Dwight D. Eisenhower

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General of the Army Dwight David ("Ike") Eisenhower (1890-1969) was a career soldier who served as the top Allied commander in Europe during World War II and later became the 34th president of the United States (1953-1961).

In World War II, Eisenhower first commanded Allied (British and American) troops invading North Africa in 1942 and Italy 1943, then became the Supreme Commander of the forces that invaded Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and defeated the Germans in the West.

Eisenhower stayed out of politics until 1952, when he became the Republican Party's presidential nominee and was elected president by a landslide. In office, he promoted moderate domestic policies as part of his program of "dynamic conservatism."

Early life and career

Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas on Oct. 14, 1890. He was originally named David Dwight Eisenhower - a name that wasn't switched to its more familiar form until the time of Eisenhower's enrollment at West Point. His father, David Jacob Eisenhower, was of Bavarian Mennonite descent; his mother, Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower, was of Swiss descent. Both of his parents' families emigrated to America prior to 1750. During the 1880s, three hundred "River Brethren," including his father, moved to farms in Kansas. His parents were college educated, but lost their inheritance and lived poor working class lives in Abilene (apart from a short stay in Texas where Ike was born).

Eisenhower maintained close ties with Abilene his entire life. He grew up there in an environment of strong family religious traditions. His father was distant, known only as a harsh disciplinarian, but his mother had a level of activism and a sparkle in her eye that Ike inherited. In the 1890s his parents left the Mennonites to join the Jehovah Witness religion, a highly controversial group because of its refusal to salute the flag. His mother was a leader but Eisenhower was never a member.[1] Eisenhower was one of six brothers who all had successful careers. The eldest, Arthur, became a banker; Edgar, a lawyer; Roy, a pharmacist; Earl, an electrical engineer; and Milton, a New Deal official, president of Johns Hopkins University and Ike's close advisor.

Eisenhower was educated in Abilene's public schools. He graduated from Abilene High School in 1909. Despite his community's strong pacifist sentiment, Eisenhower entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1911. Cadet Eisenhower was an outstanding football player until he injured a knee in his sophomore year. He became a student coach and for the next decade was in demand as a football coach at different army posts. His academic performance was average and he was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1915 in the "class stars fell upon." World War I was underway in Europe, but it had little impact on the West Point curriculum, which was oriented toward military engineering and history and, above all, to complex teamwork.

The new second lieutenant was assigned to the prestigious 19th Infantry Regiment at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. There he met Mamie Geneva Doud, daughter of a prosperous Denver, Colorado, family. They were married on July 1, 1916; Eisenhower was promoted to first lieutenant the same day. They had two children, a boy who died in infancy, and John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower, who became an Army career officer.

During World War I Eisenhower, a permanent captain and a temporary lieutenant colonel, commanded 10,000 men at the Tank Corps training center at Camp Colt, Pennsylvania; he later built his Gettysburg farm home nearby. He was preparing to sail for France when the armistice took effect on November 11, 1918, so he did not see combat. He had, however, achieved the number three rank in the Tank Corps; his close friend George Patton was number 2 and did see combat in France.

Interwar years

After the war, Eisenhower reverted to the permanent rank of major--one he was to hold for 16 years. In spring 1919, took part in the army's Transcontinental Convoy designed to demonstrate the need for better roads and a transcontinental highway system. The entourage left from Washington and followed a route that approximated the planned Lincoln Highway. The "truck train," as Ike called it, consisted of 81 military vehicles, 37 officers, several hundred enlisted personnel, and numerous civilian vehicles. The army vehicles included one small tank, which was the responsibility of Eisenhower and his friend, Major Sereno Brett. An estimated 3.5 million people viewed the convoy, which arrived in San Francisco in September. Among the lessons learned by the military was that they needed more durable vehicles and better maintenance procedures; it also gave him the idea for a national highway system that would facilitate troop movements.

After commanding several units in the fledgling Tank Corps, the Corps was disbanded and Eisenhower was told that his theorizing about the use of armor in future wars would jeopardize his career as an infantry officer, so he stopped. In 1922 he became executive officer of the 20th Infantry Brigade in the Panama Canal Zone, where he had many in-depth conversations with his first mentor General Fox Connor, an intellectual who had been a top aide to General John J. Pershing. Eisenhower recalled the experience as his "graduate school of military affairs." In 1924 Eisenhower graduated first in his class of 275 from the Army Command and General Staff School, a signal that he was among the half-dozen most promising young officers in the army. He also graduated from the Army War College. Assigned to Pershing's Battle Monuments Commission, he went to France twice and wrote a guidebook to the French battlefields, and added Pershing's mentorship. In late 1929 he was assigned to the office of the assistant secretary of war. He served three years in this critical position. A specialist on logistics and supply, he largely wrote the Army's "Industrial Mobilization Plan of 1930." (It was not, however, used when the war came.[2]) Eisenhower moved up to the office of Chief of Staff, becoming an assistant to General Douglas MacArthur, a mentor whom he greatly admired at the time. When MacArthur was sent to the Philippines in 1935, Eisenhower accompanied him as assistant. There Eisenhower helped create the Philippine Army, specializing in its air force. He earned pilot's wings and a lieutenant colonelcy.

