From General to Commander in Chief: Dwight D. Eisenhower

General Dwight D. EisenhowerNo other President with maybe the exceptions of George Washington and Ulysses Grant brought more fame, success, and military genius to the office of President as Dwight Eisenhower. As a result of an overwhelming love from the American people, Dwight David Eisenhower became the thirty-fourth President of the United States in 1953.

Bringing to the presidency his prestige as commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during World War 2, Dwight Eisenhower obtained a truce in Korea and worked incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions of the Cold War. As he left office it was noted by Eisenhower that “America is today the strongest, most influential, and most productive nation in the world.”

Born in Texas in 1890 and raised in Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower was the third of seven sons. He excelled in sports in high school and received an appointment to West Point when he graduated. Stationed in Texas as a second lieutenant in the newly-formed tank corps, he met Mamie Geneva Doud, whom he married in 1916.

In his early army career, he excelled in staff assignments, serving under Generals John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, and Walter Krueger. After Pearl Harbor, General George C. Marshall called him to Washington for a war plans assignment. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in November of 1942 and was supreme commander of the troops invading France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

After the war, he became president of Columbia University, then left to become the supreme command over the new NATO forces that were formed in 1951. After serving faithfully overseas for NATO, he was approached by Republican Committee members with the idea of running for the presidency.

Eisenhower Statue

The most remembered aspect of Eisenhower’s campaign was the slogan “I Like Ike.” Buttons, bumper stickers, pins, and all sorts of memorabilia bore the slogan as people cheered on their military hero. Eisenhower won an overwhelming victory and in 1953, he became the thirty-fourth President of the United States.

Negotiating from military experience, he tried to ease the tensions between the United States and Russia during the Cold War. Not only were tensions with Russia high, but communism had spread to Korea and Eisenhower came in on the tail end of a discouraging war in Korea. In 1953, the singing of a truce brought an armed peace along the border of South Korea and temporary peace. That same year, Russian leader Joseph Stalin died, changing the relationship between America and Russia. The new Russian leader consented to a peace agreement, thus apparently ending the Cold War. But behind the scenes, both America and Russia had developed hydrogen bombs in case of an attack. With such destruction at the touch of a button, Eisenhower met with leaders from Britain, France, and Russia at Geneva in July.

President Eisenhower proposed that Russia and America trade blueprints of each other’s military bases and “provide within our countries facilities for aerial photography to the other country.” Russian leaders answered Eisenhower in silence, even though tensions throughout the meeting had been relaxed.

Suddenly, in September of 1955, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Denver, Colorado. After seven weeks of recovery he left the hospital and in February of 1956, doctors reported a complete recovery. In November of that same year, Americans reelected Eisenhower for his second term as President.

Probably like no other President in history, Eisenhower had to face pressures on both fronts of the presidency. Between the Cold War and tensions in Korea, Americans were restless in the endless search for justice and equality for all races. Rosa Parks had refused to sit in the back of the bus, Martin Luther King Jr had given his speech, and the black population was screaming for the justice they were long overdue. As desegregation of schools began, President Eisenhower sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assure compliance with the orders of a federal court to allow African American teenagers into Little Rock Central High School. During this time, he also ordered the complete desegregation of the Armed Forces. On the subject he wrote, “There must be no second class citizens in this country.”

President Eisenhower In domestic policy, President Eisenhower pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal, set into place by Franklin Roosevelt, and the Fair Deal, constructed by Harry Truman. He focused on balancing the budget of the United States and is said to have done much to help the economy following the military campaign in Korea.

Eisenhower’s presidency can be summed up with the observation that he focused on maintaining world peace. He watched with pleasure the development of his “atoms for peace” program-the loan of American uranium to countries who needed it for peaceful purposes.

Before President Eisenhower left office in January of 1961, for his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he urged the necessity of maintaining an adequate military strength, but cautioned that vast, long-continued military expenditures could breed potential dangers t our way of life. He concluded with a prayer for peace “in the goodness of time.” Both themes remained timely and urgent when he died, after a long illness, on March 28, 1969.

President Eisenhower was probably the most “successful” President of the 20th century. No other President had to face as many fronts of “war”-both internal and external. He managed to accomplish peace with such powerhouses as Russia and Korea, while breaking racial barriers in American life. He set in motion the wheels of justice and equality that we all enjoy today. All the while, he built our military strength and did much to strengthen the economy and trade with other countries. President Eisenhower was not only a military hero, he was an American hero who will never be forgotten.

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5 Responses

  1. Glad to see there’s at least one person still proud to be a Republican! 😉

    I’m a die-hard independent, conservative leaning but voting for Obama this time anyway. I don’t agree with all of his policies, but I admire his leadership and the way he has brought disenfranchised voters back into the democratic process. If voting is the cornerstone of democracy, Obama’s role in getting people (re)involved is a gift to America.

    I appreciate your post on Eisenhower. Not our greatest president, in my opinion, but a great American and a hero nonetheless.

  2. Great post Lauren, I ahve always been an admirer of Eisenhower’s achievements although not all would agree with me. He served a full life in public and made a successful transition from a highly ranked military man to President.
    Take care Lauren and I have saved a piece of cake for ya at American Interests.

  3. Thanks Otto! Yes I have always respected Eisenhower as well. Not many can go from success to success (militarily then Presidentially). Glad you enjoyed it!

    Happy birthday to your blog Otto! It has been a joy being there from the start. You have grown so much and I am proud to see your success grow. I wish you many more years of good writing. I will always be a fan. 🙂

    Have a great day.

  4. I loved Eisenhower, I believe he was our best President. He was very humble and truly decent, and very honest, those who actually lived through the Eisenhower years, know what a difference he made, He personified what a leader is. He presided over the best years of this country. Thanks IKE for the 50!

  5. I grew up with IKE, I thought he was the best President we ever had. Eisenhower was a man of great character. We will never see another IKE. He was with out doubt the most successful President ever. It is a shame that we hear more about Hitler then Eisenhowe who master minded D Day and defeated Hitler. Eisenhower’s legacy is very important for today.
    He was a “True Leader”.

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