Dwight David Eisenhower (October 14, 1890 — March 28, 1969) was a five-star general during World War II and later the 34th President of the United States (1953-1961). He took office after Harry Truman and was succeeded by John F. Kennedy. He was the last President born in the 19th century and was the 13th from the Republican Party. Eisenhower was the first President who was limited to two terms by the 22nd Amendment (Harry Truman was grandfather-claused).
He's famous for his nickname “Ike,” which he got from his parents. In fact, all of his brothers were nicknamed Ike, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. For some reason, it only stuck with him for the rest of his life. Ike was actually first named David Dwight Eisenhower; his mother changed the order of his names when he was a year old because having three Davids in the family was confusing everyone. One gets the feeling from all of this that his family had trouble with names. To this day, some people believe that she did it so he wouldn't have a nickname — this despite the fact that she was the one who thought up Ike!
Despite his deeply religious mother’s beliefs on war, Eisenhower went to famed Military Academy West Point and graduated in 1915; this class is famous for producing 58 future generals (including Omar Bradley, another major World War II General and Ike’s good friend) and has been nicknamed “the class the stars fell on” by military historians. During World War I, Eisenhower trained tank crews at Gettysburg, though, to his disappointment, he never saw action. Between the wars, he studied military history and strategy, rose up the ranks to lieutenant colonel, and served for a few years under Douglas MacArthur (who was already a four-star general and Army Chief of Staff, before serving as a general in World War II) in the Philippines. All of this proved to be invaluable for preparing him for his future leadership in the next world war.
Eisenhower saw a number of promotions throughout World War II, eventually reaching the ranks of General of the Army (five-stars) and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He was one of the most gifted leaders on the Allied side, and was responsible for some of the most important American victories in the European and North African theaters. He was the commander of both Operation Torch (the Allied landings on North Africa) and Operation Husky (the invasion of Sicily). President Franklin D. Roosevelt then chose him to plan the Allied invasion of northern Europe. Codenamed Operation Overlord, but best known as D-Daynote , the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy (part of northern France) were a very risky move (he actually had a speech assuming full responsibility ready in case it failed) that, luckily, paid off. His record on strategic choices during the drive across France is mixed, but two things rarely in dispute are that he never passed the buck to others when things went wrong, and that he was a master at coalition warfare, keeping the British, Americans, Canadians, French, Poles, and others focused on fighting the Germans rather than on their disagreements with each other. Eisenhower continued to supervise the western front for the remainder of the war and was present at the German surrender. He was also one of the first Allied leaders to see the concentration camps in Germany, and he ordered both the military and news crews to document everything they saw knowing some would deny it really happened. He famously wrote "We are told the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against."note
Efforts were underway to award him the Medal Of Honor after the war, due to his extraordinary leadership. He personally stopped this, as he believed the Medal of Honor should only be awarded for bravery in combat. There was precedent for awarding it for other reasons, as Lindbergh had been awarded it for his solo flight across the Atlantic. Not that Eisenhower attempted to avoid combat and his underlings often had to scramble to prevent him from going too close to the front. In addition, both Churchill and Roosevelt were very aware of how crucial his leadership was and made it clear to his staff and the other Allied generals that he simply could not be placed in a position where there was a possibility he might be killed or captured.
