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|Top > Society > History > By Region > North America > United States > Presidents > Dwight Eisenhower|
Portrait of President Dwight Eisenhower (National Archives)
His first distinctive work involved exploring the feasibility of crossing the North American continent with modern mechanised equipment, shortly after World War I. Between the wars he served in quasi-political aide de camp roles or similar. During World War II, after his success in army maneuvers in 1941, he was vaulted over 4000 officers to an assignment as chief of operations (1942) and rose from that post to U.S. commander of the European theater of operations in June 1942. He was overall commander for the North African landings in November of that year, and in February 1943, took command of Allied forces in North Africa.
In December 1943, after the successful invasion of Sicily in July, 1943 and Italy in September, he was appointed supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. His diplomatic skills helped keep the other allies, notably the British, particularly Gen. Bernard Montgomery, on side. Another notable achievement was his skill at combined operations, the difficult art of coordinating land, sea, and air forces toward a single strategic goal, which culminated in the Normandy landings on D-Day in June 1944. After the war, as Army Chief of Staff, he advocated merger of the army, navy, and air force into single combined military force.
When World War II was over, General Eisenhower became head of the military occupation government of Germany as the Allied Control Council. He served as president of Columbia University in 1948-1952.
Eisenhower was a complex, mercurial man. Confident and self-contained in public, he was content with his public image as president as a grinning, patriotic but somewhat inarticulate citizen-politician. In truth, he was a far more calculating man than he let on, with great natural political skills.
President Dwight David Eisenhower (called Ike for short) had a big smile and big ideas. As president, he brought many changes to the government by giving the cabinet more power. He was a military man, but fought no wars in his eight years as president, except for ending one. He resisted entreaties to get involved in Vietnam on the advice of General Matthew Ridgeway who gave him a comprehensive estimate of the massive commitment that would have been required. He signed defense treaties with Korea and Taiwan, and he severed diplomatic relations with Cuba. He forced desegregation in schools, and kept defense spending very low.
For the 1948 election, Harry S Truman secretly told Ike that if he ran for president as a Democrat, Truman would go as his running mate and Eisenhower would get a sure win. Ike refused because he didn't want to be president. For the 1952 election, he was approached again, this time by the Democrats and the Republicans. He still refused, because he did not consider himself a politician. But he changed his mind when "I Like Ike" clubs started popping up all over the country. Eisenhower had never even voted for president before, and had no political affiliation. He ran for the Republicans because he was a strong believer in the two-party system, and there hadn't been a Republican president in over twenty years.
During his campaign Eisenhower never mentioned his main competitor, Adlai Stevenson, by name. Instead he mostly criticized the ways of Truman, who had just been the Democratic president. This strategy worked, and he got 442 electoral votes, compared to Stevenson's 89. What makes this appear especially amazing is that he had never even held public office; however he had had links with the Washington system between the wars in his aide de camp capacity. But he was considered a war hero, and so he had a good image.
He got the votes of both Democrats and Republicans, because he had "middle way politics" meaning he was a moderate Republican, allowing Democrats to also agree with him. This method allowed him to get along well with the mostly Democratic senate, and it made him very popular during his presidency. On the other hand, when his terms were over he was greatly criticized for his politics.
When Arkansas governor Orval Faubus wouldn't desegregate the schools, despite the ruling of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower brought in troops because the Supreme Court ruling was the law and it had to be followed.
Eisenhower is also strongly criticized for not taking a public stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy, although he privately hated him, particularly for McCarthy's attack on his friend and World War II colleague, Secretary of State General George Marshall.
Eisenhower endorsed the United States Interstate highway Act, in 1956. It was the largest American public works program in history, providing a 41,000-mile highway system. Eisenhower had been impressed during the war with the German Autobahns and also recalled his own involvement in a military convoy in 1919 that took 62 days to cross the United States.
Another achievement was a twenty percent increase in family income during his presidency, which he was very proud of. He added a tenth cabinet position -- the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare -- and he gave all of the cabinet members more responsibilities in their areas, letting them take a lot of praise and glory. And he achieved a balanced budget three of the years that he was president.
During his campaign he promised to stop the Korean War, and it was one of the first things he accomplished as president. He flew to Korea and implied in a show of brinkmanship that he would spread the war to China, and bring in nuclear weapons. This was effective and a cease-fire was signed in 1953. He signed defense treaties with Korea and Taiwan, and entered SEATO, which was an alliance with Asian countries to try and stop Communist China. Eisenhower was very concerned about Communism, which may be the reason he did not speak out against McCarthy. He formulated the Eisenhower Doctrine, which helped justify US involvement in Lebanon during his second term. He was also concerned about too much war: in a speech at the end of his second term, he warned against the "military-industrial complex".
There were high tensions in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Egypt. The British and French sided with Israel, and they attacked Egypt. Then Egypt tried to get the Soviet Union to help, and the Soviet Union threatened that they would. Eisenhower did not want the conflict to turn into the third World War, and he demanded that the United Nations replace the force of England and France. Britain agreed to withdraw, and the crisis was ended. The US did not become involved in any major military conflicts during his administration.
Eisenhower left an interesting legacy. He was very popular during his presidency, but soon after it ended historians rated him as one of the worst presidents in history. This was mainly because of his reluctance to help desegregation and to stop McCarthyism. Also, he made the nuclear arms race much worse, with continuous threats. But in a recent poll of historians, he was rated number eleven. This is because people understand his presidency differently now. They realize that he played up the cabinet's accomplishments and played down his own purposely. He wanted to spread the responsibility around, so that it was possible to get more done. They also remember that he accomplished the Interstate Highway Act and kept defense spending very low.
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." -- Speech, 1953, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
General Eisenhower talks with men of Company E, 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, at the 101st Airborne Division's camp at Greenham Common, England, 5 June 1944. (National Archives) (National Archives)
Photograph of President Truman decorating General Dwight D. Eisenhower with the Distinguished Service Medal, as Mrs. Eisenhower and a group of spectators look on., 06/18/1945 (National Archives)
General Dwight D. Eisenhower watches grimly while occupants of a German concentration camp at Gotha demonstrate how they were tortured by the Nazi sadists operating the camp. Generals Bradley and Patton are at his right. Germany, 04/12/1945 (National Archives)
Photograph of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican nominee for President, in a limousine at Washington National Airport with his running mate, Senator Richard M. Nixon of California., 09/10/1952 (National Archives)
Photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon posing for photographers on the reviewing stand for the Inaugural parade., 01/20/1953 (National Archives)
Photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower waving to crowds as they ride in the Inaugural parade., 01/20/1953 (National Archives)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (from left) greet South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem at Washington National Airport., 05/08/1957 (National Archives)
Photograph of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (National Archives)
OVER NORTHWEST KOREA --- Sleek U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre jets of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing form this pattern of power as they patrol skylanes high over MIG-Alley in northwest Korea. Photo taken 05/22/1953.
This anti-Communist North Korean just released from a prisoner of war camp is serving as a kind of cheerleader for fellow ex Prisoners of War as they shout their joy of reaching Seoul. The flags are of the Republic of South Korea. Photo taken ca.1953-ca.1954. The signing of Korean War armistice at Panmunjom was one of Eisenhower's first accomplishments.
Rank: 34th (1953-1961) Followed: Harry S Truman Succeeded by: John F. Kennedy Date of Birth October 14, 1890 Place of Birth: Denison, Texas Date of Death: March 28, 1969 Place of Death: Washington, D.C. First Lady: Mary "Mamie" Geneva Doud Profession: soldier Political Party: Republican Vice President: Richard Nixon
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