“I have always loved my country. I want to go. God take me” were the words of one of the greatest generals and presidents in United States history, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the commander of the allied troops during World War II and the leader of NATO during the late 1940’s. During his military campaign he devised many successful battle strategies ensuring the United States world power status in North Africa, Normandy and along the German boarder. As a president he developed America’s nuclear arsenal, began the Interstate highway system, ended the Korean War, and contained communism throughout the world, gaining strong support as a general and a president.
Dwight D. Eisenhower originated from a family of Swiss descent. He was born October 14, 1890 in Denison Texas, however soon thereafter moved to Abilene Kansas, due to his fathers job at a local creamery. Coming from a low-income family, Eisenhower learned the virtue of hard work as a child. During high school he was more interested in athletics than academics, graduating sixty-first out of 165. After his high school career he attended WestPoint. He was stationed in Texas as a second lieutenant and graduated in 1915 at the bottom half of his class. Eisenhower married Mamie Doud in 1916, whom he met at WestPoint. The couple had two sons, one of which died as an infant, the other following the footsteps of his father.
During WWI Eisenhower served as a tank instructor, continuing his slow march towards the top of military rankings. Between the years of 1922 and 1924, Eisenhower was awakened by a special interest for military strategy. Through connections with General Fox Connor, Eisenhower attended the well respected Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Eisenhower graduated number one in his class of 275 and continued studying military strategy by graduating from the Army War College in 1929 and the Army Industrial College in 1932. Eyeing his military instinct, the War Department quickly recruited him for special opportunities. One of the many opportunities Eisenhower received was becoming the deputy to the assistant secretary of war in 1929. In 1933 he was promoted to principle aid to the army chief of staff, General Douglas McArthur. Under McArthur’s command, Eisenhower delegated the Philippine president and legislators on defense policy in 1935, showing that he was capable of handling difficult foreign affairs. He began to consult foreign affairs internationally after the Pearl Harbor incident, when he was appointed to the planning division of the War Department in December 1941. His military brilliance led to another promotion in 1943, advancing to supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe. Eisenhower wanted to begin the invasion of Europe in the spring of 1943 but the British felt that it was soon and instead began the North Africa campaign. In his first invasion he landed U.S. and British troops on the shores of Algeria and Morocco, which was a success. Multiple reasons were necessary for controlling North Africa, however, the goal was to capture the German General Erwin Rummel. Rummel’s counterattack in February of 1943 was Eisenhower’s first battle of his military career. Eisenhower’s strategic planning led to a victory by May, forcing the Germans out of North Africa, which set the ground for a large-scale invasion of Europe. In July 1943 Eisenhower continued his military supremacy into Italy, and after a strenuous month was able to secure the island if Sicily. After this key victory he was promoted to four-star general, and led the largest sea- to land invasion in history, known as D-Day. Due to this key victory Eisenhower was able to capture Normandy and the northern French coast, allied troops were able to begin the invasion through Europe.
In 1945, after defeating the Axis Powers he stayed in Europe, and was treated as a hero. He stayed in Europe until 1948, as the Allied forces demobilized from 8 million troops too less than a million.
After the war the Soviets imposed communist governments and were threatening Western Europe. In order to control the situation, the United States, Canada, and ten European countries formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a peace enforcing alliance. In 1950 Eisenhower was named chief coordinator of the NATO forces. He rapidly built a NATO army, in case it needed to stop Communist advancement into Western Europe. He was not extremely successful in building a NATO army because the lack of support due to the Korean War. During this time he was asked multiple times by both parties to run for president, and in 1952 he stated that he was clearly an avid republican. He refused to discuss presidential activity until he completed his NATO term successfully.
