34th President of the United States
|In office |
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
|Vice President(s)||Richard Nixon|
|Preceded by||Harry S. Truman|
|Succeeded by||John F. Kennedy|
|Born||October 14, 1890 |
|Died||March 28, 1969 |
Washington, D. C.
|Spouse||Mamie Doud Eisenhower|
Dwight David Eisenhower (also known as Ike) (born David Dwight Eisenhower on October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American soldier and politician. During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe, with responsibility for planning and supervising the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45. In 1949 he became the first supreme commander of NATO. As a Republican, he was elected the 34th President of the United States (1953–1961). As president he ended the Korean War, kept up the pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, re-oriented the defense budget toward nuclear weapons, launched the space race, enlarged the Social Security program, and began building the interstate highway system.
Eisenhower was born to a German American family in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, and their only child born in Texas. He was named David Dwight and was called Dwight. Later, the order of his given names was switched (according to the staff at the Eisenhower Library and Museum, the name switch occurred upon Eisenhower's matriculation at West Point). The Eisenhower family is of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. His ancestors were Mennonites who fled from Germany to Switzerland in the 17th century. Hans Nicol Eisenhauer and family came to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1741. The family joined the River Brethren and were pacifists during the nation's wars. They joined some 300 River Brethren in creating a colony in Kansas. After a brief sojourn in Texas the family re-settled in Abilene, Kansas, in 1892. Eisenhower's father was a college educated engineer.  Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School in 1909.
Eisenhower married Mamie Geneva Doud (1896–1979), of Denver, Colorado, on July 1, 1916. They had two children, Doud Dwight Eisenhower (1917–1921), whose tragic death in childhood from scarlet fever haunted the couple, 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. John's son, David Eisenhower, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.
When Eisenhower was 5, his parents became followers of the Bible Students, whose members later took the name Jehovah's Witnesses. The Eisenhower home served as the local Bible Student's meeting Hall from 1896 to 1915, when Eisenhower's father stopped regularly associating due to his disappointment at the WatchTower's failed prediction that Armageddon would occur in October 1914 and 1915. Ike's father received a Jehovah's Witness funeral when he died in the 1940s. Ike's mother continued as an active Jehovah's Witness until her death. Ike and his brothers also stopped associating regularly after 1915. He enjoyed a close relationship with his mother throughout her lifetime. In later years, Eisenhower became a communicant in the Presbyterian church in 1953; in his retirement years, he was a member of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church.
Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, in June 1911. His parents were pacifists but did not object to his entering West Point as they were strong proponents of education. Eisenhower was a strong athlete, but his football career came to an end after he injured his knee attempting to tackle Jim Thorpe.
Eisenhower graduated in 1915. He served with the infantry until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. During World War I, Eisenhower became the #3 leader of the new tank corps and rose to brevet Lieutenant Colonel in the National Army. He spent the war training tank crews in Pennsylvania and never saw combat. (In his whole career he never was in field combat. After the war, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of captain (and was promoted to major the next day) before assuming duties at Camp Meade, Maryland, where he remained until 1922. His interest in tank warfare was strengthened by many conversations with George Patton and other senior tank leaders; however their ideas on tank warfare were strongly discouraged by superiors.
Eisenhower became executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal Zone, where he served until 1924. Under Conner's tutelage, he studied military history and theory (including Karl von Clausewitz's On War), and later cited Conner's enormous influence on his military thinking. In 1925-26, he attended the Command and General Staff College 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; many of his friends resigned for high paying business jobs. He was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission, directed by General John J. Pershing, then to the Army War College, 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 adviser to the Philippine government. This assignment would prove valuable preparation for handling the egos of Winston Churchill, Patton and Bernard Law Montgomery during World War II. Eisenhower was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1936 after sixteen years as a major. He also learned to fly, although was never rated as a military pilot.
Eisenhower returned to the U.S. in 1939 and held a series of staff positions in Washington, D.C., California, and Texas. In June 1941, he was appointed Chief of Staff to General Walter Krueger, 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 with responsibility for creating the major war plans to defeat Japan and Germany. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard T. Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of Operations Division under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall. It was his close association with Marshall which finally brought Eisenhower to senior command positions. Marshall recognized his great organizational and administrative abilities.