Holland (2001) argues that Eisenhower was the best read and trained officer of his age in the interwar Army and possessed a "terrific intellect." Far from being an unknown, his talents and work ethic attracted the attention of some of the Army's most important senior officers, especially Connor and MacArthur, who mentored Eisenhower and boosted his career. Indeed, he benefited from such attention more than any other officer of the era.

World War II


Back in the United States in early 1940, he served as chief of staff of the Third Division and the Ninth Army Corps, and then of the Third Army. In this capacity, he had a large part in the tactical planning of the Louisiana war games of 1941. He won notice and rapid promotion to colonel and brigadier general. Eisenhower became the protégé of Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, serving in the office of the chief of staff as chief of the plans division and was named a major general. His first task was planning the Army's defensive role against Japan. American strategy called for defeat of Germany first, and in early 1942 Eisenhower took charge of planning its implementation. This brought him into repeated conflict with Chief of Naval Operations Ernest J. King, who wanted to shift most of the Navy's resources to the Pacific, stripping Europe of the landing craft Eisenhower needed.


After a survey trip to Britain, Eisenhower was appointed commander of U.S. troops in Europe.

Now a lieutenant general with three stars, he took charge of "Operation Torch," the Allied invasion of French North Africa. The landings there on November 8, 1942, met with merely temporary resistance from the French, and agreements with French Vichy leaders soon brought about Allied control of French North Africa. Eisenhower had been too cautious and landed too far west, which prolonged the campaign. After an unexpected defeat at Kasserine Pass, the relief of MG Lloyd Fredendall and his replacement with George Patton, Eisenhower's forces crushed the Germans and Italians from the west while British General Bernard Montgomery mauled them from the east; the enemy surrendered in May 1943.

Eisenhower next supervised the Allied invasion of Sicily (July, 1943), in the role of overall Allied commander. British GEN Harold Alexander commanded the 15th Army Group and had direct operational control; Alexander was later to become Supreme Allied Commander for the Mediterranean when Eisenhower turned his attention to the invasion of France. Part of his challenges was managing the egos of the two army commanders, George Patton and Bernard Montgomery.

Eisenhower, through Alexander, managed the invasions of mainland Italy (September 1943), which quickly bogged down. Despite numerous strategic mistakes, Eisenhower was learning, and he was pushing the Germans back. His genius was in understanding how to make coalition warfare work in both the military and political spheres. Eisenhower proved adept at dealing with the British and French, while wary of a possible German counterattack through Spain (which never happened).

Supreme Commander 1943-45

His tactical military successes, and especially his ability to lead and coordinate the efforts of all the Allied forces and to smooth over inter-Allied rivalries, led to Eisenhower's appointment in December 1943 as commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe (SHAEF). This was the command charged with leading the largest, climactic Allied push of the war--the invasion of France. Marshall himself wanted the job, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt insisted on Eisenhower.[3]

Battle of Normandy

Eisenhower molded the giant force that on June 6, 1944, landed on the beaches of Normandy. He had made the key strategic decision not to land at a port as the Germans expected, and then made a tactical decision to land in possibly bad weather.

Although meeting fierce German resistance, his command of the air meant the Germans were immobile and could not be resupplied. Eisenhower's airborne forces broke through at St. Lo (July 18, 1944), although the forces were not yet organized for fast pursuit until Patton's Third United States Army became operational under General Bradley, who moved up to command the XXIII Army Group.


The Germans rapidly retreated to Germany, many escaping through the Falaise Gap that Bradley, had failed to close at the field army level; Operation COBRA, starting on July 25 under LTG George Patton, closed that gap.

A second invasion, Operation DRAGOON, took place in southern France (August 15, 1944).

Liberation of Paris and French politics

The liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944, seemed to herald a quick end to the war.

Debate with Subordinates

Eisenhower (left) with General George Patton and President Truman, 1945

Following the breakout in France in August 1944 an argument broke out between the Eisenhower, and the Commanding General of the 21st British Army Group, General Sir Bernard Montgomery. Eisenhower had three subordinate Army Groups:

At the next level down, first among equals, or at least first to mind, was GEN George Patton, commanding Third United States Army under Bradley. Eisenhower also had command of the corps-sized First Allied Airborne Army, the tactical and logistical air forces supporting operations in western Europe, and the rear services. There was a legitimate argument for having a ground forces commander, but both personalities and national politics did not offer a good candidate. Montgomery wanted the job but did not have the personality for it. Bradley could probably have done it, but Montgomery would have resented him, and Bradley also was one of the few that could manage the talented but temperamental Patton.