When he returned to the United States, he was admired by both parties for his leadership skills and bringing people together, making him a legitimate president candidate for either of the two parties. In 1948 the democrats desperately tried to convince Eisenhower to run for president; however, the offer was rejected. Republicans realized that Eisenhower was a golden opportunity to remove the democrats from the White House, who had dominated the last 5 terms. Eisenhower did not want to become president of the United States and only did so because he strongly disagreed with Taft ideas of domestic policy positions. When Eisenhower returned from France, both he and Taft were the primary candidates. Eisenhower easily won the majority of state primary elections; however, it seemed that Taft would receive the bulk of the delegates. During a convention it seemed that 35 of California’s 70 delegates would go to Taft, but was helped by the junior senator Richard M. Nixon. Due to his achievements in ensuring Eisenhower’s presidency, Nixon became a candidate for the vice president position. After Eisenhower became definite candidate, President Truman decided not to run for re-election. The democrats decided to name Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois to run against Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s disagreement towards communism led him to believe that the Democratic Party was allowing communists to secure spots in government organizations. He used communism in his speeches and told the public that he would clean up Washington and ensured attention would be focused on Korea. Many people against the war felt that this was a statement saying that he would abandon the war, but most felt this was the beginning of an offensive against communist China. He also stated that he would disperse of Truman’s doctrine of containment and liberate the countries under communist rule using offensive political strategies.
During the election period Eisenhower used the slogan “ I like Ike”, referring to his childhood name. In 1952 he won the election by receiving 34 million votes to Stevenson’s 27million votes, and captured 39 of the 48 states. He showed great power in the south taking Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. Due to his extreme popularity the Republican Party won both houses of Congress, ensuring total domination, which had been dormant for 20 years.
When Eisenhower took office in January 1953 not a single Republican member of the Eighty-third Congress had served under a Republican president. Eisenhower realized that it was crucial to gain support and strong links from Capitol Hill. He believed in maintaining a free, healthy economy to form a foundation for a politically, socially, and especially militarily powerful America. Most of his advisors were from upper levels of business management, which he felt would strengthen the economy. Eisenhower realized that the country had gone through serious unrest the past thirty years and intended to heal the nations’ gashing wounds and restore the country. His goal was to strengthen the economy without large amounts of government funding. Another aspect of his presidency was to lower taxes, balance the budget, and reduce the role of the federal government. The hardest promise for Eisenhower to fulfill that year was cutting taxes because the money was essential for funding the war in Korea. In 1954 he kept his promise and reduced the taxes despite Democratic pleas for an equal reduction. Eisenhower balanced the budget in 1956, managing to balance three of the eight budgets. He strongly believed in reducing the role of the federal government, dramatically restricting its power and size. Many federal contracts were cancelled such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which he deemed useless. Relieving the executive branch of labor relations, strikes were only handled by the National Labor Relations Board. During the recession in 1954, many people wanted Eisenhower to construct housing programs and improve unemployment plans. He resolved the problem by cutting taxes and believed that the hard working American people would reverse the recession naturally without government intervention. Another idea that Eisenhower strongly supported large-scale agricultural policies, even though small farmers disagreed. His plan changed stubborn price supports and called for a sliding scale, which soon opened agriculture to an open market. Realizing that the new law harshly affected the small farmers, he opened a soil bank, which paid farmers for preserving land.
Eisenhower was determined to isolate natural resource and power development production. He signed the submerged lands bill in 1953, giving power of oil resources to the states instead of the federal government. Power development was also supported, proposing the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1954, and the building of Hell’s Canyon alongside the Snake River. Eisenhower started many projects during his presidency; however, his greatest was the federal highway system passed in 1956. The project built 42,000 miles of roads linking major cities through interstates. The state and federal governments were equally involved in the vigorous project, but the federal government paid for 90 % of the cost.
During his first term Eisenhower expanded many areas of debate. In 1954 he expanded the Social Security, which is the largest in history. He also increased the minimum wage from 75 to 90 cents in 1956, later increased by Congress to 1 dollar. In 1956, Eisenhower called for the expansionism of schools by using federal grants. During this period of his presidency he was very involved in domestic changes, which the weak country desperately needed. These decisions strengthened internal affairs and laid a foundation for future American economic success.
