The Presidents of the USA


 
 
 

Biography

 
34
Dwight Eisenhower
R R R R R
 
1953-1961
 
In WW II he organized the Allied invasion of Europe, and was the commander in chief of the Allied forces. As president, he negotiated the end of the Korean War and pursued moderate policies. He presided over a period of growth and prosperity, at the peak of the Cold War.


Born Oct. 14, 1890, Denison, TX.
Political partyRepublican
Education♦ U.S. Military Academy, B.S., 1915
♦ Army War College, 1927-28
♦ Industrial College of the Armed Forces, 1931-32
Military service• Office of Assist. Secr. of War, 1929-33
• Office of Army Chief of Staff, 1933-35
• assist. military adviser, Philippines, 1935-39
• Colonel, 1939
• chief of staff - 3rd Army, 1939-41
• Major General, 1941
• War Plans Division, Army Staff, 1941-42
• Commander of U.S. forces in Europe, 1942
• Allied commander for invasion of N. Africa, 1942-43
• Allied commander in chief, 1943-45
• 5-star general and army chief of staff, 1945-47
• Supr. Allied Commander, Europe, NATO, 1950-52
Previous civilian public office none
DiedMarch 28, 1969 Washington, D.C.
picture of Dwight Eisenhower



Early Life and Military career

Eisenhower was born in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas. He graduated from West Point in 1915, ranking 61st in a class of 168. During World War I he saw no action but spent the time in training camps. After the war he was posted for a time in the Canal Zone of Panama. He graduated at the top of his class from the Army Command and General Staff School, then went to the War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

He then worked as an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, army chief of staff, in Washington and later in the Philippines, returning to the United States as a lieutenant colonel in 1939. In the spring of 1941, with the rank of colonel, he distinguished himself in training maneuvers commanding the Third Army, winning promotion to brigadier general.

During World War II, Eisenhower was named chief of operations of the army in 1942 with the rank of major general. He was then named commanding general of the European theater of operations, a promotion that jumped him over 350 more senior officers. He commanded the forces that invaded North Africa in November 1942 and defeated the Axis powers by May 1943; he commanded the Italian campaign in 1943 that led to an armistice with the Italians; and he was named Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe on January 17, 1944.

He made the decision to go ahead with the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944 (D Day), in spite of bad weather that might have imperiled the operation. He later called it the most difficult decision he ever made. He achieved the highest rank in the American military, five-star general of the army, in December 1944.

After the war he served as army chief of staff, helping President Truman organize the new Department of Defense.

In 1948 Eisenhower retired from the army, declined offers from both political parties to run for President, and served two years as president of Columbia University, the only civilian position (other than the U.S. Presidency) he ever held. His account of the war, Crusade in Europe, was a best-seller.

In 1950 President Truman recalled him to active duty to serve as the first commander of supreme headquarters, Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE), the military arm of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance of the United States, Canada, and Western European nations), a position he held for two years.

Although both parties considered him for the 1952 Presidential nomination, Eisenhower chose to enter the Republican contest and gained the support of the liberal and moderate wings of the party. He won a bitter nomination fight over Republican conservatives, led by “Mr. Republican,” Senator Robert Taft of Ohio. His victory was due in part to the efforts of Senator Richard Nixon, who helped organize the California convention delegation for Eisenhower. Nixon was rewarded with the Vice Presidential nomination.

With the Republican campaign slogan “I like Ike” and a series of effective television commercials, Eisenhower won a landslide victory over Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. His coattails brought in a Republican Congress.



Presidency

Eisenhower concentrated on foreign affairs. “I shall go to Korea,” Eisenhower had promised the American people, and one of his first acts was to honor that pledge and end the Korean War. The final truce agreement was signed on July 27, 1953.

The following year he refused a French request to use American military might against North Vietnamese forces and instead supported the Geneva Accords that ended French involvement in Indochina.

Between 1954 and 1955 Eisenhower shored up the American position in Asia by concluding a mutual defense agreement with the Nationalist Chinese government on Taiwan, providing military assistance to the South Korean government, cementing a strategic alliance with Japan, and giving American support to an anticommunist regime organized with U.S. assistance in South Vietnam.

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

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

In domestic affairs Eisenhower expected Congress to take the initiative. He proposed combining the New Deal social agencies into a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which Congress approved, as well as an increase in Social Security payments and the minimum wage. He proposed only one major new additional domestic program, the interstate highway system.

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

Although Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955 and had an operation, his health was good enough for a second term. He was reelected over Adlai Stevenson in a landslide victory in 1956. But Congress remained in the hands of the Democrats, the first time a President had been elected without winning either House since Zachary Taylor's victory in 1848.

Eisenhower's second term was marked by health problems; he had a stroke in 1957.

Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union in 1959.

Eisenhower used federal troops to enforce federal court orders desegregating the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, but gave small support to other civil rights initiatives, leading congressional Democrats to pass their own civil rights measures in 1957 and 1960.

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

In 1957 the Soviets launched a Sputnik satellite into outer space, challenging the United States for technological dominance and leading many Americans to think that the nation needed new leadership.

With unemployment rising and the nation entering a recession, the midterm elections of 1958 led to a stunning loss for the Republicans in Congress and in gubernatorial elections. The Democrats, now controlling both houses, assumed control of domestic policy-making. They held hearings on shortcomings in national preparedness, science, education, and the space program, and they passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 as well as a law that provided federal funding for science and foreign language education.

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

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



Retirement

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

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



Legacy

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.

After Eisenhower left office, his reputation declined. He was widely seen as having been an inactive, uninspiring president compared to his vigorous young successor. Despite his unprecedented use of Army troops to enforce a federal desegregation order at Central High School in Little Rock, Eisenhower was criticized for his reluctance to support the civil rights movement to the degree which activists wanted.

Eisenhower was also criticized for his handling of the 1960 U-2 incident and the international embarrassment, the Soviet Union's perceived leadership in the nuclear arms race and the Space Race, and his failure to publicly oppose McCarthyism.

Such omissions were held against him during the liberal climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time, however, Eisenhower's reputation has risen. In recent surveys of historians, Eisenhower often is ranked in the top 10 among all U.S. Presidents.

He maintained prosperity, balanced the budget, promoted technological innovation, facilitated (if reluctantly) the civil rights movement and warned, in the most memorable farewell address since Washington’s, of a “military-industrial complex” that could endanger the nation’s liberties. Not until Reagan would another president leave office with so strong a sense of having accomplished what he set out to do.




 
 
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