. Republican
emissaries to his headquarters near Paris persuaded him to run for President
"I like Ike"
was an irresistible slogan; Eisenhower won a sweeping victory.
military strength, he tried to reduce the strains of the Cold War. In
1953, the signing of a truce brought an armed peace along the border
of South Korea. The death of Stalin the same year caused shifts in relations
New Russian leaders
consented to a peace treaty neutralizing Austria. Meanwhile, both Russia
and the United States had developed hydrogen bombs. With the threat
of such destructive force hanging over the world, Eisenhower, with the
leaders of the British, French, and Russian governments, met at Geneva
in July 1955.
The President proposed
that the United States and Russia exchange blueprints of each other's
military establishments and "provide within our countries facilities
for aerial photography to the other country." The Russians greeted
the proposal with silence, but were so cordial throughout the meetings
that tensions relaxed.
Suddenly, in September
1955, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Denver, Colorado. After
seven weeks he left the hospital, and in February 1956 doctors reported
his recovery. In November he was elected for his second term.
In domestic policy
the President pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal
and Fair Deal programs, emphasizing a balanced budget. As desegregation
of schools began, he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assure
compliance with the orders of a Federal court; he also ordered the complete
desegregation of the Armed Forces. "There must be no second class
citizens in this country," he wrote.
on maintaining world peace. He watched with pleasure the development
of his "atoms for peace" program--the loan of American uranium
to "have not" nations for peaceful purposes.
Before he left office
in January 1961, for his farm in Gettysburg, he urged the necessity
of maintaining an adequate military strength, but cautioned that vast,
long-continued military expenditures could breed potential dangers to
our way of life. He concluded with a prayer for peace "in the goodness
of time." Both themes remained timely and urgent when he died,
after a long illness, on March 28, 1969.
Date of Birth Tuesday,
October 14, 1890
Place of Birth:
Denison, TexasDate of Death: Friday, March 28, 1969
born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob
Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover. The Eisenhower family was of German
descent, but had lived in America since the 18th century. The family
moved to Abilene, Kansas, in 1892. Eisenhower graduated from Abilene
High School in 1909 and he worked at Belle Springs Creamery from 1909
Mamie Geneva Doud (1896-1979), of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July
1, 1916. They had two children, Doud Dwight Eisenhower (1917-1921),
and John Sheldon David Doud Eisenhower (born 1922). John Eisenhower
served in the United States Army, then became an author and served as
U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. One of John Eisenhower's sons, David Eisenhower,
married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.
Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy, West Point,
New York, in June, 1911 and graduated in 1915. He served with the infantry
until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. He then served with
the Tank Corps from 1918 to 1922 at Camp Meade, Maryland and other places.
He was promoted to Captain in 1917 and Major in 1920. In 1922 he was
assigned as executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal
Zone, where he served until 1924. In 1925 and 1926 he attended the Command
and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then served
as a battalion commander, at Fort Benning, Georgia, until 1927.
During the late
1920s and early 1930s Eisenhower's career in the peacetime Army stagnated.
He was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission, directed
by General John Pershing, then to the Army War College in Washington,
D.C, and then served as executive officer to General George V. Moseley,
Assistant Secretary of War, from 1929 to 1933. He then served as chief
military aide to General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff, until
1935, when he accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines, where he served
as assistant military advisor to the Philippine Government. He was promoted
to Lieutenant Colonel in 1936.
to the U.S. in 1939 and held a series of staff positions in Washington,
D.C., California, and Texas. In June 1941 was appointed Chief of Staff
to General Walter Kreuger, Commander of the 3rd Army, at Fort Sam Houston,
Texas. He was promoted to Brigadier-General in September 1941. Although
his administrative abilities had been noticed, on the eve of the U.S.
entry into World War II he had never held an active command and was
far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations.
After the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff
in Washington, where he served until June 1942. He was appointed Deputy
Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division,
General Leonard Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War
Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge
of Operations Division under the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall.
It was his close association with Marshall which finally brought Eisenhower
to senior command positions. Marshall recognised his great organisational
and administrative abilities.
