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|Thirty-fourth President of the United States|
|Written by R Lee Wrights|
|Tuesday, 12 June 2012 22:00|
Dwight D. Eisenhower, served January 20, 1953 - January 20, 1961
Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 - March 28, 1969) was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He had previously been a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II, and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942-43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944-45, from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called “Ike”, such as “Big Ike” (Edgar) and “Little Ike” (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name. By World War II, only Dwight was still called “Ike”. In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, which Eisenhower considered as his hometown. As a child, he was involved in an accident that cost his younger brother an eye; he later referred to this as an experience teaching him the need to be protective of those under him. Dwight developed a keen and enduring interest in exploring outdoors, hunting/fishing, cooking and card playing from an illiterate named Bob Davis who lived by the river. And though his mother was against war, it was her collection of history books that first sparked Eisenhower’s early and lasting interest in military history. He persisted in reading the books in her collection and became a voracious reader in the subject. Other favorite subjects early in his education were arithmetic and spelling.
At West Point, Eisenhower relished the emphasis on traditions and on sports, but was less enthusiastic about the hazing, though he willingly accepted it as a plebe; he was also a regular violator of the more detailed regulations, and finished school with a less than stellar discipline rating. Academically, Eisenhower’s best subject by far was English; otherwise his performance was average, though he thoroughly enjoyed the typical emphasis of engineering on science and mathematics. In athletics, Eisenhower later said that “not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest.” He did make the football team, and was a varsity starter as running back and linebacker in 1912, tackling the legendary Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians that year. Eisenhower broke his leg in that, his last, game; it became permanently damaged on horseback and in the boxing ring, so he turned to fencing and gymnastics. Eisenhower later served as junior varsity football coach and cheerleader. Controversy persists over whether Eisenhower played minor league baseball for Junction City in the Central Kansas League the year before he attended West Point, where he played amateur football. He graduated in the middle of the class of 1915, which became known as “the class the stars fell on”, because 59 members eventually became general officers.
After graduation in 1915, Lieutenant (2nd) Eisenhower put in for assignment in the Philippines which was denied, and served with the infantry, initially in supplies, until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. When World War I began he immediately requested an overseas assignment but was again denied and then assigned to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. In February 1918 he was transferred to Camp Meade in Maryland with the 65th Engineers. His unit was later ordered to France but to his chagrin he received orders for the new tank corps, where he rose to temporary (Bvt.) Lieutenant Colonel in the National Army. He trained tank crews at “Camp Colt”-his first command-at the site of “Pickett’s Charge” on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Civil War battleground. Though Ike and his tank crews never saw combat, he displayed excellent organizational skills, as well as an ability to accurately assess junior officers’ strengths and make optimal placements of personnel. Once again his spirits were raised when the unit under his command received orders overseas to France; this time his wishes were thwarted when the armistice was signed, just a week before departure. Completely missing out on the warfront left him depressed and bitter for a time, despite being given the Distinguished Service Medal for his work at home.
After the war, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of captain and a few days later was promoted to major, a rank he held for 16 years. The major was assigned in 1919 to a transcontinental Army convoy to test vehicles and dramatize the need for improved roads in the nation. Indeed, the convoy averaged only 5 mph from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco; later the improvement of highways became a signature issue for Eisenhower as President.
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 (WPD), 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 the new Operations Division (which replaced WPD) under Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, who spotted talent and promoted accordingly.
At the end of May 1942, Eisenhower accompanied Lt. Gen. Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the Army Air Forces, to London to assess the effectiveness of the theater commander in England, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney. He returned to Washington on June 3 with a pessimistic assessment, stating he had an “uneasy feeling” about Chaney and his staff. On June 23, 1942, he returned to London as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA), based in London, and replaced Chaney.
In December 1943, President Roosevelt decided that Eisenhower-not Marshall-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.
Following the German unconditional surrender, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt am Main. He had no responsibility for the other three zones, controlled by Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Upon discovery of the Nazi concentration camps, he ordered camera crews to document evidence of the atrocities in them for use in the Nuremberg Trials.