Montgomery argued that a concentrated attack, which he would lead, on the northern line of advance was preferable to Eisenhower's two-pronged broad-front advance. When Eisenhower decided that as of 1 September 1944 he would assume command of the ground troops from Montgomery, the temporary ground forces commander, the debate widened to include command.

Except for Operation Market Garden, Eisenhower did not take seriously Montgomery's single-thrust proposals. Chester Wilmot's Struggle for Europe (1952) told Montgomery's side of the story but focused the debate narrowly on strategy, virtually excluding the arguments over command. Montgomery did not show Wilmot his papers concerning command, only strategy, so Wilmot wrote about what he knew. Politics influenced Churchill's history of the war, published in 1953, which omitted Churchill's reservations over Eisenhower's exercise of ground command, owing to the fact that Eisenhower was now President. [4]

Endgame in Europe

A German counterattack, called the "Battle of the Bulge" in the Ardennes in mid-December 1944, caught the Allies by complete surprise; the Germans made progress as long as bad weather grounded the Allied air forces. The Battle of the Bulge was won when the skies cleared, but cost 77,000 casualties, the highest toll in U.S. military history.

On March 6, 1945, the Allied forces crossed the Rhine at Remagen, adapting plans when they unexpectedly captured a bridge there. They cleared the Ruhr Valley region and reached and bridged the Elbe River.

Eisenhower declined to advance on the political target of Berlin, because the casualties would be too high and the Soviets had been assigned that task. He instead focused on destroying Nazi forces in central and southern Germany; there was concern, in Allied intelligence, that the Nazis were preparing a "National Redoubt" in the south, and might conduct guerrilla warfare. There was, indeed, a plan for such a final defense, as well as guerrillas called Werewolves, but the plans were never seriously implemented by Germany.

This decision was controversial, but led to a quick collapse of Nazi Germany, which surrendered on May 8, 1945.[5]


After duty in charge of the American zone in Germany, and a tour as chief of staff of the Army (Nov. 1945- Feb 1948), Eisenhower retired from the service. His war memoir, Crusade in Europe (1948) was a financial and critical success. He became president of Columbia University in New York (1948-50), but his heart was in world affairs, not academia.

[[Image:Eisenhower Nehru.jpg|right|thumb|350px|Prime Minister Nehru of India receives an honorary degree while Eisenhower was President of Columbia University.

Eisenhower's 1951 appointment as NATO's first supreme allied commander, Europe (SACEUR) was crucial to the alliance's success. Eisenhower was the only individual with sufficient military and political stature to persuade Western Europe to rearm in the face of the Soviet threat. While not completely successful - NATO's combat strength did not reach the desired totals - Eisenhower spent 18 months visiting member countries and organizing available military forces. When he left NATO in 1952 to run for president, the organization was planning an ambitious expansion, including the entry of Greece and Turkey into the alliance and the rearming of the Federal Republic of Germany.[6]

Presidency and politics

1952 election

Convinced that the United States' own security depended on its commitment to NATO, Eisenhower was outraged by the isolationist proclivities of the Republican Party's leading contender for its 1952 presidential nomination, Ohio Senator Robert Taft. In February 1951, Eisenhower met privately with Taft for assurance that he would support the U.S.'s commitment to European collective security. Taft refused, and the die was cast for Eisenhower's entry into the 1952 presidential contest. Republican politicians in the Northeast, led by New York Governor Thomas Dewey and Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., along with media leaders, urged Eisenhower to run, and set up "Ike Clubs" to sound a drumbeat of popular demand. Taft was adding delegates; he had about 450 of the 604 needed for the nomination, but Eisenhower delegates were also being elected in the primary, despite the leader's indecision. Finally, with his reorganization of NATO accomplished, Eisenhower entered the race in Abilene on June 4. He stood for internationalism in foreign affairs--basically a continuation of the Roosevelt-Truman policies. On domestic affairs, he was conservative and pro-business, though he did not attack labor unions as Taft did. Most of all, he stood for new leadership and for a level of competence the nation had been missing for eight years. After ousting some Taft delegates, the convention nominated Eisenhower, who chose young Senator Richard M. Nixon as his aggressive running mate. Eisenhower and Taft came to terms, and the GOP ran a united campaign.