Eisenhower was made the Governor of the American Zone in Germany, where he helped bring in food and medicine for the German citizens. He served as Chief of Staff for President Harry S Truman and, later, as the first supreme commander of NATO during the beginning years of the Cold War. He was courted by both major parties in 1948, but declined to run. He was "drafted" by Republicans in 1952 and won the general election in a ten-point victory and Electoral College landslide. It was the first time a Republican nominee won since Herbert Hoover in 1928.note Additionally, he won reelection in 1956 by an even larger margin. His campaign slogan was "I Like Ike", which was meant to be worn on buttons and bumper stickers to show support. The unpopular and sour-faced Richard Nixon, then a commie-fighting Senator from California, was his running mate; Ike tried to make Nixon a Cabinet member during his second term, but Tricky Dicky insisted on staying on as the VP. Eisenhower was also president of Columbia University from 1948 to 1953, which gave him administrative experience for his years as the nation's president.note
Eisenhower proved to be a very moderate President, upholding the surviving New Deal agencies of Roosevelt and Truman and even expanding Social Security. For most of his two terms, Congress was controlled by the Democrats (future President Lyndon Johnson was the Senate Majority Leader), and he established a good record of bipartisan compromises and maintaining friendly relations between both parties. Indeed, many voters at the time thought that Eisenhower rose above the petty political squabbles of Washington and maintained his integrity. While Eisenhower was President, infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy was leading a witch-hunt against (mostly imaginary) communists in the federal government. When McCarthy began to target the Atomic Energy Commission, Eisenhower ordered that its employees not reveal anything for the sake of "public interest", technically making him the father of executive privilege. Despite being criticized for failing to stop McCarthy, Eisenhower worked behind the scenes to get the McCarthy-Army hearings televised, leading to McCarthy's downfall when the public got a look at how utterly unlikable and out-of-touch with reality he was. He made five appointments to the Supreme Court. The most consequential of these were of Earl Warren as Chief Justice and of William J. Brennan, Jr., as an Associate Justice. The former had been the Republican Attorney General and then Governor of California, in a nod to the growing importance of the West; the latter man was a Democrat and Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court whom Eisenhower appointed in a bipartisan move to cement support in the Northeast in 1956. Despite expectations that Chief Justice Warren would lead the Court in a conservative direction, the Warren Court gave many liberal rulings on topics as varied as civil rights, the rights of accused citizens, the supremacy of federal laws over state laws, and education. Eisenhower called his nominations of Warren and Brennan to the Court his "great mistakes as President." Most historians disagree, for the record, considering Warren the greatest Chief Justice of the 20th century and most likely second-greatest of all time (it's hard to surpass John Marshall), and recognizing Brennan as not only a top-rate legal mind (and incredibly long-lived, not retiring until 1990) but also incredibly influential and a master of building coalitions of justices to decide cases.
Despite regretting the Warren Court's liberalism, Eisenhower was firmly behind the Court on one issue—civil rights. As a general, he had always deeply respected the work that black troops did (especially because black soldiers generally did support work, which Eisenhower, who believed logistics to be the single most important thing in war, saw as being as at least as important as combat to the war effort), and this carried over to civilian life, as well. The unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) outlawed school segregation and seriously kicked off the Civil Rights Movement. In support of this, ruling, Eisenhower ordered the desegregation of DC schools (per Bolling v. Sharpe) and would later send down the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the inclusion of black students in the high school at Little Rock, Arkansas after Governor Orval Faubus called up the Arkansas National Guard to block desegregation. He also proposed two Civil Rights Acts to Congress in 1957 and 1960, which were the first passed since Reconstruction ended in 1877, created the Commission on Civil Rights, and completed Truman’s process of desegregating the military. Eisenhower has often been criticized for not doing enough to support the Civil Rights Movement; he did personally support it, but he believed that the President could only help them to a limited extent and that changing things suddenly would lead to some people taking violent action to try and stop it. Other notable moments of the Civil Rights Movement during his time include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the murder of black youth Emmett Till, African American student Autherine Lucy's admittance to the University of Alabama via court order, and the start of the sit-in movements. In 1958, Eisenhower met with notable African American leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. He also supported the very unfortunate policy of "termination," where Native Americans were forced to move off of reservations and into cities in order to assimilate into white culture. Like nearly all things the federal government has done to Native Americans, this did not help them in the slightest, though unlike most federal measures, this one was at least intended to help them.
Ike also signed the act creating the Interstate Highway System; largely inspired by the German Autobahnen he saw during WWII, it authorized the building of tens of thousands of miles of new freeways across the nation. Most people today forget that they were created in case the Soviets invaded and troops needed to be moved very quickly across the country; instead, it led to the rise of Suburbia and made the automobile industry even more powerful. It remains the largest public works program in American history. He also signed the National Defense Education Act, which gave funding to all levels of education and provided financial assistance to thousands of college students. His administration saw the first serious federal action taken against illegal immigrants from Mexico, and nearly 1 million were rounded up and sent back during his presidency.note The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created during his time; it’s now the Department of Health and Human Services, after Education was given its own Department.
