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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Order: 34th President
Term of Office: January 20, 1953January 20, 1961
Predecessor: Harry S. Truman
Successor: John F. Kennedy
Date of Birth: Tuesday, October 14, 1890
Place of Birth: Denison, Texas
Date of Death: Friday, March 28, 1969
Place of Death: Washington, D.C.
First Lady: Mamie Eisenhower
Profession: Soldier
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Richard Nixon

Dwight David Eisenhower (October 14, 1890March 28, 1969), American soldier and politician, was the 34th President of the United States (19531961) and supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II.


Early life and family

Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover. The Eisenhower family was of German descent, but had lived in America since the 18th century. The family moved to Abilene, Kansas, in 1892. Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School in 1909 and he worked at Belle Springs Creamery from 1909 to 1911.

Eisenhower married Mamie Geneva Doud (1896–1979), of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 1, 1916. They had two children, Doud Dwight Eisenhower (19171921), 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 Eisenhower's son David Eisenhower , after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.

Military career

Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, in June, 1911 and graduated in 1915. He served with the infantry until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. He then served with the Tank Corps from 1918 to 1922 at Camp Meade, Maryland and other places. He was promoted to Captain in 1917 and Major in 1920. In 1922 he was assigned as executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal Zone, where he served until 1924. In 1925 and 1926 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.

Eisenhower as a young Lieutenant during World War I, with his wife Mamie
Eisenhower as a young Lieutenant during World War I, with his wife Mamie

During the late 1920s and early 1930s Eisenhower's career in the peacetime Army stagnated. He was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission, directed by General John J. Pershing, then to the Army War College in Washington, D.C., 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 advisor to the Philippine Government. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1936.

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 was appointed Chief of Staff to General Walter Kreuger , 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. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard 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 the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. It was his close association with Marshall which finally brought Eisenhower to senior command positions. Marshall recognised his great organisational and administrative abilities.

Wartime commander

Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II
Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II

In June 1942 Eisenhower was designated Commanding General, European Theater, based in London. Here he planned and executed the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria, codenamed Operation Torch. He was Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces in North Africa from November 1942. In December 1943 he was appointed Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, charged with planning and carrying out the Allied invasion of France, Operation Overlord, in June 1944. He commanded all Allied forces in the Normandy invasion, which took place on D-Day, June 6, 1944. On December 20, he was promoted to General of the Army. By the end of 1944 Eisenhower was in overall command of armed forces comprising 4.5 million men and women.

In these positions Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders such as Omar Bradley and George Patton. He dealt skillfully with difficult allies such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General Charles de Gaulle. He had fundamental disagreements with Churchill and Montgomery over questions of strategy, but these rarely upset his relationships with them. He negotiated with Soviet general Marshall Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Stalin.

He was offered the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the European Theater but refused it, saying that it should be reserved for bravery and valour.

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 United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. His most controversial decisions involved captured German soldiers and their alleged mistreatment. Eisenhower ordered the status of German prisoners of war, or POWs, in U.S. custody changed to that of Disarmed Enemy Forces or DEFs.

Eisenhower was named Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in November 1945, and in December 1950 was named Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active service on May 31, 1952, upon entering politics.

Dates of Rank

  • Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915
  • First Lieutenant. United States Army: July 1, 1916
  • Captain, United States Army: May 15, 1917
  • Major, National Army: June 17, 1918
  • Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: October 14, 1918
  • Captain (reverted to permanent rank), Regular Army: June 30, 1920
  • Major, Regular Army: July 2, 1920
  • Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: July 1, 1936
  • Colonel, Regular Army: March 11, 1941
  • Brigadier General, Regular Army: September 29, 1941
  • Major General, Army of the United States: March 27, 1942
  • Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: July 7, 1942
  • General, Army of the United States: February 11, 1943
  • General of the Army, Army of the United States: December 20, 1944
  • General of the Army rank made permanent in the Regular Army: April 11, 1946

Notes about components:

  • United States Army: Regular U.S. Armed Forces prior to World War I
  • National Army: Combined conscript and regular United States forces during World War I
  • Regular Army: Regular volunteer forces after 1930. Considered "career" professionals
  • Army of the United States: Combined draft and regular forces of World War II.