In November 1945, Eisenhower returned to Washington to replace Marshall as Chief of Staff of the Army. His main role was rapid demobilization of millions of soldiers, a slow job that was delayed by lack of shipping. Eisenhower suffered from a respiratory infection in December 1945 which prevented him from receiving the Order of the Elephant in person from King Christian X of Denmark. Eisenhower was convinced in 1946 that the Soviet Union did not want war and that friendly relations could be maintained; he strongly supported the new United Nations and favored its involvement in the control of atomic bombs.
In 1948, Eisenhower became President of Columbia University, a premier private university in New York. The assignment was described as not being a good fit in either direction. Eisenhower accepted the presidency of the university to expand his ability to promote “the American form of democracy” through education. He was clear on this point to the trustees involved in the search committee. He informed them that his main purpose was “to promote the basic concepts of education in a democracy.” As a result he was “almost incessantly” devoted to the idea of the American Assembly, a concept which he developed into an institution by the end of 1950.
The Columbia trustees refused to accept his resignation in December 1950, when he took leave from the university to become the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and was given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active service on May 31, 1952, and resumed the university presidency, which he held until January 1953. NATO did not initially have strong bipartisan support in Congress at the time he assumed his command; Eisenhower unhesitatingly advised the participating European nations that it would be incumbent upon them to demonstrate their own commitment of troops and equipment to the NATO force before it would come from a war weary United States.
President Truman, symbolizing a broad based desire for an Eisenhower candidacy for president, again in 1951 pressed him to run for the office as a Democrat. It was at this time that Eisenhower vocalized his disdain for the Democratic Party and declared himself and his family to be Republicans. A “Draft Eisenhower” movement in the Republican Party persuaded him to declare his candidacy in the 1952 presidential election to counter the candidacy of non-interventionist Senator Robert Taft. The effort was a long struggle; Eisenhower had to be convinced that 1) the political circumstances in the country had created a genuine duty for him to offer himself as a candidate, and 2) that there was a mandate from the populace for him to be their President. Henry Cabot Lodge who served as his campaign manager and others succeeded in convincing him, and in June 1952 he resigned his command at NATO to campaign full time. Eisenhower defeated Taft for the nomination, having won critical delegate votes from Texas. Eisenhower’s campaign was noted for the simple but effective slogan, “I Like Ike”. It was essential to his success that Ike express his opposition to Roosevelt’s policy at Yalta and against Truman’s policies in Korea and China, matters in which he had once participated. In defeating Taft for the nomination, it became necessary for Eisenhower to appease the right wing Old Guard of the Republican Party; his selection of Richard M. Nixon as the Vice-President on the ticket was designed in part for that purpose. Nixon also provided a strong anti-communist presence as well as some youth to counter Ike’s more advanced age.
In the general election, against the advice of his advisors, Eisenhower insisted on campaigning in the South, refusing to surrender the region to the Democrats. The campaign strategy, dubbed “K1C2″, was to focus on attacking the Truman and Roosevelt administrations on three issues: Korea, Communism and corruption. In an effort to accommodate the right, he stressed that the liberation of Eastern Europe should be by peaceful means only; he also distanced himself from his former boss President Truman. Two controversies arose during the campaign which tested him and his staff but were without effect on the campaign; one involved a report that Nixon had improperly received funds from a secret trust - Nixon spoke out adroitly to avoid potential damage but the matter permanently alienated the two candidates. The second issue centered around Eisenhower’s relented decision to confront the controversial methods of Joseph McCarthy on his home turf in a Wisconsin appearance. Just two weeks prior to the election, Eisenhower vowed to go to Korea and end the war there. He promised to maintain a strong commitment against Communism while avoiding the topic of NATO; finally, he stressed a corruption-free, frugal administration at home. He defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson in a landslide, with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, marking the first Republican return to the White House in 20 years. In the election he also brought with him a Republican majority in the House (by eight votes) and in the Senate (actually a tie, with Nixon providing the majority vote).