In June 1942 Eisenhower was designated Commanding General, European
Theater, based in London. Here he planned and executed the Allied landings
in Morocco and Algeria, codenamed Operation Torch. He was Commander-in-Chief
of the Allied Forces in North Africa from November 1942. In December
1943 he was appointed Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces,
charged with planning and carrying out the Allied invasion of France,
Operation Overlord, in June 1944. He commanded all Allied forces in
the Normandy invasion, which took place on D-Day, June 6, 1944. On December
20, he was promoted to General of the Army. By the end of 1944 Eisenhower
was in overall command of armed forces comprising 4.5 million men and
In these positions
Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although
he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders
such as Omar Bradley and George Patton. He dealt skillfully with difficult
allies such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and
General Charles de Gaulle. He had fundamental disagreements with Churchill
and Montgomery over questions of strategy, but these rarely upset his
relationships with them. He negotiated with Soviet commanders such as
Marshall Zhukov, and sometimes directly with Stalin, such was the confidence
that President Roosevelt had in him.
He was offered the
Medal of Honor for his leadership in the European Theather, but refused
it, saying that it should be reserved for bravery and valour.
Following the German
unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military
Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt-am-Main. Germany
was divided into four Occupation Zones, one each for the United States,
Britain, France and the Soviet Union. His most controversial decisions
involved captured German soldiers and their alleged mistreatment. Eisenhower
ordered the status of German prisoners of war or POWs in U.S. custody
changed to that of Disarmed Enemy Forces or DEFs.
Eisenhower was named
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in November 1945 and in December 1950
he was named Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,
and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired
from active service on May 31, 1952, on entering politics.
Eisenhower in politics
Eisenhower had been
chosen as President of Columbia University in July 1948, giving him
a legal residence in New York City. He had been mentioned as a possible
presidential candidate since 1945. Unlike MacArthur, who had actively
pursued the Republican presidential nomination since 1936, Eisenhower
had shown little interest in politics. It was not even known if he was
a Republican or a Democrat.
Some writers have
said that Democratic President Harry S. Truman offered to stand aside
in favor of Eisenhower at the 1948 presidential election, although Truman
always denied this. In the lead-up to the 1952 election, he was pursued
as a candidate by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Eisenhower
initially refused to run, but was eventually persuaded to allow his
name to be put forward for the Republican nomination. He said he chose
the Republicans because the Democrats had been in office for 20 years
and the country needed a change. He defeated Senator Robert Taft of
Ohio for the nomination.
In the lead-up to
the presidential election, Eisenhower campaigned as a "non-politician,"
never mentioning his main competitor, Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois,
by name. Instead he allowed other Republicans to run a Cold War campaign
accusing the Democrats of being "soft on Communism" while
he preserved his genial public image. For this reason he chose a hard-line,
anti-Communist senator from California, Richard Nixon, as his running
mate. Eisenhower, as one of the country's two greatest war heroes, but
with a much more congenial personality than MacArthur's, was always
likely to be elected. Eisenhower and Nixon won the November election
with 442 electoral votes, against Stevenson's 89.
Eisenhower as President
Eisenhower's presidency was dominated by the Cold War, the prolonged
confrontation with the Soviet Union which had begun during Truman's
term of office. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, led the
fight against the Communist powers with great zeal, but despite the
urgings of the right wing of the Republican Party, Eisenhower pursued
a generally moderate course, accepting the doctrine of containment originally
developed by George Kennan. During his campaign Eisenhower had promised
to end the stalemated Korean War, and a cease-fire was signed in July
1953. He signed defense treaties with South Korea and the Republic of
China, and formed an alliance anti-Communist Asian and Pacific countries,
SEATO, to halt the spread of Communism in Asia.
In 1956 Eisenhower
strongly disapproved of the actions of Britain and France in sending
troops to Egypt in the dispute over control of the Suez Canal (see Suez
crisis). He used the economic power of the U.S. over its European allies
to force them to back down and withdraw from Egypt. During his second
term he became increasingly involved in Middle Eastern affairs, sending
troops to Lebanon in 1957, and supporting the coup in Iran which restored
Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power.
presidency the U.S. became the world's first global nuclear power, and
the world lived in fear of a Third World War involving nuclear weapons.
But Eisenhower hoped that after the death of Stalin in 1953 it would
be possible to come to an agreement with his successors and halt the
nuclear arms race. Several attempts were made to hold a summit with
the Soviet leaders, the last such attempt failing in 1960 when Nikita
Khrushchev withdrew following the shooting down of a U-2 spy plane over
the Soviet Union.
Like most Republican presidents Eisenhower believed that a free enterprise
economy should run itself and took little interest in domestic policy.
