34th President of the United States: Dwight Eisenhower (1953-61)
Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower growing up could probably never have guess the important part he would play both as a military leader during World War II and as Commander-in-Chief, President of the United States.
Ike was born in Denison, Texas in 1890 and later would move as a boy to the small farm town of Abilene, Kansas. Although his father had been college educated, David Eisenhower had difficulties in obtaining employment and the family was relatively poor.
He did have a desire to join the military and sought out an appointment to West Point which he received. At West Point he was fairly well liked but not a spectacular student graduating roughly at the lower end of the upper third of his class.
Following graduation, he was stationed in San Antonio, Texas where he met and married Mamie Doud in July 1916. While at an assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland he became acquainted with George Patton with whom he wrote article advocating better use of tank warfare methods which was look upon with disfavor by the military command.
While on assignment in the Panama Canal Zone under the command of General Fox Conner that his career would begin to move forward. Conner was impressed with Eisenhower an obtained for him an appointment to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth where Ike would excel and graduate first in his class.
He quickly moved into important assignments serving as an aide to General John Pershing and the to General Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower would remain MacArthur’s aide for seven year accompanying him to the Philippines to help train the Philippine Army.
World War II Hero
War broke out in Europe in September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany and Russia.. Ike became involved in training and strategic planning on a grand scale.
Eisenhower commanded Allied troops that invaded North Africa in November 1942. In July 1943 he directed the invasions of Sicily and Italy. In June 1944, he was the supreme commander in Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France. Eisenhower had become a four-star general in charge of one of the greatest military operations in history.
He was hailed as the hero of the war but was not above all criticisms for his handling of occupied Germany and was most criticized for permitting the Soviets to liberate Berlin. This action however was the agreed upon battle plan.
He did disagree with the proposed decision to use atomic weapons which had been under discussion at the Potsdam Conference of 1945 feeling that Japan was on the verge of surrender and that using such weapons against largely on civilian populations would harm the image of the United States.
President of Columbia University
Eisenhower would become President of Columbia University which was a mistake for both him and the institution. He was a military strategist and an academic environment must allow for the exploration of ideas and alternatives.
It probably benefited both Ike and Columbia when he took a leave of absence in December 1950 to become Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces until early 1952.
Campaign and Election 1952
In 1948, President Harry Truman gained an unexpected victory in the Presidential elections. Several things appeared to be in favor of a Republican win in 1952 including Truman’s handling of the Korean conflict and dismissal of the very popular general Douglas MacArthur and that after twenty years of ownership of the White House by Democrats it might be time for a change.
The question was who would be the Republican candidate for president. Senator Robert Taft was popular and politically powerful. The drawback to Taft was his isolationist stance which was no longer applicable to America’s new global power status. A campaign to draft Eisenhower developed and he was nominated and elected president defeating Adali Stevenson..
Eisenhower was unopposed for the nomination in 1956. The general election was a rematch of 1952 with similar results at the ballot box to those of 1952.
Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Spies, bombs, and Communism dominated his first term. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for leaking atomic secrets. The first aerial test of the hydrogen bomb took place over Bikini Atoll. Senator Joe McCarthy dominated in hearings to search out Communists in American life.
The Civil Rights movement began to pickup speed with increased occurrences of violence. U-2 spying on Russia was disclosed to the American people. The space race began with the shock that Russia’s launch of the Sputnik put them in the lead. Alaska and Hawaii become states.