In 1942, Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) and was based in London. In November, he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations (NATOUSA) through the new operational Headquarters A(E)FHQ. The word "expeditionary" was dropped soon after his appointment for security reasons. In February 1943, his authority was extended as commander of AFHQ across the Mediterranean basin to include the British 8th Army, commanded by General Bernard Law Montgomery. The 8th Army had advanced across the Western Desert from the east and was ready for the start of the Tunisia Campaign. Eisenhower gained his fourth star and gave up command of ETOUSA to be commander of NATOUSA. After the capitulation of Axis forces in North Africa, Eisenhower remained in command of the renamed Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), keeping the operational title and continued in command of NATOUSA redesignated MTOUSA. In this position he oversaw the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of the Italian mainland.
In December 1943, it was announced that Eisenhower would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944, he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), serving in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. In these positions he was charged with planning and carrying out the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944 under the code name Operation Overlord, the liberation of western Europe and the invasion of Germany. A month after the Normandy D-Day on June 6, 1944, the invasion of southern France took place, and control of the forces which took part in the southern invasion passed from the AFHQ to the SHAEF. From then until the end of the War in Europe on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower through SHAEF had supreme command of all operational Allied forces2, and through his command of ETOUSA, administrative command of all U.S. forces, on the
It was never a certainty that Overlord would succeed. The tenuousness surrounding the entire decision including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion might be summarized by a short speech that Eisenhower wrote in advance, in case he might need it. In it, he took full responsibility for catastrophic failure, should that be the final result. Long after the successful landings on D-Day and the BBC broadcast of Eisenhower's brief speech concerning them, the never-used second speech was found in a shirt pocket by an aide. It read:
|Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.|
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 U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. In addition, upon full discovery of the death camps that were part of the Final Solution (Holocaust), he ordered camera crews to comprehensively document evidence of the atrocity so as to prevent any doubt of its occurrence. He made the controversial decision to reclassify German prisoners of war (POWs) in U.S. custody as Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEFs). As DEFs, they could be compelled to serve as unpaid conscript labor. An unknown number may have died in custody as a consequence of malnutrition, exposure to the elements, and lack of medical care (see Eisenhower and German POWs). Eisenhower was an early supporter of the Morgenthau Plan to permanently remove Germany's industrial capacity to wage future wars. In November 1945 he approved the distribution of 1000 free copies of Morgenthau's book Germany is Our Problem, which promoted and described the plan in detail, to American military officials in occupied Germany. Historian Stephen Ambrose draws the conclusion that, despite Eisenhowers later claims that the act was not an endorsement of the Morgenthau plan, Eisenhower both approved of the plan and had previously given Morgenthau at least some of his ideas on how Germany should be treated.
Eisenhower served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1945-48. In December 1950, he was named Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active service on May 31, 1952, upon entering politics. He wrote Crusade in Europe, widely regarded as one of the finest U.S. military memoirs. During this period Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University from 1948 until 1953, though he was on leave from the university while he served as NATO commander.
After his many wartime successes, General Eisenhower returned to the U.S. a great hero. Not long after his return, a "Draft Eisenhower" movement in the Republican party persuaded him to declare his candidacy in the the 1952 presidential election to counter the candidacy of isolationist Senator Robert A. Taft. Eisenhower defeated Taft for the nomination but came to an agreement that Taft would stay out of foreign affairs while Eisenhower followed a conservative domestic policy. Eisenhower's campaign was a crusade against the Truman administration's policies regarding "Korea, Communism and Corruption." Eisenhower promised to go to Korea himself and end the war and maintain both a strong NATO abroad against Communism and a corruption-free frugal administration at home. He and his running mate Richard Nixon easily defeated Adlai Stevenson in a landslide, marking the first Republican return to the White House in 20 years. He was the only general to serve as president in the 20th century.
One of Eisenhower's most famous achievements as president was building the Interstate Highway System. He justified the highways through the National Defense Highway Transportation Act as essential to American security during the Cold War. As it was believed that large cities would be targets in a possible future war, the highways were designed to evacuate them.
Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower preached a doctrine of Dynamic Conservatism. Although he maintained a conservative economic policy, he continued all the major New Deal programs still in operation, especially Social Security. He expanded its programs and rolled them into a new cabinet level agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, while extending benefits to an additional 10 million more workers. His cabinet, consisting of several corporate executives and one labor leader, was dubbed by one journalist, "Eight millionaires and a plumber." Eisenhower was extremely popular, winning his second term with 457 of the 530 votes in the Electoral College, and 57.6% of the popular vote.
After the Suez Crisis, the United States became the protector of most Western interests in the Middle East. As a result, Eisenhower proclaimed the "Eisenhower Doctrine" in January 1957, in relation to the Middle East, the U.S. would be "prepared to use armed force...[to counter] aggression from any country controlled by international communism." On July 15 1958, he sent just under 15,000 soldiers to Lebanon (a combined force of Army and Marine Corps) in a non-combat peace keeping mission to stabilize the pro-Western government. They left in October, 1958.
Eisenhower supported the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which segregated ("separate but equal") schools were ruled to be unconstitutional. The very next day he told District of Columbia officials to make Washington a model for the rest of the country in integrating Negro and white public school children. Liberal critics complained Eisenhower was never enthusiastic about civil rights, but he did propose to Congress the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and signed those acts into law. They constituted the first significant civil rights acts since the 1870s. He also sent soldiers to Little Rock to integrate their schools, and admitted multi-racial Hawaii as a state in 1959.
The Little Rock Central High School crisis of 1957 involved state refusal to honor a federal court order to integrate the schools. Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into the all-white school; this incident did not occur without violence. Eisenhower and Arkansas governor Orval Faubus engaged in tense arguments during this tumultuous period in history.
On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised speech from the Oval Office. In his farewell speech to the nation, Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold War and role of the U.S. armed forces. He described the Cold War saying: "We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
After Eisenhower 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 because of his reluctance to support the civil rights movement to the degree that more liberal individuals would have preferred to stop McCarthyism, even though he opposed McCarthy's tactics and claims. Such omissions were held against him during the liberal climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Since that time, however, Eisenhower's reputation has risen because of his non-partisan nature, his wartime leadership, his action in Arkansas, his being the last President to balance the budget (before the second Bill Clinton term), and an increasing appreciation of how difficult it is today to maintain a prolonged peace. In recent surveys of historians, Eisenhower often is ranked in the top 10 among all U.S. Presidents.
Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg farm is a National Historic Site . In retirement, he did not completely retreat from political life; he spoke at the 1964 Republican National Convention and appeared with Barry Goldwater in a Republican campaign commercial from Gettysburg.
Because of legal issues related to holding a military rank while in a civilian office, Eisenhower resigned his permanent commission as General of the Army before entering the office of President of the United States. Upon completion of his Presidential term, his commission on the retired list was reactivated and Eisenhower again was commissioned a five-star general in the United States Army.
Eisenhower died at 12:25 p.m. on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C., of congestive heart failure at the age of 78. He lies alongside his wife and their first child, who died in childhood, in a small chapel called the Place of Meditation, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, located in Abilene. His state funeral was unique because it was presided over by Richard Nixon, who was Vice President under Eisenhower and was serving as President of the United States. 
Eisenhower's picture was on the dollar coin from 1971 to 1979. Nearly 700 million of the copper-nickel clad coins were minted for general circulation, and far smaller numbers of uncirculated and proof issues (in both copper-nickel and 40% silver varieties) were produced for collectors. He reappeared on a commemorative silver dollar issued in 1990, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth, which with a double image of him showed his two roles, as both a soldier and a statesman.
He is remembered for ending the Korean War. USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the second Nimitz-class supercarrier, was named in his honor.
The Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290), a 30-mile long expressway in the Chicago area, was re-named after him.
In 1971, the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California was named after him.
In 1979, the Eisenhower Tunnel was completed, conveys westbound traffic on I-70, 60 miles west of Denver, through the Continental Divide.
In 1983, The Eisenhower Institute was founded in Washington, D.C., as a policy institute to advance Eisenhower's intellectual and leadership legacies.
In 1999, the United States Congress created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, which is in the planning stages of creating an enduring national memorial in Washington, D.C., across the street from the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall.
A state park in East Meadow New York is named in his honor.
Eisenhower Papers 21 volume scholarly edition; complete for 1940-61.