Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Eisenhower became the first supreme commander of NATO. He was the last U.S. President to have been born in the 19th century.
Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. All of the boys were called "Ike", such as "Big Ike" (Edgar) and "Little Ike" (Dwight); the nickname was intended as an abbreviation of their last name.
In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, which Eisenhower considered as his home town. As a child, he was involved in an accident that cost his younger brother an eye; he later referred to this as an experience teaching him the need to be protective of those under him. Dwight developed a keen and enduring interest in exploring outdoors, hunting/fishing, cooking and card playing from an illiterate named Bob Davis who camped on the Smoky Hill River.
While Eisenhower's mother was against war, it was her collection of history books that first sparked Eisenhower's early and lasting interest in military history. He persisted in reading the books in her collection and became a voracious reader in the subject. Other favorite subjects early in his education were arithmetic and spelling.
Eisenhower attended Abilene High School and graduated with the class of 1909. As a freshman, he injured his knee and developed a leg infection that extended into his groin, and which his doctor diagnosed as life-threatening. The doctor insisted that the leg be amputated but Dwight refused to allow it, and surprisingly recovered, though he had to repeat his freshman year. He and brother Edgar both wanted to attend college, though they lacked the funds. They made a pact to take alternate years at college while the other worked to earn the tuitions.
Edgar took the first turn at school, and Dwight was employed as a night supervisor at the Belle Springs Creamery. Edgar asked for a second year, Dwight consented and worked for a second year. At that time, a friend "Swede" Hazlett was applying to the Naval Academy and urged Dwight to apply to the school, since no tuition was required. Eisenhower requested consideration for either Annapolis or West Point with his U.S. Senator, Joseph L. Bristow. Though Eisenhower was among the winners of the entrance-exam competition, he was beyond the age limit for the Naval Academy. He then accepted an appointment to West Point in 1911.
Eisenhower (second from left) and Omar Bradley (second from right) were members of the 1912 West Point football team. At West Point, Eisenhower relished the emphasis on traditions and on sports, but was less enthusiastic about the hazing, though he willingly accepted it as a plebe. He was also a regular violator of the more detailed regulations, and finished school with a less than stellar discipline rating. Academically, Eisenhower's best subject by far was English. Otherwise, his performance was average, though he thoroughly enjoyed the typical emphasis of engineering on science and mathematics.
In athletics, Eisenhower later said that "not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest". He made the varsity football team and was a starter as running back and linebacker in 1912, when he tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe of the Carlisle Indians. Eisenhower suffered a torn knee in that, his last, game; he re-injured his knee on horseback and in the boxing ring, so he turned to fencing and gymnastics.
After graduation, Eisenhower was stationed in Texas, where he met and started dating 18-year-old Mamie Geneva Doud from Denver, Colorado. The couple married nine months later, on July 1, 1916. Eisenhower was promoted to first lieutenant on his wedding day.
For the first few years of Eisenhower's military career, he and Mamie moved from post to post throughout Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 1917, Mamie gave birth to the couple's first son, Doud Dwight. That same year, the United States entered WWI. Although Eisenhower hoped to be commissioned overseas, he was instead appointed to run a tank training center at Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Throughout the war and afterward, Eisenhower continued to rise through the ranks. By 1920, he was promoted to major, after having volunteered for the Tank Corps, in the War Department's first transcontinental motor convoy, the previous year.
In 1921, tragedy struck at home, when the Eisenhowers' firstborn son, Doud Dwight, died of scarlet fever at the age of 3. Mamie gave birth to a second son, John Sheldon Doud, in 1922. That year, Eisenhower assumed the role of executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1924, at Conner's urging, Eisenhower applied to the Army's prestigious graduate school, the Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and was accepted. He graduated first in his class of 245 in 1926, with a firm reputation for his military prowess.
From 1927 to 1929 Eisenhower toured and reported for the War Department, under General John Pershing. After finishing his tour in 1929, Eisenhower was appointed chief military aide under General Douglas MacArthur. From 1935 to 1939 Eisenhower served under MacArthur as assistant military advisor to the Philippines. Eisenhower returned to the United States in early 1940.
Over the next two years he was stationed in California and Washington state. In 1941, after a transfer to Fort Sam Houston, Eisenhower became chief of staff for the Third Army. Eisenhower was soon promoted to brigadier general for his leadership of the Louisiana Maneuvers. Late that year he was transferred to the War Plans division in Washington, D.C. In 1942, he was promoted to major general. Just months later, he became commander-in-chief of the Allied Forces and led Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Eisenhower commanded the Allied forces in the Normandy invasion. In December of that year he was promoted to five-star rank. After Germany's surrender in 1945, he was made military governor of the U.S. Occupied Zone. Eisenhower then returned home to Abilene and received a hero's welcome. A few months later, he was appointed U.S. Army chief of staff. In 1948, he was elected president of Columbia University, a position he held until December of 1950, when he decided to leave Columbia to accept an appointment as first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While in Paris with NATO, Eisenhower was encouraged by Republican emissaries to run for president of the United States.
In 1952 Eisenhower retired from active service and returned to Abilene to announce his candidacy for the Republican Party nomination. On November 4, 1952, after winning the election by a landslide, Eisenhower was elected the United States' 34th president. His domestic policy picked up where Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Harry Truman's Fair Deal programs left off. In foreign policy, Eisenhower made reducing Cold War tensions through military negotiation a main focus of his administration.
In 1953 he orchestrated an armistice that brought peace to South Korea's border. Also that year, Eisenhower made his famous "Atoms for Peace" speech at the United Nations General Assembly. The United States and Russia had both recently developed atomic bombs, and the speech promoted applying atomic energy to peaceful uses, rather than using it for weaponry and warfare. In 1955, Eisenhower met with Russian, British and French leaders at Geneva to further quell the threat of atomic war.
In 1956 Eisenhower was a reelected to a second term, winning by an even wider margin than in his first election, despite the fact that he had just recently recovered from a heart attack. Over the course of his second term, Eisenhower continued to promote his Atoms for Peace program. In his second term, he also grappled with crises in Lebanon and the Suez.
Accomplishments during his two terms include creating the U.S. Information Agency, and establishing Alaska and Hawaii as states. Eisenhower also supported the creation of the Interstate Highway System during his time in office. His other distinctions include signing the 1957 Civil Rights Act and setting up a permanent Civil Rights Commission. Eisenhower was additionally responsible for signing the bill to form the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Poised to leave office in January of 1961, Eisenhower gave a televised farewell address in which he warned the nation against the dangers of the Cold War "military-industrial complex."
Following his presidency, Eisenhower retired to a farmhouse in Gettysburg with his wife, Mamie. Although he had resigned his commission as a general when he became president, when he left office his successor, President Kennedy, reactivated his commission. He also kept an office at Gettysburg College for the remainder of his life, where he held meetings and wrote his memoirs.
Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., following a long period of suffering from a heart-related illness. In addition to a state funeral in the nation's capital, a military funeral was held in Eisenhower's beloved hometown of Abilene, Kansas.
He crusaded against "Communism, Korea and corruption", used nuclear threats to conclude the Korean War with China, presented his New Look policy of nuclear deterrence to the world. Articulated the domino theory.
Member of English-Speaking Union United States (chairman of nat. board directors.)