Eisenhower campaigned against the Truman administration's failures at home and abroad, which he summed up as the "K1C2" formula: "Korea, Communism, and Corruption." His campaign made heavy use of the catchy slogan "I Like Ike," which was used in an animated television commercial produced by Roy Disney and the Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon[7].

Truman's popularity had collapsed because of the failure to end the Korean war. Late in the campaign Eisenhower electrified the nation by promising "I Shall Go to Korea" (and thus promising to end the war quickly). This speech is one of the rare instances when a single address is credited with having a decisive effect upon a presidential election. Though Eisenhower's personal stature seemed to validate the promise of his declaration, the public response additionally derived from four elements that formed a major portion of the conceptual, emotional, and interpretive manner by which voters in 1952 perceived and acted upon their world: 1) the Cold War discourse as it had been practiced from 1946 to 1952, making it the nation's greatest challenge; 2) the foreign policy debate discourse, especially as it related to involvement in Asia; 3) the Korean War discourse as practiced from 1950 to 1952, in which the GOP was free to denounce Truman because Congress had never been asked to approve; and 4) the discourse of Eisenhower from 1942 to 1952, portraying the joyful warrior, particularly the 1952 campaign discourse featuring an appeal to character. Because of this complex context, the speech was a decisive event. Once in office Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons unless the Chinese came to terms on the issue of prisoner exchange, which they promptly did.[8]

First term politics

Journalists in the 1950s depicted Eisenhower as a laid-back "chairman of the board" who let his subordinates run the government. The opening of Eisenhower's papers surprised some scholars, who discovered that behind the scenes Eisenhower was a hands-on leader. He ran the show in his White House, not Sherman Adams or John Foster Dulles. To others, this was not surprising, as he was the President that, on entering office, had the most experience with effectively using a disciplined staff: it is no accident that one of the major U.S. Army professional schools is the Command and General Staff College.

He was well informed, on top of the issues, and possessed an impressively analytic mind and a formidable capacity for clear, incisive expression in literate prose that is worlds apart from his opaque press conference locutions. He emphatically was the engine of his presidency who watched details and made all the major decisions. As a consequence Eisenhower's ratings by historians and political scientists rose from 22nd place in the 1962 Schlesinger poll to 12th place in the 1981 David Porter poll to 9th in Steve Neal's 1996 poll.[9]

Truman, bitterly unhappy with his own White House staff, joked that when Ike became president he would push a button and nothing will happen. Eisenhower redesigned the White House staff and the executive departments so he had clear control at all times, and brought on board talented senior staff to oversee the process, such as former New Hampshire governor Sherman Adams, his chief assistant from 1953 to 1958.[10] One contrast was the control he exerted over covert action through the Operations Coordinating Board, as opposed to the informal system used by John F. Kennedy. This is not to say the actions, under either Presidency, were necessarily wise, but it was unlikely that the Bay of Pigs invasion would have been permitted under Eisenhower.


Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) transformed the national discourse to a focus on internal treason by charging in 1950 that Roosevelt had allowed Soviet spies (such as Alger Hiss) into the U.S. government, and that by protecting them Truman was guilty of "20 years of treason." When Eisenhower was elected McCarthy turned his attention to Eisenhower's administration and hinted at "21 years of treason."

McCarthy's main case was a reserve dentist who was recalled to active duty and promoted to major, even though he was a member of the Communist party. "Who promoted Major Peress?" he shouted. Eisenhower would not tolerate government employees who failed loyalty or security standards, but stressed his support for civil liberties and proper procedures. He succeeded in using behind-the-scenes tactics to undermine McCarthy, particularly after January 1954 when the senator took on the US Army.

Eisenhower was criticized for not responding to some of McCarthy's attacks, such as that on George C. Marshall.

Eisenhower's plan included making political speeches about what his administration had done to remove Communists from the executive branch. Among other things, the president denied McCarthy access to certain White House documents, supported anti-McCarthy Republicans in the Senate, and publicly denounced McCarthy's methods without naming the senator. In October, 1954, the U.S. Senate censured McCarthy for bringing disgrace on that body, and he disappeared from the scene.[11]

Heart attack

Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955. In response he learned to control his hot temper, maintain his proper weight; stop smoking cigarettes; measure his blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels; manage anxiety, depression, and fear; and handle worry and stress. He learned to recognize skipped heart beats, too rapid pulses, and the need for the occasional use of nitroglycerin.[12]

Ike’s chief cardiologist, Dr. Paul Dudley White, declared in February 1956 that there was no medical reason why Eisenhower could not serve another term. These reports reassured the public, but new concern arose in June when Eisenhower had to undergo emergency abdominal surgery because of an ileitis attack. Although the President recovered fully and quickly, many voters wondered whether Eisenhower could withstand the rigors of a second term. Eisenhower had told close friends that he hoped to retire after a single term, because of his age (66), his desire for the emergence of new leadership in the GOP, and his conviction that he had performed his duty to his country. Yet after his heart attack Eisenhower could not think of a single Republican in whom he had confidence who could win the presidency. He doubted whether Nixon was ready enough for the presidency. Such ruminations persuaded Eisenhower by the beginning of 1956 that there really was no alternative to his running again to guarantee the nation's well-being.

