Who is Dwight D. Eisenhower?
Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower (/ˈaɪzənhaʊ.ər/ EYE-zən-how-ər; born David Dwight Eisenhower; October 14, 1890 – March 28, 1969) was an American military officer and statesman who served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. During World War II, he served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe and achieved the five-star rank as General of the Army. Eisenhower planned and supervised two of the most consequential military campaigns of World War II: Operation Torch in the North Africa campaign in 1942–1943 and the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.
Eisenhower was born into a large family of mostly Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry in Denison, Texas, and raised in Abilene, Kansas. His family had a strong religious background, and his mother became a Jehovah’s Witness. Eisenhower, however, belonged to no organized church until 1952. He graduated from West Point in 1915 and later married Mamie Doud, with whom he had two sons. During World War I, he was denied a request to serve in Europe and instead commanded a unit that trained tank crews. Following the war, he served under various generals and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1941. After the United States entered World War II, Eisenhower oversaw the invasions of North Africa and Sicily before supervising the invasions of France and Germany. After the war ended in Europe, he served as Military Governor of the American-occupied zone of Germany (1945), Army Chief of Staff (1945–1948), president of Columbia University (1948–1953), and as the first Supreme Commander of NATO (1951–1952).
In 1952, Eisenhower entered the presidential race as a Republican to block the isolationist foreign policies of Senator Robert A. Taft, who opposed NATO and wanted no foreign entanglements. Eisenhower won that election and the 1956 election in landslides, both times defeating Adlai Stevenson II. Eisenhower’s main goals in office were to contain the spread of communism and reduce federal deficits. In 1953, he considered using nuclear weapons to end the Korean War and may have threatened China with nuclear attack if an armistice was not reached quickly. China did agree and an armistice resulted, which remains in effect. His New Look policy of nuclear deterrence prioritized “inexpensive” nuclear weapons while reducing funding for expensive Army divisions. He continued Harry S. Truman‘s policy of recognizing Taiwan as the legitimate government of China, and he won congressional approval of the Formosa Resolution. His administration provided major aid to help the French fight off Vietnamese Communists in the First Indochina War. After the French left, he gave strong financial support to the new state of South Vietnam. He supported regime-changing military coups in Iran and Guatemala orchestrated by his own administration. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, he condemned the Israeli, British, and French invasion of Egypt, and he forced them to withdraw. He also condemned the Soviet invasion during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 but took no action. He deployed 15,000 soldiers during the 1958 Lebanon crisis. Near the end of his term, a summit meeting with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was cancelled when a U.S. spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Eisenhower approved the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was left to John F. Kennedy to carry out.
On the domestic front, Eisenhower governed as a moderate conservative who continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security. He covertly opposed Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking executive privilege. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and sent Army troops to enforce federal court orders which integrated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. His administration undertook the development and construction of the Interstate Highway System, which remains the largest construction of roadways in American history. In 1957, following the Soviet launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower led the American response which included the creation of NASA and the establishment of a stronger, science-based education via the National Defense Education Act. Following the establishment of NASA, the Soviet Union began to reinforce their own space program, escalating the Space Race. His two terms saw unprecedented economic prosperity except for a minor recession in 1958. In his farewell address to the nation, he expressed his concerns about the dangers of massive military spending, particularly deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers, which he dubbed “the military–industrial complex“. Historical evaluations of his presidency place him among the upper tier of American presidents.
“Ike” is a former U.S. President whose place in history is sometimes overlooked. Not only did he help to lead the Allies during the Second World War, his Presidency oversaw immense economic growth within the United States, major progress in racial integration, and his ominous warning about the “military industrial complex” – as he left office – is still referred to often in popular culture in the present.
He lived long enough to produce a lot of post-presidency interview content. You can find a lot of it on Youtube and other sites and I recommend searching it out. Below I have embedded a fascinating phone call between former President John F. Kennedy and former President Eisenhower, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.