Although his 1952 landslide gave the Republicans control of both houses
of the Congress, the Democrats regained control in 1954, limiting his
freedom of action on domestic policy. He forged a good relationship
with Congressional leaders, particularly House Speaker Sam Rayburn.
a Cabinet full of businessmen and left them to run the country. He was
happy for them to take the credit for domestic policy and allow him
to concentrate on foreign affairs. On the two major issues of the 1950s,
Communism and the civil rights for Black Americans, he was reluctant
to exercise leadership unless forced to. In 1957, however, he sent federal
troops to Little Rock, Arkansas after Governor Orval Faubus attempted
to defy a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the desegregation of all
Eisenhower was also
criticized for not taking a public stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy's
anti-communist campaigns, although he privately hated him for his attacks
on his friend and World War II colleague, General George Marshall, who
had been Secretary of State under Truman. He said privately "I
just won't get down in the gutter with that man," but this was
little comfort to the many people whose reputations were ruined by McCarthy's
allegations of Communist conspiracies.
the United States Interstate Highway Act, in 1956. It was the largest
public works program in United States history, providing a 41,000-mile
highway system. Eisenhower had been impressed during the war with the
German Autobahn system and also recalled his own involvement in a military
convoy in 1919 that took 62 days to cross the United States. Another
achievement was a 20% increase in family income during his presidency,
which he was very proud of. He added a tenth cabinet position, creating
the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. He achieved a balanced
budget in three of the years that he was President.
his popularity throughout his presidency. In 1956 he was re-elected
by an even wider margin than in 1952, again defeating Stevenson and
carrying such traditional Democratic states as Texas and Tennessee.
But once he left office his reputation declined, and he was seen as
having been a do-nothing President. This was partly because of the contrast
between Eisenhower and his young activist successor, John F. Kennedy,
but also due to his reluctance to support the civil rights movement
or to stop McCarthyism, and these were held against him during the liberal
climate of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years Eisenhower's reputation
has recovered. A recent poll of historians rated him number eleven among
all the Presidents. Nevertheless, the judgement of some historians is
that Eisenhower's greatest achievements were those of his wartime military
Eisenhower had mixed
feelings about his Vice President, Richard Nixon, and only reluctantly
endorsed him as the Republican candidate at the 1960 Presidential election.
Nixon campaigned against Kennedy on the great experience he had acquired
in eight years as Vice President, but when Eisenhower was asked to name
a decision Nixon had been responsible for in that time, he replied (intending
a joke): "Give me a week and I might think of something."
This was a severe blow to Nixon and he blamed Eisenhower for his narrow
loss to Kennedy.
lived for most of the postwar years at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the
Eisenhower Presidential Library is located in Abilene, Kansas, where
he grew up. Eisenhower and his wife are buried in a small chapel there,
called the Place of Meditation.
October 14, 1890
March 28, 1969
On December 12,
1941, just five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Brigadier General
Dwight D. Eisenhower received the phone call that would alter the course
of his life forever. At the time, Eisenhower was at the top of his professional
form; competent in his work and remarkably self-confident in his demeanor.
Since returning from the Philippines in late 1939, he had completed
a series of stateside assignments that fulfilled his deep-seated desire
to work directly with troops. In June of 1941, he had been transferred
here, to Ft. Sam Houston, where it had all begun some 26 years before.
On the other end of the line was the voice of Colonel Walter Bedell
Smith, secretary of the General Staff, insisting that "The Chief,"
General George C. Marshall, wanted him in Washington-immediately.
With apprehension and dread at the prospect of returning to a staff
job and sitting out the war, Eisenhower instructed his aide to pack
a small duffel, assuring Mamie he wouldn't be gone long. When Eisenhower
arrived at the Army Chief of Staff's office in Washington, D.C., Marshall
took him aside and delivered a 20-minute briefing on the status of the
United States military situation in the Pacific. When he had finished,
General Marshall had just one question: "What should be our general
line of action?" Eisenhower, momentarily taken aback, asked for
a few hours and a desk; sat down and typed "Steps to Be Taken;"
and began to think it through.
Dwight David Eisenhower,
was the third of seven sons born to David and Ida Stover Eisenhower;
the only one born outside of Dickinson County, Kansas. After a failed
business venture in Hope, Kansas, the Eisenhowers moved to Denison,
Texas, where David found a job cleaning train locomotives. In a tiny
house, a few feet from the railroad tracks, "David Dwight"
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890. When Dwight was about eighteen
months old, David moved his family back to Abilene because his brother-in-law,
Chris Musser, had offered him a job at the Belle Springs Creamery.
