Dwight D Eisenhower | Presidency, WW2, Cold War & Death

Summary

President Dwight D Eisenhower, Ike. You know him as an icon of the cold warrior, facing off against Khrushchev in a chess match using the world as a board. And while this is a little overdramatic, Dwight D Eisenhower was a critical president, spending eight years in office, laying down the ways the US would fight the Cold War. His administration developed or continued a US foreign policy whose effects still exist. 

Dwight D Eisenhower Facts

Dwight D Eisenhower
Dwight D Eisenhower 34th President of the United States of America

Born: October 14, 1890, Denison, Texas, U.S

Death: March 28, 1969, Washington, D.C., U.S. (aged 78)

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Parents: Ida Stover Eisenhower > David Jacob Eisenhower

Wife: Mamie Doud ​

Childrens: Doud > John

Dwight D Eisenhower Early Life

Dwight D Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, on October 14, 1890. Soon after his birth, the Eisenhower family moved to Kansas, where he grew up. After high school and a few years working, Dwight D Eisenhower went to West Point, the college where the US military trains its future officer corps. Upon graduation in 1915, he sought overseas duty but was repeatedly denied. Even after America’s eventual entry into the First World War, Dwight D Eisenhower saw no combat and spent the war primarily training tank crews in the United States.

He almost went to the front, but the Armistice was signed right after he and his men received orders to go to France. Despite this lack of action, he received a Distinguished Service Medal, and the army took notice of his excellent training and organizational skills. During the interwar period, Eisenhower became an expert on using tanks, a new technology in evolving military strategy.

He anticipated it would feature heavily in the next war, whatever that might be. His interwar service consisted of postings where he gained military and command knowledge, including time in the Panama Canal Zone and as XO to the Secretary of War. He even served under General Magalomaniac MacArthur, both in Washington, where he was involved in clearing the 1932 Bonus Marchers and then in the Philippians, training the Filipino military. To say he lost no love between the two men would be an understatement, by the way.

Second World War

World War 2

However, it was during the Second World War when Eisenhower came into the limelight. His first significant posting after the US entry to the war was as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in North Africa. A job he did so well that he eventually became the supreme commander of the whole allied force in the European theatre, which he served until the end of the war and what made him successful?

He could play politics. He led a multinational coalition, each of which had its own goals and aims and was led by strong-willed and opinionated men. He had to fight the Germans and balance men like George Patton, Bernard Montgomery, Winston Churchill, Charles DeGaulle and George Marshall. No small task. His service as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe made General Eisenhower a household name. He could have run for President then, but he wasn’t interested in the job.

However, a lot of Americans wanted Eisenhower as President. An unprecedented, grassroots’ Draft Eisenhower’ movement pressured him to run. And this was a bipartisan effort. Honestly, at this point in American politics, moderate Republicans and New Deal Democrats were so similar in their positions they could have run for either party’s nomination and more or less held the same places.

In 1947 Harry Truman, the sitting President you’ll remember, offered to be Eisenhower’s running mate for the 1948 election. Some Democrats, who didn’t like Truman, floated the idea of drafting Eisenhower for the Democratic nomination. But again, he did not show an interest. However, things took a turn in 1951. In a period known as the Winter of Discontent, America was in a rough position. The Korean War was a stalemate, and Truman announced, amid growing unpopularity, that he would not run for another term. That year the Draft Eisenhower movement reemerged in BOTH political parties.

Senator Paul Douglas even suggested both parties nominate Eisenhower with their running mates. However, the most invested in an Eisenhower presidency was Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Lodge entered Eisenhower in the New Hampshire primary ballot for the Republican party without his permission. Upon learning he was running for the Republican nomination, Eisenhower said he was flattered but didn’t think the Draft Eisenhower movement was as significant as Lodge thought. That is until a rally for him in Madison Square Garden brought over 25,000 people, nearly double the venue’s capacity.

Despite all this, Eisenhower didn’t campaign for the Republican nomination. He would commit most to accepting the nomination if he got it. Eisenhower then won the New Hampshire primary and smoothly sailed to the Republican nomination. This general election was not close. The Democrats nominated Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson. He ran against the person both parties tried to set and rode on the coattails of Truman, who was very unpopular, so well, yeah, here’s the electoral map.

