Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 and a five-star general in the United States Army. During the Second World War, 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 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO.
As President, he oversaw the cease-fire of the Korean War, kept up the pressure on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, made nuclear weapons a higher defense priority, launched the Space Race, enlarged the Social Security program, and began the Interstate Highway System.
Eisenhower was born David Dwight Eisenhower in Denison, Texas, the first president born in that state. He was the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover. The house in which he was born has been preserved as Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site and is operated by the Texas Historical Commission.
He was named David Dwight and was called Dwight; he reversed the order of his given names when he entered West Point,, which is also where "Ike" received his nickname.
Eisenhower's paternal ancestors can be traced back to Hans Nicolas Eisenhauer, whose surname was German for "iron worker. Hans Eisenhauer and his family emigrated from Karlsbrunn (Saarland), Germany to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1741. Descendants made their way west. Eisenhower's family settled in Abilene, Kansas in 1892. His father David Eisenhower 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. The couple had two sons. Doud Dwight Eisenhower was born September 24, 1917, and died of scarlet fever on January 2, 1921, at the age of three. Their second son, John Sheldon David Doud Eisenhower, was born the following year on August 3, 1922; John served in the United States Army (retiring as a brigadier general from the Army reserve), became an author, and served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971. John, coincidentally, graduated from West Point on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was married to Barbara Jean Thompson in a June wedding in 1947. John and Barbara had four children: Dwight David II, Barbara Ann, Susan Elaine and Mary Jean. John's son, David, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.
When Eisenhower joined the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1911, his ties to Jehovah’s Witnesses were weakened because of the group's anti-militarist stance. By 1915, his parents' home no longer served as the meeting hall. All the men in the household abandoned the Witnesses as adults. Some hid their previous affiliation. At his death in 1942, Eisenhower's father was given funeral rites as though he remained a Jehovah's Witness. Eisenhower's mother continued as an active Jehovah's Witness until her death. Despite their differences in religious beliefs, Eisenhower enjoyed a close relationship with his mother.
Eisenhower was baptized, confirmed, and became a communicant in the Presbyterian Church in a single ceremony on February 1, 1953, just 12 days after his first inauguration. He is the only president known to have undertaken these rites while in office. Eisenhower was instrumental in the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the 1956 adoption of "In God We Trust" as the motto of the US, and its 1957 introduction on paper currency. In his retirement years, he was a member of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. The chapel at his presidential library is intentionally inter-denominational.
Eisenhower was sworn into office with his personal West Point Bible, open to Psalm 33:12, at both his 1953 and 1957 inaugural ceremonies. Additionally for 1953, he included the Bible that George Washington had used in 1789 (belonging to St. John's Masonic Lodge No. 1), opened to II Chronicles 7:14.
After Dwight worked for two years to support his brother Edgar's college education, a friend urged him to apply to the Naval Academy. Though Eisenhower passed the entrance exam, he was beyond the age of eligibility for admission to the Naval Academy.
Eisenhower long had aspirations of playing professional baseball. He is quoted as saying:
At West Point, Eisenhower tried out for the baseball team but did not make it. He would later be quoted as saying that "Not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest." But Eisenhower did make the football team. He started as a varsity running back and linebacker in 1912. In a bit of a fabled match-up, he even tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe in a 1912 game. The next week however, Eisenhower would hurt his knee after being tackled around the ankles, which he would soon worsen and permanently damage on horseback and in the boxing ring. He would later serve as junior varsity football coach and yell leader.
Controversy persists over whether Eisenhower played minor league (semi-professional) baseball for Junction City in the Central Kansas League the year before he attended West Point and played amateur football there.
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 temporary (Bvt.) Lieutenant Colonel in the National Army. He spent the war training tank crews in Pennsylvania and never saw combat. After the war, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of captain (and was promoted to major a few days later) before assuming duties at Camp Meade, Maryland, where he remained until 1922. His interest in tank warfare was strengthened by many conversations with George S. 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. Mosely, 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. It is sometimes said that this assignment provided valuable preparation for handling the challenging personalities of Winston Churchill, George S. Patton and Bernard Law Montgomery during World War II. Eisenhower was promoted to lieutenant colonel (in a non-brevet status) in 1936 after sixteen years as a major. He also learned to fly, although he was never rated as a military pilot. He made a solo flight over the Philippines in 1937.