David Jacob Eisenhower
had homesteaded with his parents in Dickinson County, Kansas, in 1878.
Members of a prosperous religious group from the Susquehanna Valley
of Pennsylvania, they came to Kansas to buy rich and affordable farmland.
A sect of the Mennonites, they called themselves the "Plain People."
In Dickinson County, the group was more commonly known as the "River
Brethren." Ida Stover and David Eisenhower met, as students, at
Lane University in LeCompton, Kansas, where they married. In 1898, six
years after returning from Texas, the Eisenhowers and six sons--Paul
had died of diphtheria in 1896 at the age of three--moved into the house
on Southeast Fourth Street that would become the legendary Eisenhower
Life at the turn
of the century in small-town Abilene was filled with lessons to be learned
and an abundance of adventure for an energetic, fun-loving, and handsome
young man named Dwight Eisenhower. The part of Abilene that lay to the
south of the Union Pacific tracks had been a wicked cowtown just a generation
before, and young Dwight was enthralled with old-timers' stories of
its "Wild West" days. Throughout his life, Dwight E. Eisenhower
never lost his fascination with the history of the American West.
At a time when a
high school education was considered a luxury for most, all the Eisenhower
boys graduated, and, at their parents' urging, dared to dream of even
a college education. Dwight had been working for two years at the Belle
Springs Creamery after his high school graduation in 1909--helping support
brother Edgar though college at the University of Michigan--when his
friend, Swede Hazlett, encouraged him to consider applying for an appointment
to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Eisenhower passed entrance exams
for both Annapolis and West Point, but was past the age of admission
for the Naval Academy. Kansas Senator Joseph Bristow recommended him
for an appointment to West Point in 1911, which he received.
The West Point years
were formative ones for Eisenhower. He learned to endure the pressures
and indignities of the Plebe year; and, in turn, discovered his own
acute distaste for the hazing he was expected to inflict upon others
in his Yearling year. On the football field, Eisenhower experienced
the exultation of stardom and crushing disappointment when a series
of knee injuries brought his glory days to an abrupt and painful end.
In bitter reaction, Dwight Eisenhower smoked too much, studied too little,
and accumulated an impressive list of demerits. Despite this setback,
Eisenhower emerged as a natural leader, serving as junior varsity football
coach and yell leader. And, even though he did not apply himself academically
at West Point, Eisenhower still managed to graduate in the upper half
of his class in 1915, the one that would be later known as the class
"The Stars Fell On."
newly commissioned second lieutenant Eisenhower's first post assignment
was Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. On a beautiful October day in 1915, Eisenhower
was on duty, assigned to walk the post and inspect the guard. Fellow
soldier and new friend, Gee Gerow, recognized Eisenhower from across
the street and beckoned him to join the casual lawn party where the
Douds of Denver were among the guests. Although he had recently "sworn
off women"--once he had met eighteen-year-old Miss Mamie Geneva
Doud, he pursued her with singular determination. Nine months later,
July 1, 1916, they were married in the Doud home, and set out on a ten-day
honeymoon in Colorado and on to Kansas to visit Dwight's parents and
brother Milton at Kansas State College.
Those first years
took Eisenhower to military posts in Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
New Jersey, and, then, back again to Georgia and Maryland. In some respects,
these were happy years; in others, difficult. He and Mamie became the
proud parents of Doud Dwight "Icky," in 1917, and then felt
their world fall apart when he died, suddenly, of scarlet fever at age
three. Eisenhower had initially balked at being assigned to coach the
post's football team; however, he thoroughly enjoyed his role as teacher.
Too, he felt great satisfaction training World War I recruits for effective
overseas duty. Yet, he was very impatient for his own chance to ship
out for France. Eisenhower applied, reapplied, and lobbied his superiors
for an assignment to combat duty--even to the point of reprimand--and
was resentful at having missed out on "his" war. For two months
in the summer of 1919, Eisenhower volunteered to participate as a Tank
Corps observer in the War Department's First Transcontinental Motor
Convoy. It was often a frustrating journey: a train of trucks moving
little more than six miles an hour across the country, broken down or
mired in mud on a daily basis.
