Bringing to the Presidency
his prestige as commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during
World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower obtained a truce in Korea and worked
incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions of the Cold War. He
pursued the moderate policies of "Modern Republicanism," pointing out as he
left office, "America is today the strongest, most influential, and most
productive nation in the world."
Born in Texas in 1890, brought up in
Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower was the third of seven sons. He excelled in sports
in high school, and received an appointment to West Point. Stationed in Texas
as a second lieutenant, 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 1942; on D-Day, 1944, he was Supreme Commander of the troops invading
After the war, he became President of Columbia University,
then took leave to assume supreme command over the new NATO forces being
assembled in 1951. Republican emissaries to his headquarters near Paris
persuaded him to run for President in 1952.
"I like Ike" was an
irresistible slogan; Eisenhower won a sweeping victory.
from military strength, he tried to reduce the strains of the Cold War. In
1953, the signing of a truce brought an armed peace along the border of South
Korea. The death of Stalin the same year caused shifts in relations with
New Russian leaders consented to a peace treaty neutralizing
Austria. Meanwhile, both Russia and the United States had developed hydrogen
bombs. With the threat of such destructive force hanging over the world,
Eisenhower, with the leaders of the British, French, and Russian governments,
met at Geneva in July 1955.
The President proposed that the United
States and Russia exchange blueprints of each other's military establishments
and "provide within our countries facilities for aerial photography to the
other country." The Russians greeted the proposal with silence, but were so
cordial throughout the meetings that tensions relaxed.
September 1955, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Denver, Colorado. After
seven weeks he left the hospital, and in February 1956 doctors reported his
recovery. In November he was elected for his second term.
policy the President pursued a middle course, continuing most of the New Deal
and Fair Deal programs, emphasizing a balanced budget. As desegregation of
schools began, he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assure compliance
with the orders of a Federal court; he also ordered the complete desegregation
of the Armed Forces. "There must be no second class citizens in this country,"
Eisenhower concentrated on maintaining world peace. He
watched with pleasure the development of his "atoms for peace" program--the
loan of American uranium to "have not" nations for peaceful purposes.
Before he left office in January 1961, for his farm in Gettysburg, he urged the
necessity of maintaining an adequate military strength, but cautioned that
vast, long-continued military expenditures could breed potential dangers to 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.
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