Presidency

In 1956, where Stevenson lost even worse. In the 1956 election, the Democrats ran the country’s first negative television campaign ads, but because Dwight D Eisenhower was so popular, they had to focus on his running mate Richard Nixon. By the way, Dwight D Eisenhower didn’t like Nixon much and tried to get him off the 1956 ticket for VP. But don’t worry Tricky Dick, we’ll get to you. As a president, Dwight D Eisenhower did act like a military commander.

Compared to most other presidents, he was much more willing to delegate tasks one might think he’d want input on. For example, he trusted filling cabinet positions and left dealing with the Republican party to Nixon. This style of running the country was a bit of a gamble. Famously, President Ulysses S Grant ran his Whitehouse like this and delegated himself into endless scandals and a healthy, ruinous presidency. However, it seemed to work out as Eisenhower enjoyed remarkably high approval ratings throughout his presidency. 

Cold War

Cold War

Now, you probably know Dwight D Eisenhower as THE cold warrior president. He distinguished himself from factions of the Republican party by being explicitly against isolationism. The international order following the Second World War was young, and the Cold War was already part of nearly all international diplomacy. Eisenhower had two goals: He wanted to continue Truman’s work to contain and roll back Soviet influence, and he wanted to do so without provoking a nuclear war. 

In 1953, Dwight D Eisenhower outlined his national security policy called ‘New Look‘. The idea behind it was to use nuclear weapons as a sort of political show of force. The United States could deter security threats without needing a vast military budget by having a massive stockpile of doomsday weapons. As part of this plan, each military branch would get access to nuclear weapons. Not you, Coast Guard.

This involved the development of all kinds of different delivery systems, including atomic artillery, nuclear-tipped missiles, atomic land mines, and even your everyday run-of-the-mill nuclear bomb dropped from purpose-built aircraft. During the Eisenhower years, the US and USSR each built nuclear stockpiles capable of sterilizing the entire planet, and since he never used them I guess they achieved a deterrent.

One of Eisenhower’s campaign promises was ending the Korean Peninsula stalemate and Dwight D Eisenhower did that, using the direct approach by at least developing a plan to reduce the region to cinders in nuclear fire. Irrespective of how you feel about threatening to kill millions, he did force China and North Korea to give significant concessions on the return of Prisoners of War, which had stalled peace talks.

Well, that and Stalin’s convenient death allowed China and North Korea to take a softer line. Shoring up the defense after the war, the US signed a defensive treaty with South Korea so the US would have a permanent military presence on the peninsula. As part of his plan to roll back Soviet influence, he relied on covert operations conducted by the CIA rather than military engagements. Many of these missions either have been or will be videos in and of themselves on this channel. With Dwight D Eisenhower’s approval, the CIA committed coups of democratically elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala.

These leaders had the gall to nationalize their oil assets or propose land reform in a country where a US corporation owned huge…tracts of land. This method of fighting the cold war would most certainly set the standard for handling decolonization movements and even moderate social democratic election victories in developing nations.

Europe

Europe Flag

In Europe, Eisenhower’s main interests were growing powerful strategic allies in Western Europe, re-establishing the sovereignty of Austria, and blasting eastern Europe with anti-communist propaganda. Oh, and he normalized relations with Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco, eager to take advantage of Spain’s key strategic position and ignoring Franco’s past friendships with the Fascist dictators that Ike had worked so hard to defeat in the first place. The policy of containment and rollback came to a significant test when indigenous forces fought against colonial occupation by France in Vietnam.

The white house wanted to intervene to assist the French but was blocked by Congress, contributing to the significant French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. American diplomats were, however, able to talk the Soviets and Chinese into a ceasefire, splitting Vietnam into North and South. South Vietnam would be an anti-communist state and receive a lot of aid from the United States. Enough that South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem refused an election to allow reunification. Dwight D Eisenhower also used this foothold to build a Southeast Asian defense pact against communist influence, even signing a defense treaty with Taiwan. 

Middle East

Another region of importance to Washington in the Dwight D Eisenhower years was the Middle East. The US tried to build relationships with the area’s nations as colonial powers began to lose their grip on the region. He hoped he could step in to counter Soviet influence in the power vacuum they created as Empires like Britain and France withdrew. At the same time, Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt, overthrowing the British colonial government.