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 in San Antonio, Texas. He was promoted to brigadier general on October 3, 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 that 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 landings 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 Western Front north of the Alps.
As recognition of his senior position in the Allied command, on December 20, 1944, he was promoted to General of the Army equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal in most European armies. In this and the previous high commands he held, Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders. He dealt skillfully with difficult subordinates such as Omar Bradley and Patton, and 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 Marshal Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Stalin, much to the chagrin of the British High Command who disliked being bypassed. During the advance towards Berlin, he was notified by General Bradley that Allied forces would suffer an estimated 100,000 casualties before taking the city. The Soviet Army sustained 80,000 casualties during the fighting in and around Berlin, the last large number of casualties suffered in the war against Nazism.
It was never certain that Operation Overlord would succeed. The seriousness surrounding the entire decision, including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion, might be summarized by a second shorter speech that Eisenhower wrote in advance, in case he needed it. 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:
1948 also was the year that Eisenhower's memoir, Crusade in Europe, was published. It is widely regarded as one of the finest U.S. military memoirs.
Not long after his return in 1952, 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-inteventionists Senator Robert Taft. (Eisenhower had been courted by both parties in 1948 and had declined to run then.) 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" and was also noted for the simple but effective phrase "I Like Ike." 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, whose daughter later married Eisenhower's grandson David, defeated Democrats Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman in a landslide, marking the first Republican return to the White House in 20 years. 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 not to have sought prior elected office were Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, William Taft, and Herbert Hoover.)
Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower preached a doctrine of dynamic conservatism. 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 ten million workers. His cabinet, consisting of several corporate executives and one labor leader, was dubbed by one journalist, "Eight millionaires and a plumber.
One of Eisenhower's enduring achievements was championing and signing the bill that authorized the Interstate Highway System in 1956. He justified the project through the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 as essential to American security during the Cold War. It was believed that large cities would be targets in a possible future war, and the highways were designed to evacuate them and allow the military to move in.
Eisenhower's goal to create improved highways was influenced by his involvement in the U.S. Army's 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy. He was assigned as an observer for the mission, which involved sending a convoy of U.S. Army vehicles coast to coast. His subsequent experience with German autobahns during World War II convinced him of the benefits of an Interstate Highway System. Noticing the improved ability to move logistics throughout the country, he thought an Interstate Highway System in the U.S. would not only be beneficial for military operations, but be the building block for continued economic growth.
In addition, Eisenhower explored the option of supporting the French colonial forces in Vietnam who were fighting an independence insurrection there. However, Chief of Staff Matthew Ridgway dissuaded the President from intervening by presenting a comprehensive estimate of the massive military deployment that would be necessary.
In 1961, Eisenhower became the first U.S. president to be "constitutionally forced" from office, having served the maximum two terms allowed by the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment was ratified in 1951, during Harry S. Truman's term, but it stipulated that Truman would not be affected by the amendment.
Eisenhower was also the first outgoing President to come under the protection of the Former Presidents Act (two then living former Presidents, Herbert Hoover and Harry S. Truman, left office before 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. However, he only campaigned for Nixon in the campaign's final days and even did 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, he replied, "If you give me a week, I might think of one." Kennedy's campaign used the quote in one of its campaign commercials. Nixon lost narrowly to Kennedy.
On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised Address to the Nation 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."
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's picture was on the dollar coin from 1971 to 1978. 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. As part of the Presidential $1 Coin Program, Eisenhower will be featured on a gold-colored dollar coin in 2015.
Eisenhower College was a small, liberal arts college chartered in Seneca Falls, New York in 1965, with classes beginning in 1968. Financial problems forced the school to fall under the management of the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1979. Its last class graduated in 1982.
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.
On May 7, 2002, the Old Executive Office Building was officially renamed the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This building is part of the White House Complex, west of the West Wing. It currently houses a number of executive offices, including ones for the Vice President and his or her spouse.
A county park in East Meadow, New York (Long Island) is named in his honor. In addition, Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma near his birthplace of Denison is named in his honor; his actual birthplace is currently operated by the State of Texas as Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site.
A tree overhanging the 17th hole that always gave him trouble at Augusta National, where he was a member, is named in his honor.
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