Eisenhower was the last president born in the 19th century, and at age 62, was the oldest man to be elected President since James Buchanan in 1856. Eisenhower was the only general to serve as President in the 20th century, and the most recent President to have never held elected office prior to the Presidency. (The other Presidents who did not have prior elected office were Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover.)
Due to a complete estrangement between the two as a result of campaigning, Truman and Eisenhower had minimal discussions about the transition of administrations. After selecting his budget director, Joseph M. Dodge, Eisenhower asked Herbert Brownell and Lucius Clay to make recommendations for his cabinet appointments. He accepted their recommendations without exception; they included John Foster Dulles and George M. Humphrey with whom he developed his closest relationships, and one woman, Oveta Culp Hobby. Eisenhower’s cabinet, consisting of several corporate executives and one labor leader, was dubbed by one journalist, “Eight millionaires and a plumber.” The cabinet was notable for its lack of personal friends, office seekers, or experienced government administrators. He also upgraded the role of the National Security Council in planning all phases of the Cold War.
Initially Eisenhower planned on serving only one term, but as with other decisions he maintained a position of maximum flexibility in case leading Republicans wanted him to run again. During his recovery from a heart attack late in 1955, he huddled with his closest advisors to evaluate the GOP’s potential candidates; the group, in addition to his doctor, concluded a second term was well advised, and he announced in February 1956 he would run again. Ike was publicly noncommittal about Nixon’s repeating as the Vice President on his ticket; the question was an especially important one in light of his heart condition. He personally favored Robert Anderson, a Democrat, who rejected his offer; Eisenhower then resolved to leave the matter in the hands of the party. In 1956, Eisenhower faced Adlai Stevenson again and won by an even larger landslide, with 457 of 531 electoral votes and 57.6% of the popular vote. The level of campaigning was curtailed out of health considerations.
Eisenhower valued the brief respites and the amenities of an office which he endowed with an arduous daily schedule. He made full use of his valet, chauffeur and secretarial support - he rarely drove or dialed a phone number. He was an avid fisherman, golfer, painter and bridge player, and preferred active rather than passive forms of entertainment. On August 26, 1959, Ike was aboard the maiden flight of Air Force One, which replaced the previous Presidential aircraft, the Columbine.
The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1951, and it set term limits to the presidency of two terms. It stipulated that Harry S. Truman, the incumbent at the time, would not be affected by the amendment. In 1961, Eisenhower became the first U.S. president to be constitutionally prevented from running for re-election to the office, having served the maximum two terms allowed.
Eisenhower was also the first outgoing President to come under the protection of the Former Presidents Act; two living former Presidents, Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman, left office before the Act was passed. Under the act, Eisenhower was entitled to receive a lifetime pension, state-provided staff and a Secret Service detail.
In the 1960 election to choose his successor, Eisenhower endorsed his own Vice-President, Republican Richard Nixon against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He told friends, “I will do almost anything to avoid turning my chair and country over to Kennedy.” He actively campaigned for Nixon in the final days and may have done Nixon some harm. When asked by reporters at the end of a televised press conference to list one of Nixon’s policy ideas he had adopted, Eisenhower joked, “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.” Kennedy’s campaign used the quote in one of its campaign commercials. Nixon narrowly lost to Kennedy. Eisenhower, who was the oldest president in history at that time (then 70), was succeeded by the youngest elected president, as Kennedy was 43.
On March 28, 1969, Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C. The following day his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral’s Bethlehem Chapel, where he lay in repose for 28 hours. On March 30, his body was brought by caisson to the United States Capitol, where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On March 31, Eisenhower’s body was returned to the National Cathedral, where he was given an Episcopal Church funeral service. That evening, Eisenhower’s body was placed onto a train en route to Abilene, Kansas. His body arrived on April 2, and was interred later that day in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Eisenhower is buried alongside his son Doud, who died at age 3 in 1921. His wife Mamie was buried next to him after her death in 1979.
FG_AUTHORS: R Lee Wrights
|Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 04:30|