Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
34th U.S. President
Dwight David Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Stover Eisenhower. When Dwight was just a baby, the Eisenhowers moved to Abilene, Kansas, where his father got a job in a creamery. During their youth, Dwight and his five brothers raised and sold vegetables to help support the family.
In 1911, two years after graduating from Abilene High School, Dwight applied for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1915 as a second lieutenant and was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, in Texas.
In 1941, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower was chosen to plan the strategy for the Third Army in war games. The Third Army’s brilliant defeat of General George Patton’s “enemy force” earned him the respect of army chief of staff, George Marshall, as well as a promotion to the rank of brigadier general. In 1942, Eisenhower was promoted to major general, and in June of the same year, he earned the rank of commanding general of U.S. forces in the European Theater of Operations. Over the previous two years, Eisenhower had advanced past 350 senior officers. By February 1943, Eisenhower was a four-star general.
When the decision was made to launch the largest seaborne invasion in military history, General Eisenhower was chosen as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. On June 6, 1944, a multi-national force, commanded by Eisenhower crossed the English Channel onto the beach in Normandy, France. By the evening of the 6th, Allied forces controlled the beach. Following the invasion, in December 1944, Eisenhower was promoted to five-star general, or General of the Army. In November of the following year, he became Army Chief of Staff.
Eisenhower resigned from the Army and successfully ran for the Presidency in 1952, defeating Adlai E. Stevenson. Eisenhower referred to his legislative program as “Modern Republicanism.” In the area of domestic affairs, Eisenhower emphasized the need to lower government spending by increased efficiency. Among the domestic proposals of Eisenhower’s first term were the constructions of the St. Lawrence Seaway and an interstate highway system, as well as the broadening of the Social Security System and a raise in the minimum wage, to $1 an hour.
Although it appeared that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles controlled most of the foreign affairs of Eisenhower’s first term, the President was responsible for directing the program. As his first order of business, Eisenhower fulfilled a campaign promise and traveled to Korea, to attempt to negotiate an end to the war. He also used the CIA to take action against Communist governments around the world. Eisenhower rejected the advice of his staff with regard to using nuclear weapons during international crises. Instead, he proposed a program called Atoms For Peace, in which nations would donate atomic power to the United Nations in order to find peaceful uses for it. This program developed into The International Atomic Energy Agency.
President Eisenhower’s second term was marked by several important events. In September 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus defied a court order to integrate schools in Little Rock. President Eisenhower sent in the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division to enforce the order. Also in 1957, the Soviet Union became the first nation in space when it launched Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite. Finally, during the last days of Eisenhower’s term, Fidel Castro seized the government of Cuba and declared the country a Communist state. The United States broke off all diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961.
In 1951, the 22nd Amendment came into effect, declaring that the President was limited to two terms in office. Consequently, Eisenhower was unable to run for re-election in 1960. Instead, the President supported Vice-President Richard Nixon. Following Nixon’s defeat, Eisenhower retired to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Eisenhower died of heart failure on March 28, 1969.