From 1922 to 1924,
Eisenhower served as executive officer to General Fox Conner, a highly
respected Army officer, in the Panama Canal Zone. Conner assumed the
role of mentor to the younger Eisenhower, a decision that proved to
be instrumental in the advancement of his career. Under Conner's tutelage,
Eisenhower immersed himself in seminal works of history, military science,
and philosophy. It was Conner who explained the inevitability of the
coming world war to Eisenhower. With Conner's assistance, Eisenhower
was accepted into the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth,
Kansas, the army's elite graduate school. In 1926, he graduated first
in a class of 245 of the Army's finest young officers. Eisenhower had
established a reputation for himself among officers of the small, peacetime,
United States Army.
While in Fort Benning
in 1927, Eisenhower was selected by General John "Black Jack"
Pershing to write for the American Battle Monuments Commission in Washington
and Paris. It was in this period that Eisenhower was introduced to the
geography, cultures, and people of Europe; knowledge that would prove
invaluable little more than a decade later. His tour completed in 1929,
Eisenhower reported to the War Department. One of his assignments was
to develop a plan to mobilize manpower and matériel for the Army
should there be another war. It was from this position, that he was
transferred to serve as chief military aide--largely to write speeches,
reports and policy papers--under Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army Chief
of Staff in 1933.
In 1935, Eisenhower
accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines as assistant military advisor,
and there he remained--less than enthusiastic--until late in 1939. His
primary mission, to build a viable Filipino Army, was to prove both
frustrating and elusive. As the end of his assignment approached, Europe
was, once again, at war. Despite MacArthur's pressure to remain in the
Philippines and President Quezon's handsome offer of a blank contract
for his services, Eisenhower was never tempted. He was not going to
miss this war.
Stateside, in early
1940, Eisenhower was briefly stationed at Ft. Ord, California, then,
received a more permanent assignment to Ft. Lewis, Washington. For the
next two years, through late 1941, Eisenhower's assignments gave him
many opportunities to exercise his natural leadership talents. All the
experience and skills he had honed over twenty-five years served him
very well; it was a happy time for Eisenhower.
In June 1941, Colonel
Eisenhower was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston. Here he served as Chief
of Staff for the Third Army, under General Walter Krueger. Eisenhower
received national attention for his bold leadership in the Louisiana
Maneuvers in August and September of 1941 when the Third Army decisively
routed the Second Army. Only a few months before the bombing of Pearl
Harbor, Eisenhower was promoted to brigadier general.
As a result of that
December 12 summons to Washington, Eisenhower was transferred to the
War Plans Division in Washington, DC, where Marshall tested his abilities
with an amazing array of responsibilities in rapid succession. The Army
Chief of Staff was impressed with Eisenhower's thinking, organizational,
and people skills; in turn, Eisenhower was promoted to Major General
by March of 1942. Eisenhower's prediction to Mamie-that he would not
be gone long, had been ironic at best.
In May 1942, Eisenhower
arrived in England on a special mission to build cooperation among the
Allies as Commanding General, European Theater, and so began his meteoric
rise in rank and fame. By November, he was named Commander-in-Chief,
Allied Forces, North Africa, and carried out Operation Torch. In 1943,
Eisenhower had his second test as Commander of the Allied invasions
of Sicily and Italy. Thereafter, the time had come to plan the gargantuan
land, sea, and air forces that would become more commonly known as D-Day:
the Allied Invasion of the continent. In December 1943, Eisenhower was
appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces, and the planning
of Operation Overlord began in earnest.
June 6, 1944, D-day,
was the beginning of the end for the war in Europe. Eisenhower was promoted
to the rank of General of the Army (5 stars) in December of that year.
When Germany surrendered in May 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military
Governor, US Occupied Zone. By then, Dwight D. Eisenhower was an international
celebrity; he had earned the respect, admiration, and affection of people
around the world. Allied victory in Europe culminated in joyous exhaustion.
Eisenhower quickly became the centerpiece of speeches, grand parades,
and throngs of admirers as grateful nations throughout Europe honored
him. In June of 1945, Eisenhower returned to a hometown hero's welcome
in Abilene, where her citizens honored him as they had no other.
Five months later,
November 1945, Eisenhower was selected as Chief of Staff, US Army. Nearly
three years later, he was inaugurated as President of Columbia University,
where he remained until the end of 1950, never far from the decision
making on post-war national security policy. In December of 1950, on
leave from Columbia University, Eisenhower was appointed the first Supreme
Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Here
he labored with Allied nations to build an organization around the idea
of "concerted, collective, unified action." Eisenhower took
a nearly impossible task, and turned his vision for Europe and the United
States into a reality. Throughout this time, the "Draft Eisenhower"
presidential grassroots effort took shape and swelled to a crescendo
that he could no longer ignore. In preparation for what was to come,
Eisenhower retired from active service, resigned his commission, and
headed home to Abilene, to formally announce his candidacy for the Republican
nomination for President of the United States.