1956 campaign

Ike worried that Nixon might be a political liability, but across the land Republican regulars loved Nixon's strident, partisan rhetoric. Nixon refused to take a cabinet post and Eisenhower could not dump him. At the San Francisco convention the delegates chose Nixon with only one dissenting vote.

At the beginning of the campaign, two-thirds of the voters approved of Eisenhower's performance in office. Eisenhower's high standing was based on peace and prosperity--securing an armistice in the Korean War, meeting with Soviet leaders at Geneva in 1955 in the first East-West summit conference since 1945, avoiding war in Vietnam, and presiding over a robust economy and a complacent society. Eisenhower was eager to run on this record; his campaign slogan was "Peace, Prosperity, and Progress."

Stevenson again

Senator Adlai Stevenson (D-Illinois), a weak campaigner lacking Ike’s charisma, was the Democratic front runner because no senior Democrat wanted to be run over by the Eisenhower Express. His only major opponent was Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, whose progressive views on civil rights and crusading investigations of organized crime had made him popular with liberals, reformers, and those weary of politics as usual. Kefauver won in New Hampshire on 13 March and a week later pulled off a stunning upset in Minnesota. The two men debated on 21 May, the first nationally televised presidential debate. Stevenson won narrowly in the Florida primary and then won a landslide victory in California that proved decisive. The delegates voted for Kefauver over John F. Kennedy as the vice presidential nominee.

Stevenson found it impossible to dent the President's enormous popularity, even when warning about Ike’s dubious health (in fact Eisenhower, who was ten years older, outlived Stevenson). He criticized Eisenhower for using nuclear fears to keep the peace, settling for prosperity that excluded many farmers and small businessmen, and exulting in "progress" that forced children to endure a shortage of schools and teachers. Stevenson, a conservative on racial issues, ignored civil rights, as did Eisenhower. Stevenson ridiculed Eisenhower for narrow, weak, and even indolent leadership, quipping that the President devoted more energy to his golf game than to driving important legislation through Congress. Stevenson offered spending proposals to raise the quality of life by providing federal aid for educational programs, medical research, economic development of depressed areas, and health care for the elderly. Few voters paid attention.

Stevenson blundered by calling for suspension of nuclear testing and termination of the draft: he thereby highlighted defense issues that were Eisenhower's long suit. Stevenson argued that neither reform would weaken national defense. The American nuclear arsenal could already obliterate the Soviet Union many times over and so there was no need to poison the atmosphere with nuclear fallout; a switch from conscription to an all-volunteer force would result in longer terms of service and improved readiness in armed forces dependent on ever more sophisticated military technology. Stevenson advocated both proposals because he thought they were right rather than politically popular, but he never imagined how badly they would backfire. Eisenhower firmly replied that the United States could not maintain adequate military forces without a draft. Three weeks before the election the Soviet Premier endorsed Stevenson’s test ban; it was a kiss of death. Nixon condemned Stevenson as an appeaser, while Eisenhower, a five-star general, scorned his challenger for injecting a delicate international issue into the campaign.

World crises erupted in the Suez and Hungary in the final days of the campaign. When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, Britain, France, and Israel launched a coordinated, surprise military attack to seize the canal, without consulting Washington. Eisenhower insisted on a cease-fire that humiliated the British and French. Meanwhile the Soviets sent 200,000 troops to break the Hungarian freedom movement. Eisenhower condemned the Soviet invasion, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. Stevenson, with scant experience in world affairs had no alternative policy, as the nation rallied behind the world leader in the White House.[13]

Landslide again

On election day, Eisenhower won a landslide victory, with a plurality of almost ten million votes with 57.6% of the popular vote, a gain of 2.5%, and carried 41 states with 457 to 73 electoral votes. The Democrats held most of the Solid South, but little else as cities, suburbs, and farms and nearly every major social and economic group rallied to Ike. However it was a personal triumph with short coattails, for Eisenhower was the first winner since 1848 to see his party lose both houses of Congress. The election of 1956 was an individual victory for Eisenhower, a resounding vote of confidence in one of the most popular Presidents in American history. In 1958, however, the country was suffering a sharp recession, intensified by major strikes. The Democrats won a sweeping landslide to control large majorities in Congress.