Outside of three stinging but very brief recessions, Eisenhower’s two terms oversaw a period of excellent economic outgrowth, and he managed to significantly reduce federal deficits. Three of his eight years actually saw a balanced budget. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave out its lowest ever unemployment rate during his presidency - 2.5% during May and June of 1953. "White collar" workers surpassed "blue collar" workers for the first time in 1956, signifying that America was now a post-industrial economy, and union membership reached its peak in 1954 before slowly declining. This is partly because of corruption and connection to organized crime in many unions, including Jimmy Hoffa's notorious Teamster's Union. Eisenhower signed the Landrum-Griffin Act to combat the illegal activities of such labor leaders. Despite the growing Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War paranoia, the Eisenhower years are remembered as a period of peace and prosperity following almost 25 years of depression and two wars. The 1950's are often known as the Eisenhower Era.
On the foreign policy front, Eisenhower’s “New Look” policy supported the containment and, eventually, the “rolling back” of communism throughout the world. To do this, he used a method of Peace Through Superior Firepower, massively increasing the number of nuclear weapons owned by the United States. Eisenhower didn’t seem to ever want to use these weapons, though; he repeatedly turned down any attempt by his advisors to use them against Red China or other communist nations, and originated America's "No First Strike" policy which mandated that America's strategic nuclear arsenal could only be used in retaliation for the Soviets or Chinese using theirs first. Note that this never applied to tactical warheads deployed on an active battlefield, only strategic weapons targeted at population centers. Some historians have theorized that Ike actually built so many nukes in order to prevent World War III by the concept of mutually-assured destruction - if both sides had enough nuclear power to pretty much destroy all human life on Earth, they would do everything in their power to not go to war and, eventually, the Cold War would end. If this is true, history has proven that he was right. Additionally, he openly promoted the use of atomic and nuclear power for peaceful purposes, such as energy, rather than the creation of weapons. However, Ike wasn't opposed to using conventional weapons for the same purpose. His administration established and operated under the "domino theory", which stated that if one country falls to communism, its neighbors would eventually fall too if significant anti-communist support was not given. One of the unfortunate effects of this was the escalation of American involvement in The Vietnam Warnote during his time in office, though he only sent a few hundred troops there and the next few administrations were the ones to expand it.
Relations with the Soviet Union proved to be very testy during his eight years. During his first year in office, Josef Stalin died. Eisenhower met with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev a few times with the hopes of slowly ending the Cold War, but these conferences only produced a few results. The USSR's brutal crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 was one of the tenser moments of the Cold War, but Eisenhower kept his head and refused to risk causing a nuclear war. Following Nixon’s visit to the Soviet Union and Khrushchev’s visit to America, the chance for peace started to look better. However, on the eve of another summit in Paris, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over USSR territory. Eisenhower begrudgingly admitted to an outraged Khrushchev that he ordered this flight as well as others, embarrassing the American government. Khrushchev left the summit in protest, Eisenhower had to cancel his planned trip to the USSR, and relations between the two countries returned to their previous state. Speaking of the Cold War, The Space Race started when the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite into space in 1957. He responded by creating both NASA to lead the American space program and DARPA to expand scientific knowledge and technological progress. The Nuclear Navy also got its start during the 1950's - under the leadership of Hyman G. Rickover, it had a record of zero reactor accidents which continues to this day.
