Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890–March 28, 1969), American soldier and politician, was the 34th President of the United States (1953–1961) and supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, with the rank of General of the Army.
Early life and family
Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, and their only child born in Texas. The Eisenhower family was of German descent, but had lived in America since the 18th century. The family moved back 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 (1917–1921), 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's son, David Eisenhower, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.
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
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.
Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II
In June 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 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 Sea basin to include the British 8th Army, commanded by General Bernard Montgomery. The 8th Army had advanced across the Western Desert from the east and was ready for the start of 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 on June 6 1944, the invasion of southern France took place, control for 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 forces1, and through his command of ETOUSA, administrative command of all US 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 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 Marshal Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Stalin. Eisenhower 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.
It was never a certainty that Overlord would succeed. The tenuousness surrounding the entire decision including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion might be summarized by a short speech that Eisenhower himself wrote, in advance, in case he might need it. In it, he took full responsibility for catastrophic failure, should that be the final result.
Thankfully, on D-Day, the BBC broadcast a brief speech by Eisenhower about the successful landings. The never-used second speech was found much later, in a shirt pocket, by an aide. It read: “Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
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. He made the controversial decision to reclassify German prisoners of war or POWs in U.S. custody as Disarmed Enemy Forces or DEFs. As DEFs, they could be compelled to serve as unpaid conscript labor. An unknown number may have died in custody as a consequence of malnutrition, exposure to the elements, and lack of medical care.
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.
General of the Army Eisenhower in 1947
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
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.
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, although he later confided to a reporter from the New York Herald-Tribune that he had only accepted the nomination because he had not wanted four more years of the Truman administration, and he would not have done so if he had known who the eventual Democratic nominee would be. 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
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. In his final year as president, anti-Communism also became an issue in the newly independent but chaotic Republic of the Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). After the Soviet Union and KGB intervened in favor of popularly elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the U.S. and CIA gave weapons and covert support to pro-Western President, and CIA asset Joseph Kasavubu and his subordinate, Colonel Joseph Mobutu. The initial struggle came to a close in December 1960, after Kasavbu and Mobutu overthrew Lumumba and proceeded to turn the country (later known as Zaire) into an autocracy which was unstable long after the end of Eisenhower's term. Mobutu assassinated Lumumba shortly after his overthrow, and some allege that CIA personnel collaborating with Mobutu had been given executive orders from Eisenhower to carry out such a task; this has never been confirmed.
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 overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and restored Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power as an absolute autocrat.
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.
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 the 1954 Senate and House elections, 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 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. Later, it was revealed that Eisenhower worked behind the scenes to bring Joe McCarthy down.
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 retained his popularity throughout his presidency. In 1956 he was re-elected by an even wider margin than in 1952,where he employed John Arthur Garber Sr's Advertising portfolio for his re-election, 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.
Of his appointments to the US Supreme Court, Eisenhower is purported to have said that his September 1953 appointment of California Gov. Earl Warren to Chief Justice of the United States was "the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made". Some sources place this act on Eisenhower's own list of "My Top Five Lifetime Mistakes". Eisenhower disagreed vigorously with several of the Chief Justice's decisions. Warren's appointment was perhaps in appreciation of his swinging his California delegates to support "Ike" at a crucial point of the 1952 Republican National Convention.
In his Farewell speech to the nation, Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold war and role of the US 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...A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction."
Earlier in his remarks he had 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."
Supreme Court appointments
Eisenhower appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
White House staff and advisors
Retirement, death, and legacy
On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised speech from the Oval Office. Three days later, when he handed over the presidency to John F. Kennedy, the youngest elected president at 43, he was the oldest president to serve at 70 years and 98 days – a record since broken by another Republican, Ronald Reagan, in his first year in office. As of 2005, Reagan, Eisenhower, and Bill Clinton are the only three presidents (of ten) to serve two full terms since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951.
Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg farm is a National Historic Site  (http://www.nps.gov/eise/).
Due to the legality of holding a military rank while in a civilian office, Dwight 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 was reactivated and Eisenhower was again commissioned a five star general in the United States Army. With the exception of George Washington, who was appointed a Lieutenant General after serving as President, Dwight Eisenhower is the only United States President with military service to reenter the United States armed forces after leaving the office of President.
Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969 at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C., after a long illness. His state funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on March 31, which President Richard Nixon, former president Lyndon Johnson, and foreign dignitaries, led by French President General Charles de Gaulle, who was making his first visit to the United States since taking part in the funeral of JFK to honor a World War II comrade, and Belgium's King Baudouin, attended, was part of a full military funeral in Washington that lasted three days, which Eisenhower approved himself three years earlier. After the services in Washington, Eisenhower's body was taken by train to his hometown of Abilene, Kansas, where, after another full military funeral there on April 2, which Nixon and Johnson also attended, he was buried. He lies alongside his wife and their first child, who died in childhood, in a small chapel called the Place of Meditation, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, located in Abilene, Kansas.
Eisenhower's portrait was on the dollar coin from 1971 to 1978.
Tom Selleck played Eisenhower in the 2004 television movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day which depicts the 90 days leading up to the D-Day Invasion.
- 1 As V-E Day came, Allied forces in Western Europe [not including Italy] consisted of 4 ½ million men, including 9 armies (5 of them American—one of which, the Fifteenth, saw action only at the last), 23 corps, 91 divisions (61 of them American), 6 tactical air commands (4 American), and 2 strategic air forces (1 American). The Allies had 28,000 combat aircraft, of which 14,845 were American, and they had brought into Western Europe more than 970,000 vehicles and 18 million tons of supplies. At the same time they were achieving final victory in Italy with 18 divisions (7 of them American).  (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/AMH/AMH-22.htm)