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Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking: Father in the White House

By Tom Morrow

During most of the ‘50s, Dwight David Eisenhower was President and because of his historic guidance that won the war in Europe, many looked upon “Ike” as a father-figure.

Born Oct. 4, 1890, and raised in Abilene, Kan., Eisenhower was the typical “all-American” boy. He excelled at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), graduating in a class that would be tagged, “The class the stars fell upon.” No less than a dozen classmates of Ike’s went on to play significant roles as generals in World War II. Ike would end up as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, leading the Allied forces to victory over Germany and Italy.

While he appeared to be a mild-mannered soldier, Ike was anything but…He began being noticed during the ‘30s when he served as Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s chief of staff in Washington, and later in the Philippines. Ike was assigned to Army headquarters in Washington by Gen. George Marshall, Army chief of staff. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Marshall elevated him in rank over more senior officers.

In 1942, Ike was put in command of Operation Torch, where American troops joined British forces to oust Germany from North Africa. He soon was elevated to the war-time rank of five-star general and was made Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Ike was responsible for planning and supervising the June 6, 1944 invasion (D-Day), which was the largest military assault in modern history. Because of it, on May 8, 1945, Germany surrendered.

After the Japanese surrendered three months later, on August 1945, President Truman appointed Ike as Army Chief of Staff and later as the first Supreme Commander of the newly-formed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In 1952, both the Democrats and Republicans wooed Ike to run for President, but no one was sure which party he favored. He declared the GOP as his choice. Ike won election in a landslide as a Republican.

President Eisenhower’s main goals were to keep pressure on the Soviet Union and reduce federal deficits. Ike was not a good speaker, but there was no doubt as to who was in charge. He was the epitome of a world leader.

In the first year of his presidency, Ike threatened the use of nuclear weapons in order to conclude the Korean War. His policy of nuclear deterrence prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons. In 1954, Eisenhower rejected sending U.S. military force to help the French retain their colony of Vietnam.

In 1957, after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Ike authorized the establishment of National Aeronautics & Space Agency (NASA), which ignited the space race. During the Suez Crisis of 1956, Eisenhower condemned the Israel, British and French invasion of Egypt, and forced them to withdraw.

Taking a lesson from Germany’s modern autobahn, Ike launched the Interstate Highway System. Interestingly enough, he started the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (which led to the Internet). Also he established a strong science education program and encouraged the peaceful use of nuclear power.
In 1956, Ike ordered the federal court to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. During his tenure, Ike made five appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower expressed his concerns about the dangers of corporate control of Congress and massive military spending, particularly deficit spending and government contracts to private military manufacturers, and coined the term “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.” Future presidents wouldn’t heed the warning.

Voted Gallup’s most admired man 12 times, Ike achieved widespread popular esteem both in and out of office. His two terms saw economic prosperity across the nation. Since the late 20th century, consensus among Western scholars has consistently held Eisenhower to be one of our greatest Presidents.

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