This escalated when Nasser tried to nationalize the Suez Canal in a short military engagement with the UK, France, and Israel, known as the Suez Crisis. The US then went to the diplomatic defense of the Egyptians and offered aid to Nasser’s Egypt. Still, Nasser’s Arab nationalism caused friction with Israel and made this a short-term period of friendliness. After the crisis, the influence of the old colonial powers of France and Britain was out, and America was in. Eisenhower also had to deal with the fallout of the partition of India.

The British had lost control of the Indian subcontinent, and again Dwight D Eisenhower believed the US needed to gain influence in the region before the Soviets could arrive. The US became quick allies with Pakistan, soring their relations with India. India then started to drift closer into Soviet orbit. To counter this, the Eisenhower administration spent a lot of diplomatic resources to improve their relations with India, though only with moderate success. And while we’re speaking of diplomacy, Eisenhower’s government was also responsible for imposing the economic embargo on Cuba after its revolution in 1959.

However, we’ll have to wait for the next President before the US messes up their relations with Castro’s Cuba. However, the existential threat of this tiny Caribbean island weighed on Eisenhower’s mind, a weight he conferred onto Kennedy as he left office. At home, all this direct involvement in international affairs ruffled the feathers of isolationists. It even led to an attempt to amend the constitution to limit the ability of the President to make treaties abroad called the Bricker Amendment. However, this was never able to make it through Congress despite support from most of the Republican party and even some Democrats.

To fight it, the White House had to work with senate minority leader and Democrat Lyndon B Johnson to defeat Eisenhower’s party. As I’m sure you will learn later on this channel, Johnson was a legendary creature of Congress and could whip votes like no one’s business. With the help of the White House, he was able to stop this check on presidential power. And that wasn’t the only fight Ike had at home. He had to fight Eugene McCarthy’s Communist Witch Hunt in the State Department.

The short Civil Rights movement flared to life, and Eisenhower had to counter local governments in the south with federal agents to enforce desegregation. And, despite all this, somehow, he managed to sign Alaska and Hawaii into statehood. Dwight D Eisenhower‘s last brutal fight during his time in office was with his health.  

Dwight D Eisenhower’s Heart Attack

Dwight-D-Eisenhower Heart Attack
Rare Colour Image of Dwight-D-Eisenhower After Heart Attack

In 1955, Dwight D Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, putting him in a hospital for six weeks and on light duties until the following year. While nobody wants such a health problem in the office, Dwight D Eisenhower’s heart attack is today responsible for a new appreciation for cardiac health. At that time, few doctors could do for heart attacks, but the President’s heart attack demystified them to the American people.

The President’s steps to reduce his risks became common knowledge, something we might take for granted today. As Dwight D Eisenhower’s presidency ended, he looked to the next election between his Vice President Richard Nixon and a young rising Democratic star John F Kennedy. He notably disliked Kennedy’s lack of experience. Kennedy’s effortless charisma and a new vision for the Democrats brought him a tight victory.

Dwight D Eisenhower facilitated an easy transfer of power, speaking with the young president-elect about coming threats and emphasizing problems in Cuba. Dwight Dwight D Eisenhower was the face of some of the most dramatic years of the Cold War. What he set in motion through diplomatic policy, coupled with an outright rejection of isolationism, would redefine the role of America in the world and its President’s seat. As if sensing this himself, Dwight D Eisenhower spoke to the American people in his farewell address of what he felt was at stake:

“We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in the method …”. He also spoke to something else, a threat he felt loomed on the horizon: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” 

Dwight D Eisenhower Death

Dwight D Eisenhower died of heart failure on March 28, 1969 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington

Peoples Also Ask?

Who is Dwight D Eisenhower?

Dwight D Eisenhower was a critical president, spending eight years in office, laying down the ways the US would fight the Cold War. His administration developed or continued a US foreign policy whose effects still exist. 

How did Dwight D Eisenhower die?

Dwight D Eisenhower died of heart failure on March 28, 1969 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington

Where was Dwight D Eisenhower born?

Dwight D Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, in October 14, 1890.

When did Dwight D Eisenhower die?

As Dwight D Eisenhower’s presidency ended, he looked to the next election between his Vice President Richard Nixon and a young rising Democratic star John F Kennedy.

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