Eisenhower’s true passion was in foreign defense policy. During his two terms he worked effectively to distinguish communism and freedom, and how they contradicted each other. Working with his secretary of state John Foster Dulles, he was able to mold a successful foreign policy campaign. Even though he was a legendary war hero, Eisenhower restrained from war and was determined to spread peace throughout the world. His goals were to control communism in Russia and to spread American ideas. After Eisenhower’s inauguration it was clear that he wanted to end the Korean War. He threatened the country that he would use nuclear power, which were placed in Okinawa, unless the Chinese moved to their prewar boundaries. Eisenhower gave South Korea and China 90 days to resolve the problem; otherwise he United States would intervene. A peace agreement was signed on July 27. Eisenhower figured that is was necessary to continue his influence in Europe, thus preventing the spread of communist ideas. The unifying process was only partly successful because countries feared that Germany would have another uprising. Even though this attempt was not a complete success Eisenhower was able to add West Germany to the NATO organization. As the Cold War continued between the United States and Russia, Eisenhower predicted that the tension between the two superpowers could become more cooperative. He strongly encouraged the removal of Russian presence in Eastern Europe, which did not occur due to political disagreements.
During all these events of supporting peace, Eisenhower’s peace pursuing ideas were threatened in Vietnam and the Formosa straight. The French needed help in Northern Vietnam, and received America’s aid. Realizing that nuclear weapons were a possible option to ensure peace, Eisenhower used threats to defend Formosa from the Chinese. When the Chinese realized that nuclear weapons would diminish the Asian empire, they rapidly contrived a treaty with the United States in 1955. Eisenhower realized that the more money the country spent on military activity, and greater the American economy would suffer. All of the domestic issues were of great importance but he was determined to restore peace throughout the world. He assured himself that the United States would not participate in any ground wars, which would continue to drain the economy and morals of the American people. Eisenhower made sure that this would hold true by cutting the military down by 25% in 1956, and taking funds away from the army and navy.
In September of 1954 Eisenhower had a moderate heart attack from which he recovered rapidly. Due to this sudden setback he was uncertain if he should run another term for president. Although he was hesitant, he realized that he could easily regain his position due to his vast popularity. He was cleared by doctors, and on February 25 1956 once again ran for president. During his candidacy he ran under the ambitions of peace and prosperity, something he had given the country during his first term. His opponent Adlai Stevenson had an extremely difficult time finding a negative aspect of Eisenhower’s past term since he had been an excellent president and a national hero. The only negative problem Eisenhower had was his health, which was quickly resolved due to his rapid recovery. During his campaign he had to deal with two difficult foreign affairs, the attack on Egypt by allied troops to gain control of the Suez Canal, and the Hungarian rebellion against Russia. Both problems were rejected by the United States and Eisenhower did not take military action, proving he held to his ideas of international peace.
Eisenhower was pushed into the Vietnam War by secretary of state John Foster Dulles, and Vice President Nixon. In1954 he aided South Vietnam under the Southeast Asia Treaty, providing economic aid. Eisenhower encouraged the public that the war was a stand against communism in Southeast Asia, and that if the problem was not resolved that communism would conquer neighboring Asian countries. He used the image of “ You have a row of domino set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.”
During the Vietnam War Eisenhower ignored the Soviet Union and communism, realizing that the system would soon collapse and that the country would choose its own fate. Eisenhower’s primary target was peace with Russia, deferring most funding towards rockets and atomic weapons, however in 1957, he was embarrassed by the Sputnik 1, and how far Russian rocketry had developed. Eisenhower was the first president to involve the United States in Middle Eastern politics. He supported the invasion of the Egypt and the Suez Canal. During his presidency he aided many countries in Asia and Africa try to gain independence from their superpowers.
Eisenhower’s presidency during his second term was not as successful as his first. His greatest disappointment came in 1960 at a Big Four Summit meeting. Before the meeting the Russians shot down an American spy plane and demanded an apology, however, Eisenhower refused to apologize to the Russians. This incident ended peace talks for multiple years between the Russians and Americans. Eisenhower faced many other problems during his second term such as the Soviets over Berlin, and the Chinese over Taiwan.
In 1960 he ran gain for president and lost to John F. Kennedy, which was a crushing blow to his political esteem. Eisenhower’s greatest attribute was managing crises, many of which almost lead to nuclear war. Eisenhower was always the middle ground and disagreed with extremists from the left and right. He was one if the greatest generals to lead America into battle and was also a well-respected political leader. Through difficult times he was able to emerge as a strong president and an excellent leader for the American people.