Awards and decorations

United States

Foreign Awards

  • British Order of the Bath
  • British Order of Merit
  • British African Star
  • Belgium Order of Leopold
  • Belgium Croix de Guerre
  • French Legion of Honor
  • French Croix de Guerre
  • French Liberation Medal
  • Luxembourg War Cross
  • Luxembourg Medal of Merit
  • Czechoslovakian Order of the White Lion
  • Czechoslovakian Golden Star of Victory
  • Danish Order of the Elephant
  • Moroccon Order of Ouissan Alaouite
  • Netherlands Grand Cross of the Order of the Lion
  • Russian Order of Victory
  • Russian Order of Suvorov
  • Polish Virtuti Militari
  • Polish Cross of Grunwald
  • Polish Rastituta Chevalier
  • Argentinan Great Cross of the Order of the Liberator
  • Brazilian Grand Cross Order of Military Merit
  • Brazilian Grand Cross Order of Aeronautical Merit
  • Brazilian National Order of the Southern Cross
  • Brazil War Medal
  • Brazil Campaign Medal
  • Chief Commander of the Chilean Order of Merit
  • Chinese Grand Cordon of the Order of Yun Hui
  • Chinese Grand Cordon of the Order of Yun Fei
  • Ecudorian Star of Abdon Calderon
  • Egyptian Grand Cordon of the Order of Ismal
  • Ethiopian Order of Solomon
  • Greek Order of George I with Swords
  • Guatemalan Cross of Military Merit
  • Haitian Great Cross of the Order of Honor and Merit
  • Grand Cross of the Italian Military Order
  • Order of Mexican Military Merit
  • Mexican Aztec Eagle
  • Medal of Mexican Civic Merit
  • Norwegian Order of St. Olaf
  • Panamanian Order of Vasci Nunez de Balboa
  • Tunisian Grand Cordon of the Nishan Iftikar

Eisenhower in politics

Eisenhower had been chosen as President of Columbia University in July 1948, giving him a legal residence in New York City. He had been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate since 1945. Unlike MacArthur, who had actively pursued the Republican presidential nomination since 1936, Eisenhower had shown little interest in politics. It was not even known if he was a Republican or a Democrat.

Eisenhower presidential campaign in Baltimore, Maryland, September 1952.
Eisenhower presidential campaign in Baltimore, Maryland, September 1952.

Some writers have said that Democratic President Harry S. Truman offered to stand aside in favor of Eisenhower at the 1948 presidential election, although Truman always denied this. In the lead-up to the 1952 election, Eisenhower was pursued as a candidate by both the Democrats and the Republicans. He initially refused to run, but was eventually persuaded to allow his name to be put forward for the Republican nomination. He said he chose the Republicans because the Democrats had been in office for 20 years and the country needed a change. He defeated Senator Robert Taft of Ohio for the nomination.

In the lead-up to the presidential election, Eisenhower campaigned as a "non-politician," never mentioning his main competitor, Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, by name. Instead he allowed other Republicans to run a Cold War campaign, accusing the Democrats of being "soft on Communism", while he preserved his genial public image. This led him to select a hard-line, anti-Communist senator from California, Richard Nixon, as his running mate. As one of the country's two greatest war heroes, but with a much more congenial personality than MacArthur's, Eisenhower was considered the favorite from the start of the campaign. Eisenhower and Nixon won the November election, with 442 electoral votes against Stevenson's 89.

Eisenhower as President

Foreign affairs

Eisenhower's presidency was dominated by the Cold War, the prolonged confrontation with the Soviet Union which had begun during Truman's term of office. His Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, led the fight against the Communist powers with great zeal, but despite the urgings of the right wing of the Republican Party, Eisenhower pursued a generally moderate course, accepting the doctrine of containment originally developed by George Kennan. During his campaign Eisenhower had promised to end the stalemated Korean War, and indeed a cease-fire was signed in July 1953. He also signed defense treaties with South Korea and the Republic of China, and formed an anti-Communist alliance with Asian and Pacific countries, SEATO, to halt the spread of Communism in Asia.

Nixon (left) and Eisenhower nominated

In 1956 Eisenhower strongly disapproved of the actions of Britain and France in sending troops to Egypt in the dispute over control of the Suez Canal (see Suez crisis). He used the economic power of the U.S. to force his European allies to back down and withdraw from Egypt. During his second term he became increasingly involved in Middle Eastern affairs, sending troops to Lebanon in 1957, and supporting the coup in Iran which restored Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power.

Under Eisenhower's presidency the U.S. became the world's first global nuclear power, and the world lived in fear of a Third World War which might involve nuclear weapons. American chagrin at the Soviets' 1957 surprise launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, led to many strategic initiatives, including the creation of NASA in 1958. Eisenhower hoped that after the death of Stalin in 1953 it would be possible to come to an agreement with subsequent Russian leaders to halt the nuclear arms race. Several attempts at such summit conference were made. The last attempt failed in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew following the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union.