Eisenhower visited the Korean peninsula in 1952 after winning and concluded that the stalemate in The Korean War was not worth the money being poured into it. Upon entering office in 1953, he negotiated an end to the fighting with an armistice (Technically speaking, the war is still ongoing because a peace treaty was never signed). That same year, he authorized a CIA-led coup d’etat in Iran to overthrow the (pro-oil nationalization, anti-Soviet but pragmatically aligned with them, mind you) prime minister and reinstate the Iranian monarchy. This was the start of major American involvement in the Middle East and would eventually lead to the spectacular embarrassment of the Iranian hostage crisis during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. When Israel, the UK, and France invaded Egypt in 1956 to seize the Suez Canal, Eisenhower ordered them to leave Egypt and return the canal. He also sent troops to Lebanon two years later to prevent the nation from falling to revolutionaries. The CIA led other covert operations, including in Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cuba fell to communism in 1959, and Eisenhower ordered the CIA to plan an invasion of Cuba that would end up happening during John F. Kennedy’s time in office. The Formosa Resolution, which promises Taiwan that America will provide military defense against Red China, was passed in 1955 and continues to this day. During the Eisenhower administration, America and Canada worked together to create the St. Lawrence Seaway and The Franco Regime in Spain was recognized by the United States government.
Eisenhower changed the name of the presidential retreat from "Shangri-La" to "Camp David" in honor of his grandson. Air Force One started to be used for security purposes after a rather embarrassing incident where a plane carrying Eisenhower and a commercial flight with the same call sign entered the same airspace. He was also the first President to appoint a White House Chief of Staff and the first to appear on color television. A heart attack in 1955 left him in the hospital for six weeks, but he recovered soon enough that it was forgotten in time for the 1956 election. The phrase "under God" was controversially added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Alaska and Hawaii were both admitted to the Union in 1959, bringing the number of states to 50. He endorsed Nixon’s first run for President in 1960 and wasn’t happy when Kennedy won, but he did live long enough to see Nixon enter the office at the end of The '60s. Eisenhower gave a famous televised farewell speech when he warned the nation of what he called “the military-industrial complex”, or a partnership between government forces and the defense industrial base. What most people tend not to remember was the fact that he also warned against those seeking to impede its place as a legitimate part of the American arsenal as well as those who sought to have it gain too much power. He had to resign his position as General of the Army when he entered office, though he was recommissioned after leaving it.
Ike died in 1969. He was seen for a while as a "do-nothing" who was more interested in golfing than the presidencynote , but he is today recognized for ending the Korean War while preventing others, overseeing a time of economic prosperity, creating lasting and highly influential government agencies, and slowly starting government support of the Civil Rights Movement. On a less political note, he was known also for having a very warm, kind, and gentle sense of humour. At his 77th birthday party, he quipped, "Well I've heard the expression, 'Who wants to live a hundred years?' I can tell 'em for sure there's one man, that's a man who's ninety-nine." Historians now usually place him in the top 10. He has an aircraft carrier named after him, and his place of meditation at his grave in Kansas is really cool. He donated his farm in Gettysburg to the National Park Service before he died. The efforts to plan and build the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. have been in Development Hell since 1999.
Eisenhower in fiction:
- Is played by Robin Williams in Lee Daniels' The Butler.
- Married... with Children has Al Bundy attempting to prove his theory that his neighbor and Rich Idiot with No Day Job Jefferson is actually a spy by challenging him to see which of them could name the most U.S. Presidents. Jefferson names several, while Al's only response to each is "...Eisenhower".
- Ike plays a minor role early in Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel DC: The New Frontier, mainly to represent the "old guard" before Kennedy's election at the end. He's slightly more prominent in a "special missing chapter" published a few years later, where he conscripts Superman to arrest Batman in a clever parody of Ronald Reagan's role in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
- Indiana Jones told his Commie captors in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that he likes Ike.
- He appears in the Meg Ryan romantic comedy I.Q., dumbfounding mechanic Ed Walters (Tim Robbins) in the process. "Ike?" Apparently a close friend of Albert Einstein.
- As a humourous take on an instance of Name's the Same, his campaign slogan "We like Ike!" was used in Super Smash Bros. Brawl to cheer on another guy named Ike.
- In Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Mr. Anderson is touring the White House. He stares at the portrait of Eisenhower lamenting "Where are you when we need you, Ike?"
- Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! referred to Ike's Earth-C counterpart, General (and presumably 1950s Earth-C US president) Eisenhowler, during Earth-C's version of D-Day, which Zoo Crew team member Fastback was forcibly sent back in time to by the villainous Timekeeper.
