Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th President, 1953-1961
Early Life and Pre-presidency
- Born Dwight David Eisenhower on October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas.
- Parents: David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover. Siblings: Arthur, Edgar, Roy, Paul, and Milton.
- Attended Abilene High School in Kansas, graduating in 1909. He then worked at the Belle Springs Creamery to support his brother Edgar through college because they did not have enough funds. They planned to trade places after two years.
- Applied and got accepted to West Point in 1911, where tuition was free, and graduated in 1915.
- Married Mary “Mamie” Geneva Doud (1896–1979) on July 1, 1916. Children: Doud Dwight (1917–1921) and John Sheldon Doud (1922–).
- In February 1918, he was transferred to Camp Meade in Maryland where he was assigned to train tank crews in the National Army and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He stayed there until 1922.
- Transferred to the Panama Canal Zone as executive officer to General Fox Conner and stayed until 1924.
- Attended Army War College and graduated in 1928. He then became an executive officer to General George C. Mosely and served from 1929 to 1933.
- Served as assistant military adviser to the Philippine government in 1935 under General Douglas MacArthur and stayed until 1939. He returned to the U.S. and held several staff positions.
- Assigned to the General Staff in Washington in 1941 where he was tasked to create plans to defeat Germany and Japan. He stayed until 1942 then accompanied the commanding general of the Armed Air Forces to assess the situation in London in May. In late June, he would return to London, this time as commanding general of the European Theater of Operations.
- Appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Force of the North African Theater of Operations in November 1942. Operation Torch successfully defeated the Axis forces. He then oversaw the successful invasion of Siciliy, Italy and proceeded to the Italian mainland for Operation Avalanche against the German forces.
- Became Supreme Commander of the European Theater of Operations in December 1943. He led the Allied assault on the Normandy coast in June 1944 and the liberation of Western Europe from Germany. He would serve as Supreme Commander until the end of the war in May 1945.
- Served as Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany after the war then returned to the U.S. in November 1945. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army and served until 1948.
- Became President of Columbia University in 1948. He submitted his resignation in December 1950 to become Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but he was placed on leave by the Board of Trustees instead. He retired from active service in May 1952 and returned to his presidency at Columbia where he served until January 1953.
- Nominated as the Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the 1952 election. He won with 55% of the popular vote and a landslide in the electoral vote.
- Took his oath of office on January 20, 1953 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
- Continued the New Deal programs instituted by former President Franklin Roosevelt, particularly the Social Security Act, by expanding its programs to cover more Americans and creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
- On December 8, 1953, he delivered his “Atoms for Peace” address to the United Nations asking Russia to forestall a nuclear arms race after that country detonated its first hydrogen bomb.
- Opposed Joseph McCarthy’s witchhunt for communists in the federal government during the Army–McCarthy hearings from April to June 1954. McCarthy would be censured by the U.S. Senate in December of that year.
- In January 1955, he proposed a resolution that would authorize the defense of Taiwan and the Pescadores. Congress approved the resolution on January 28, 1955.
- Suffered a moderate heart attack in September 1955 but recovered.
- Signed the Federal Aid Highway Act in June 1956. The law gave federal funding for the construction of interstate highways for both transportation and national defense.
- On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court announced that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. On November 25, 1955, the Interstate Commerce Commission banned racial segregation on interstate buses and trains. On September 4, 1957, Eisenhower sent federal troops to public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce court-ordered desegregation.
- Attended the Geneva Conference in July 1955 with leaders from Great Britain, France, and the U.S.S.R. and presented his “Open Skies” proposal. The proposal required the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. to open each other’s air space for surveillance of military infrastructures for nuclear weapons. The U.S.S.R. rejected the proposal.
- Authorized the deployment of U-2 spy planes over the Soviet Union in May 1956 amid growing concerns about the country’s nuclear weapons program.
- Eisenhower was re-elected for a second term in the 1956 election.
- Signed the Civil Rights Act into law on September 9, 1957. The law ensured that all Americans, particularly African–Americans, could exercise the right to vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1960 imposed penalties on those obstructing other people’s attempts to register to vote.
- When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik on October 4, 1957, Eisenhower rushed to improve the development of space technology in the U.S. He signed the National Defense Education Act in September 1958 to provide funding to U.S. education institutions particularly for science and technology research.
- On July 7, 1958, signed the bill making Alaska the 49th state admitted to the Union. On March 18, 1959, he signed the bill making Hawaii the 50th state admitted to the Union.
- With the growing spread of Communism, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to depose the leaders in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. The CIA may also have tried to depose the leader of the Republic of Congo. In 1960, he authorized the CIA to begin training Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro. He would sever ties with Cuba on January 3, 1961.
- Retired to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
- President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson solicited his advice during their terms in office.
- Resigned his permanent commission as General of the Army when he became President. When he retired from the Presidency, his commission was reactivated by President Kennedy as a five-star general in the U.S. Army.
- Traveled to Normandy in 1964 to film a documentary for the 20th anniversary of D-Day.
- Publishd a two-volume memoir of his days in the White House: The White House Years (2 vols.), Volume 1: Mandate for Change (1963) and Volume 2: Waging Peace (1965)
- Published At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends in 1967.
- Suffered a heart attack again in 1965. He suffered another heart attack in July 1968 and was admitted to the Walter Reed Army Hospital where he stayed until his death.
- Died on March 28, 1969 of congestive heart failure.
- His body was transferred to the Bethlehem Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral on March 29. The next day, he was brought to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state in the Rotunda. He was then returned to the National Cathedral for a funeral service on March 31. After the service, his casket was loaded onto a train for Abilene, Kansas, arriving on April 2.
- He is interred in a chapel at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas.
- The Eisenhower Birthplace State Historical Site in Denison, Texas includes the home where Eisenhower was born. It is now a museum operated by the Texas Historical Commission. It was bought by Denison residents and restored as a memorial in 1952.
- The Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was donated to the National Parks Service in 1967 and admits visitors.
- The Eisenhower Institute in Washington, D.C. was founded in 1983 to promote Eisenhower’s legacy.
- Congress created the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission in 1999 to erect a national memorial for the former President in Washington, D.C. It will be constructed near the National Mall and across the street from the National Air and Space Museum. The architect Frank Gehry was chosen to design the memorial.
- The People to People International is a non-profit organization founded by Eisenhower in 1956. Among the organization’s many programs is an international travel program for adults and students to promote peace education.