Foreign policy and the military

(PD) Photo: Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum
Eisenhower, his wife Mamie, his son John and his daughter-in-law Barbara at the second inauguration in 1957

Viewing the limited war in Korea as a mistake, Eisenhower believed that American national security and containment of Communist expansion could best be achieved through nuclear deterrence and the utilization of other assets, such as negotiations, psychological warfare and economic aid.

Eisenhower relied both on his own experience, senior foreign policy appointees such as U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles. He did not completely reject the containment doctrine developed by George Kennan.

Eisenhower worried that excessive defense spending would weaken the economy in the long-run, and thus be counterproductive. His "New Look" strategy economized by cutting back on Army divisions (much to the chagrin of the soldiers), and emphasizing instead nuclear weapons, which gave "more bang for the buck."[14]

Budget and military capabilities

During his first three years as President, Eisenhower cut the federal budget, largely by controlling defense expenditures. By nature a fiscal conservative, he had no patience for corporate contractors' insistence that America needed ever more defense systems, even when the point was made by his Secretary of Defense, Charles E. Wilson, a former CEO of General Motors. Wilson was ridiculed by Democrats for his garbled statement, "I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors and vice versa." (He meant to say what was bad for the country was bad for General Motors). Wilson proposed enormous Pentagon budget requests that Eisenhower slashed back. The number of uniformed personnel dropped from 3.6 million in 1953 to 2.5 million in 1960; another 300,000 civilian jobs in the Defense department were ended. The overall military budget dropped from $43.8 billion in 1953 to $41.3 billion in 1960, or from 12.0% of GDP to 8.2%. In effect Eisenhower cut the military by 30%.

Authority over defense

He strengthened the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the expense of the traditional service chiefs.[15]

Much of Eisenhower's energy in 1953-54 was devoted to defeating the "Bricker Amendment," a constitutional amendment proposed in 1951 by Republican Senator John W. Bricker of Ohio. It would restrict the president's role in entering into treaties, threatening both presidential authority and America's new internationalist role in foreign affairs. Eisenhower was annoyed that the core of legislative support came from within the Taft wing of the GOP. The Bricker Amendment grew out of opposition to the perceived threat of United Nations intervention into domestic social, economic, and political affairs - the UN's "global socialism." Through strong personal lobbying and rescinding support for human rights treaties, Eisenhower and his congressional allies narrowly defeated the Bricker Amendment, and this effectively eliminated the strength of isolationism in the postwar period.[16]

Strategic balance and space

Within the "New Look", strategic deterrence with nuclear weapons was Eisenhower's core policy to deter large-scale Soviet expansion. [17] Delivery of nuclear weapons to Soviet targets was the responsibility of the Strategic Air Command, which, in the 1950s, was principally a bomber force. Long-range missiles with nuclear warheads were principally a research concept in the early and mid-fifties.

1957 was the International Geophysical Year, in which the Soviets demonstrated technology and scored a propaganda victory with the surprise launch of Sputnik I, the the first artificial satellite. caused a major crisis and a rethinking of national goals in missile technology and science education generally. Eisenhower set up a civilian agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to carry out a highly publicized program of space exploration that would counteract the Soviet success. Five interest groups pressed Eisenhower for more aggressive action:

  • a loose federation of physicists and astronomers interested in advancing basic research
  • the Pentagon, which wanted to use NASA's scientific discoveries to understand Soviet threats
  • engineering corporations who foresaw a large aerospace industry
  • space flight enthusiasts eager to pursue exploration beyond atmosphere
  • politicians who wanted to restore national prestige.[18]

NASA had an embarrassing failure when its first attempt to launch a satellite, uing a purely civilian space launch vehicle, exploded on the launch pad. While it had been a political goal to keep the U.S. program visibly peaceful, an Army team was given the go-ahead to launch if they could, and succeeded with a modified Jupiter intermediate range ballistic missile.

That the Soviets could launch a satellite did not necessarily mean they had operational ballistic missile technology, but it was obvious that their rocket technology was more advanced than had been suspected.

The U.S. responded by accelerating development of nuclear delivery systems. These included Air Force air-to-surface missiles for its existing bombers, the high-altitude supersonic B-70 Valkyrie bomber, and continuing development of intercontinental ballistic missiles. There was no coordination between the Air Force and the Navy, and the Navy continued to work on nuclear-capable carrier-capable bombers, early submarine-launched cruise missiles, and the UGM-27 Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Eisenhower also took a hard look at the Air Force-Navy rivalry, and the unwillingness of the Air Force's Strategic Air Command (SAC) to accept civilian guidance. After his science advisor, George Kistiakowsky, who had been involved in nuclear weapons development, was rebuffed on his first visit to SAC, he was sent back with presidential orders to collect data or resignations.