- In the first episode of Scrubs, Dr Cox checks on the state of an elderly male patient by remarking that "Eisenhower was a sissy." He then jumps back and puts his fists up in defence. The patient's lack of response is taken as evidence that he is still comatose.
- He's mentioned in the All in the Family episode "Mike comes into Money":
Mike: It's getting like politics in America is only for the rich!Archie: Who's been feeding you that Commie crapola?Mike: President Eisenhower said that.Archie: He did not! Eisenhower was a great president who never said nothin'!
- During the 2000 Presidential Elections, Cartoon Network ran its own mock election featuring cartoon characters. Brak's campaign was a direct copy of an "I Like Ike" commercial, but with Brak pasted over everything.
Brak: Brak's my name and that's what it is!
- The Queen from True Blood lost her attraction to men during the Eisenhower years.
- In Woody Allen's story Remembering Needleman, a eulogy for the fictional academic Sandor Needleman, it's mentioned that he was dismissed from Columbia University for his disagreement with Eisenhower (who was the president of the university between 1948-53) "over whether the class bell signaled the end of a period or the beginning of another", which led to Needleman attacking Eisenhower with a carpet beater who ran for cover into a toy store.
- In A World of Laughter, a World of Tears, Ike suffers a heart attack before the election and the Republicans scramble for another high-profile candidate to draft, eventually settling on Walt Disney. This does not end well.
- Ike appears at the beginning of Superman: Red Son, first announcing the existence of Soviet Superman to the United States, and later privately lamenting the forthcoming Cold War escalation to his aides, one of whom is Jimmy Olsen, who in that universe is the government agent that Ike assigns to monitor Lex Luthor's progress on coming up with a way to beat Superman.
- Eisenhower appears in The Longest Day, making the fateful decision to send the invasion fleet to Normandy through questionable weather on June 6th. It works. He was played by Academy Award-winning set decorator Henry Grace, who looked very similar to Ike, in his only acting role. In fact, before he was cast, the producers considered having Eisenhower himself in the movie until they realized how big the age difference was by the early 60's.
- He does portray himself in Audie Murphy's autobiographical film To Hell and Back.
- Ike: Countdown to D-Day stars Tom Selleck as General Eisenhower, and focuses on the planning of Operation Overlord.
- In the 1998 Videogame Remake of BattleZone, the American space army, the NSDF, is formed under his auspices. Included in the game's manual are an exchange of letters between him and the general in charge of the operation.
- He briefly appears at the start of the 1985 sci-fi comedy My Science Project, telling the army to "get rid of" the alien craft they've found. (Meaning destroy it to prevent panic.)
- In "Ike at the Mike" by Howard Waldrop, Eisenhower becomes a jazz musician instead of entering the military (and Elvis Presley enters the military, and later becomes a Senator, instead of pursuing his musical career).
- Irving Berlin's 1950 musical Call Me Madam had the song "They Like Ike," which Berlin later rewrote as an actual Eisenhower campaign song.
- An episode of Rugrats is a flashback to when Tommy's father and uncle were babies, and makes mention of a "President Weisenheimer."
- Eisenhower (or at least the top of his head) is shown briefly in The Iron Giant, receiving an Oval Office military briefing.
- In Gene Wolfe's alternate history story "How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion", the first-person narrator is revealed at the end to be Eisenhower.
- In For All the Marbles, he becomes the commander of the Calainian Armed Forces, referencing his ability to mediate between the different generals under his command and his strategic mind.
- In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, the ending reveals that the teenager who is listening the protagonist's story is a young Eisenhower.
- In a flashback in the 1980s New Adventures of Superboy comic, Superboy mentions having met President Eisenhower after his superhero debut (DC's floating timeline for Earth-1 had moved Superboy's debut up to the very late 50s by this point). In an interview with the Boy of Steel, then-reporter Perry White brings up a question about Superboy's citizenship. Superboy responds: "President Eisenhower assured me I had nothing to worry about when I confided in him! After all, where could I be deported, since Krypton no longer exists?" The story later has Superboy given an honorary American citizenship by the President and Congress.
- John Slattery plays him in Churchill.