Domestic affairs

Like most Republican presidents Eisenhower believed that a free enterprise economy should run itself, and he took little interest in domestic policy. Although his 1952 landslide gave the Republicans control of both houses of the Congress, the Democrats regained control in 1954, limiting his freedom of action on domestic policy. He forged a good relationship with Congressional leaders, particularly House Speaker Sam Rayburn.

Eisenhower in the Oval Office, February 29, 1956.
Eisenhower in the Oval Office, February 29, 1956.

Eisenhower appointed a Cabinet full of businessmen and gave them wide latitude in handling domestic affairs. He allowed them to take credit for domestic policy and allow him to concentrate on foreign affairs. On the two major issues of the 1950s, Communism and the civil rights for Black Americans, he was reluctant to exercise leadership unless forced to. In 1957, however, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas after Governor Orval Faubus attempted to defy a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the desegregation of all public schools.

Eisenhower was also criticized for not taking a public stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist campaigns. Privately he held McCarthy in contempt for the senator's attacks on his friend and World War II colleague, General George Marshall, Secretary of State under Truman. He stated "I just won't get down in the gutter with that man". This was little comfort to the many people whose reputations were ruined by McCarthy's allegations of Communist conspiracies.

Eisenhower endorsed the United States Interstate Highway Act, in 1956. It was the largest public works program in United States history, providing a 41,000-mile highway system. Eisenhower had been impressed during the war with the German Autobahn system, 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 20% increase in family income during his presidency, of which he was very proud. He added a tenth cabinet position, creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and achieved a balanced budget in three of the years that he was President.

Eisenhower and President-elect John F. Kennedy, December, 1960.
Eisenhower and President-elect John F. Kennedy, December, 1960.

Eisenhower retained his popularity throughout his presidency. In 1956 he was re-elected by an even wider margin than in 1952, again defeating Stevenson, and carrying such traditional Democratic states as Texas and Tennessee. Once he 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 due to his reluctance to support the civil rights movement or to stop McCarthyism. Such omissions were held against him during the liberal climate of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years Eisenhower's reputation has recovered, largely due to an increased appreciation of how difficult it is today to maintain a prolonged peace. A recent poll of historians rated him number eleven among all the Presidents. Nevertheless, the judgement of some historians is still that Eisenhower's greatest achievements were those of his wartime military commands.

Eisenhower had mixed feelings about his Vice President, Richard Nixon, and only reluctantly endorsed him as the Republican candidate at the 1960 Presidential election. Nixon campaigned against Kennedy on the great experience he had acquired in eight years as Vice President, but when Eisenhower was asked to name a decision Nixon had been responsible for in that time, he replied (intending a joke): "Give me a week and I might think of something." This was a severe blow to Nixon, and he blamed Eisenhower for his narrow loss to Kennedy.

Although Eisenhower lived for most of the postwar years on his working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Eisenhower Presidential Library is located in Abilene, Kansas, where he grew up. Eisenhower and his wife are buried in a small chapel there, called the Place of Meditation. The Gettysburg farm is a National Historic Site.

Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C., after a long illness. Two days later, he was honored with a state funeral, followed on March 31 by a national funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral. This was the last major event at the cathedral to be televised live worldwide until Ronald Reagan's funeral in 2004 (The memorial service for the victims of the September 11 attacks held at the cathedral took place at the same time as Canada's memorial service, on Parliament Hill).

Eisenhower's portrait was on a the silver dollar from 1971 to 1978.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953–1961
Vice President Richard M. Nixon 1953–1961
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles 1953–1959
  Christian A. Herter 1959–1961
Secretary of the Treasury George M. Humphrey 1953–1959
  Christian A. Herter 1959–1961
Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson 1953–1957
  Neil H. McElroy 1957–1959
  Thomas S. Gates, Jr. 1959–1961
Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr. 1953–1957
  William P. Rogers 1957–1961
Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield 1953–1961
Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay 1953–1956
  Fred A. Seaton 1956–1961
Secretary of Agriculture Ezra T. Benson 1953–1961
Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks 1953–1958
  Lewis L. Strauss 1958–1959
  Frederick H. Mueller 1959–1961
Secretary of Labor Martin P. Durkin 1953
  James P. Mitchell 1953–1961
Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Oveta Culp Hobby 1953–1955
  Marion B. Folsom 1955–1958
  Arthur S. Flemming 1958–1961

Supreme Court appointments

Eisenhower appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

White House staff and advisors

Related articles

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about:
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wikisource has original works written by:
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Preceded by:
Harry S. Truman
President of the United States
Followed by:
John F. Kennedy

Preceded by:
Thomas Dewey
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1952 (won) - 1956 (won)
Followed by:
Richard Nixon

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45