Regional strategies


Ending the Korean War was a campaign issue and one of his first concerns.

After the 1954 Geneva Accords, the U.S. took over as the patron of South Vietnam.

Middle East

Concerned over Communist subversion, Eisenhower created the Eisenhower Doctrine to support pro-Western Muslim governments. At first the United States did not distinguish between Communism and nationalism, perceiving Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser as linked to Soviet encroachment.

In retrospect, the 1952 Operation AJAX overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, while tactically successful in installing the Pahlavi Dynasty, began decades of stormy U.S.-Iranian relations.

More complex was the British, French, and Israeli Suez operation to overthrow Nasser. The U.S. opposed this.

The political situation grew complex as radicals challenged the Lebanese and Jordanian governments, and the ruler of Iraq was brutally overthrown. In 1958 Eisenhower sent Marines to Lebanon to support the government but balked at British plans for greater military intervention.[19] Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles eventually focused their strategy by distinguishing between Communism and Arab nationalism. The United States was able to limit its goals, accommodate itself to Nasser, and display a greater flexibility than the Eisenhower Doctrine originally offered. At the same time relations with Israel were greatly strengthened, which annoyed America's Arab allies.[20]

Latin America

It was the policy of the Eisenhower administration not to tolerate leftist governments in Latin America, whether elected or not. As part of an overall policy of containing Communism, the Administration accepted right-wing dictatorships as one means of containment. Covert action to overthrow leftists was another. [21]

The Eisenhower administration helped the Guatemalan army overthrow the Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán government in 1954, but there has been less agreement on its reasons for doing so. They have disagreed on the influence of the United Fruit Company, the potential role of Soviet influence, and the degree to which American officials simply misinterpreted social reform for Soviet backing. Newly declassified Central Intelligence Agency documents show the United Fruit Company played no major role, that Soviet influence was minimal, and that the Eisenhower administration did not need to be forced into the action by any lobby groups.[22]


Supreme Court appointments

Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren in 1954 as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court. Other justices he appointed include William Brennan, John Marshall Harlan II, Charles Evans Whittaker, and Potter Stewart.

Civil rights

Interstate highways

Eisenhower proposed a federal highway system in 1955, but Congress rejected it because of financing issues. The multiple interests groups came together in 1956 to pass the Federal Interstate Defense Highway Act, also known as the National Highway Act.[23] The federal government paid 90% of the cost, which was passed along to users as the new Highway Trust Fund collected new taxes on fuels, tires, and vehicles to achieve pay-as-you-go funding. The 42,000-mile interstate highway system, largely completed in 25 years, integrated the nation into a single transportation system. Truckers saved enormous amounts on fuel and travel time, which reduced shipping costs and led to large-scale productivity gains, while driving another nail in the railroad coffin. Passenger traffic soared, opening up new horizons for vacations and job searches, and new ways for extended families to come together. Much of the traffic was short-distance, as the interstates opened up the outer suburbs around all major cities. The U.S. already had the world's best road system; the interstates made another quantum leap in the most modern transportation system in the world.

Farewell address

Eisenhower's farewell address on 17 January 1961 warned the nation against depending on an economy that was based on a military-industrial complex. Written by political scientist Malcolm Moos with help from brother Milton Eisenhower, the speech echoed the president's conviction that wars must be made obsolete. While he believed that the Soviet threat was being exaggerated, President Eisenhower argued for sufficiency, not superiority.


Eisenhower's legacy was victory in wartime, prosperity and peace afterwards. He was totally committed to the core republican values of civic duty and common sacrifice. Throughout the war he called for voluntary self-restraint and obedience to duty, which he called the first tenet of his religion. His apocalyptic view of World War II was based on a dualism that pitted the selfish against the selfless. He saw the war largely as a spiritual struggle within the Allied camp between these two forces. Civilians as well as soldiers were exhorted to sacrifice personal interests for the sake of total mobilization, which meant exercising the virtue of selflessness. He interpreted fascism as a manifestation of selfishness and social disorder. As a soldier, his legacy includes common sense, caution, exhaustive planning, collaboration with allies, superb diplomatic timing, avoidance of casualties, and respect for the common soldier.

As president, his legacy was moderation, a sense of inclusiveness, a rejection of fear and paranoia, dedication to selecting the best experts, a disdain for partisanship, a commitment to entrepreneurial freedom, an abhorrence for war, a love of democracy. and a long-term sense of national greatness. [24]

The "Eisenhower Era", 1953-1963, marked a decade of peace and prosperity, with an end to the bitter conflicts regarding class and ideology that marked the 1940s, and before the even more violent and bitter years of the 1960s. People look back with nostalgia, and gratitude for the man who kept the peace and quiet.