Dwight David Eisenhower
was elected the 34th President* of the United States on November 4,
1952. Four years later, he was reelected to a second term by an even
wider margin. "Peace and Prosperity" became the watchwords
of the Eisenhower years. Ending the war in Korea was only the first
of many foreign policy challenges Eisenhower faced throughout his presidency.
Other Cold War crises erupted in Lebanon, Suez, Berlin, Hungary, the
Taiwan Straits, and Cuba. When confronted with possible US military
intervention in Vietnam after the defeat of the French colonials, Eisenhower
declined to involve the United States. Throughout his presidency, he
worked hard to contain communism and, at the same time, was vigorous
in his efforts to forge improved relations with the Soviet Union. When
an American U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Soviet territory,
his hopes for détente, during his watch, were dashed.
by some historians for a lack of leadership on racial issues, President
Eisenhower supported and signed the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts,
and ordered federal troops to Little Rock to enforce the desegregation
of Central High School. Likewise, his decision to work behind the scenes
to defeat Senator Joseph McCarthy, rather than confront his excesses
directly, engendered the criticism of many. Eisenhower argued that to
lower himself to the same level as McCarthy might confer upon the Senator
a significance that would only enhance McCarthy's credibility.
a strong, expanding economy under Eisenhower, demonstrated by solid
economic growth, little inflation, and low unemployment. Balancing the
budget was an Eisenhower priority tempered with a sincere concern for
the common good. Eisenhower expanded social security, increased the
minimum wage, and established the Department of Health, Education, and
Welfare (HEW). During the Eisenhower years, the Interstate Highway System
and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were created,
and space exploration began. Near the end of his presidency, in 1959,
Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states of the Union.
On January 17, 1961,
President Eisenhower bid farewell to the nation in a speech that is
best remembered for his characterization of the "Military-Industrial
Complex," and his warning of dire consequences to our personal
freedoms and self-government should its power go unchecked. January
20, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower left office for a much-anticipated retirement.
For half a century, he had striven to live the West Point motto: Duty,
Honor, and Country, to the very best of his ability. The enormous pressures
and heavy responsibilities of the last twenty years, particularly, had
exacted a toll on his health. As he left public life, the American people
held him in the highest regard,* and felt great affection for both him
is located not far from the very place his grandfather had left more
than eighty years before on a pioneer's journey that took the Eisenhowers
to Kansas. Now, Dwight and Mamie--private citizens--returned there,
looking forward to spending time together. With John's family living
close by, the retirement years promised to be all they had dreamed.
The days passed
with a variety of leisure activities; golf and painting, highest on
the list. Eisenhower derived great satisfaction from raising livestock,
gardening, and generally puttering around the farm. Afternoons were
often spent with Mamie on the glassed-in porch, reading, painting, playing
cards, and watching their favorite television programs. Guests to Gettysburg
were often treated to a meal cooked by none other than the former President
himself. The Eisenhowers indulged in travel, and each winter found them,
surrounded by friends and family, at their Palm Desert, California,
home. Eisenhower wrote his memoirs, and carried on a voluminous correspondence
with old friends and associates. Frequently, Presidents Kennedy and
Johnson sought his counsel, and approval, in his new role as Elder Statesman.
Looking back over the extraordinary experiences of his life, Eisenhower
enjoyed most reminiscing about his boyhood in Abilene and his West Point
The last year of
Eisenhower's life was spent at Walter Reed Army Hospital as his health
rapidly declined. Thirteen years earlier, he had suffered a near-fatal
heart attack, and now a weakening heart was slowly ending his life.
Mamie remained by his side, living in a small room just off the presidential
suite. On March 28, 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower uttered his last words,
"I want to go; God take me." His heart gave up its struggle
and he died peacefully. Following a state funeral in Washington, DC,
Eisenhower was honored with a full military funeral in his beloved Abilene
on April 2. Just as he had planned it, Dwight David Eisenhower was buried
in a modest chapel, on the grounds of the Eisenhower Center, where he
joined Doud Dwight, the son he and Mamie had lost nearly fifty years
before. Dwight D. Eisenhower had returned home to stay.