Opened in 1966, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library at Abilene, Kansas, houses Eisenhower's presidential papers, collections of papers of 350 of his associates, and records of White House agencies that functioned during his presidency. The library also holds photographs, motion picture films, and Eisenhower memorabilia, and sponsors meetings to discuss Eisenhower and his era.


  1. Gerald Bergman, "The Influence of Religion on President Eisenhower's Upbringing" Journal of American & Comparative Cultures (2000) 23(4): 89-107. Issn: 1537-4726 Fulltext: Ebsco
  2. Kerry E. Irish, "Apt Pupil: Dwight Eisenhower and the 1930 Industrial Mobilization Plan" The Journal of Military History70#1 (January 2006), pp. 31-61 in Project Muse-
  3. FDR told Marshall he was essential at home, thus allowing Marshall to save face. FDR felt Eisenhower was the better planner and diplomat.
  4. G. E. Patrick Murray, Eisenhower versus Montgomery: The Continuing Debate (1996)
  5. Donald E. Shepardson, “The Fall of Berlin and the Rise of a Myth” Journal of Military History (1998) 62(1): 135-153. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext: in JSTOR
  6. See Bielakowski (2004)
  7. Internet archive, Eisenhower Campaign Spots (1952). Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
  8. Martin J. Medhurst, "Text and Context in the 1952 Presidential Campaign: Eisenhower's 'I Shall Go to Korea' Speech" Presidential Studies Quarterly (2000) 30(3): 464-484. Issn: 0360-4918 online edition
  9. Fred I. Greenstein, "The Hidden-hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader. A 1994 Perspective." Presidential Studies Quarterly (1994) 24(2): 233-241; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. "Rating the Presidents: Washington to Clinton." Political Science Quarterly 1997 112(2): 179-190. Issn: 0032-3195 Fulltext: in Jstor
  10. Alfred D. Sander, Eisenhower's Executive Office (1999); Charles Walcott and Karen M. Hult, "White House Organization as a Problem of Governance: the Eisenhower System." Presidential Studies Quarterly (1994) 24(2): 327-339. Issn: 0360-4918
  11. Michael J. Birkner, "Eisenhower and the Red Menace." Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration (2001) 33(3): 196-207. Issn: 0033-1031
  12. Clarence G. Lasby, Eisenhower's Heart Attack: How Ike Beat Heart Disease and Held on to the Presidency. (1997)
  13. John Barlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson and the World (1977)
  14. Saki Dockrill, "Dealing with Soviet Power and Influence: Eisenhower's Management of U.S. National Security." Diplomatic History (2000) 24(2): 345-352. Issn: 0145-2096 Fulltext: Ebsco
  15. Gerard Clarfield, Security and Solvency: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Shaping of the American Military Establishment. (1999)
  16. Cathal J. Nolan, "The Last Hurrah of Conservative Isolationism: Eisenhower, Congress, and the Bricker Amendment" Presidential Studies Quarterly 1992 22(2): 337-349.
  17. George F. Lemmer (1967), The Air Force and Strategic Deterrence, 1951-1960, Air Force Historical Office,p. 6
  18. Roger D. Launius, "Eisenhower, Sputnik, and the Creation of NASA." Prologue (1996) 28(2): 126-143. Issn: 0033-1031
  19. Douglas Little, "His Finest Hour? Eisenhower, Lebanon, and the 1958 Middle East Crisis." Diplomatic History (1996) 20(1): 27-54. Issn: 0145-2096 Fulltext: Ebsco
  20. Jeffrey M. Nadaner, "Strife among Friends and Foes: the 1958 Anglo-American Military Interventions in the Middle East." UCLA Historical Journal (1997) 17: 82-123. Issn: 0276-864x
  21. Robert A. Pastor (1996), 8. The Caribbean Basin, in Jeremy R. Azrael and Emil A. Payin, U.S. and Russian Policymaking With Respect to the Use of Force, RAND Corporation
  22. Stephen M. Streeter, "Interpreting the 1954 U.S. Intervention in Guatemala: Realist, Revisionist, and Postrevisionist Perspectives." History Teacher (2000) 34(1): 61-74. Issn: 0018-2745 Fulltext: History Cooperative and [Jstor]
  23. The "defense" part was essential to get funding. It provided for fast military movement and allowed the evacuation of cities after an attack or natural disaster. Mark H. Rose, Interstate: Express Highway Politics 1941-1956 (1979)
  24. : Ira Chernus, "Eisenhower's Ideology in World War II," Armed Forces & Society (1997) 23(4): 595-613; Stephen E. Ambrose, "Eisenhower's Legacy," Prologue (1994) 26 (Special Issue): 160-167. ISSN: 0033-1031