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Cold War Files: All Units: People: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
b. October 14, 1890 - d. March 28, 1969

Born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. During World War I, Eisenhower commanded a tank training center (1914-1918). After World War II began, his promotions followed rapidly. Roosevelt placed Eisenhower in charge of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944 -- later known as "D-Day." After the European surrender, Eisenhower was made a five-star general in December 1944. He replaced George Marshall as Army chief of staff in November 1945 and oversaw demobilization.

Two years after Eisenhower retired in 1948, President Truman asked him to be supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower assumed his post in 1951 but decided to run for the presidency a year later and retired from the Army. He campaigned with Richard Nixon, his vice presidential running mate, and they won the election, carrying 39 states.

Domestically, Eisenhower's program, "modern Republicanism," included reduced taxes, balanced budgets and a return of certain federal responsibilities to the states. Eisenhower refused to publicly criticize Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose anti-communist campaign resulted in the firing of civilian employees and charges against Army and civilian officers.

In foreign affairs, Eisenhower went to Korea as promised during his campaign to try to bring about a truce, which was finally achieved in July 1953. Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, also developed the "New Look" in defense policy: reducing conventional forces and increasing U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, using what Dulles called "massive retaliatory power." After the explosion of a hydrogen bomb by the Americans in the spring of 1954 and the Soviets that fall, both sides agreed to meet in Geneva in July 1955. There, Eisenhower's "Open Skies" proposal, which would have allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to continuously inspect each other's military installations by air, was rejected by the Soviets.

In Asia, the United States signed a defense treaty with Taiwan in which Washington pledged to defend the island while the Chinese nationalist leaders pledged not to attack China without consulting the United States. Eisenhower also worked for the creation of the South Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO, 1954), the inclusion of West Germany in NATO in 1955, and the end of four-power occupation and the restoration of Austrian sovereignty. Despite the administration's "liberation rhetoric" with regard to Eastern Europe, Eisenhower did little if anything to help the Hungarians during the 1956 uprising.

Eisenhower ran for re-election in 1956 and won, carrying 41 states. During his second term a major domestic issue was civil rights. In 1957, when the governor of Arkansas defied a court order to integrate the high school, Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne Division to protect black students and see that the court order was carried out. The Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 were also passed.

Concerned about America's position in the Middle East, in part due to the Suez Crisis, Eisenhower proposed and Congress passed the Eisenhower Doctrine. It pledged U.S. financial and military aid to Middle Eastern countries to fight communist aggression. When the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite on October 4, 1957, Eisenhower approved increased funding for study in science, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created in July 1958. After Dulles died in April 1959, Eisenhower largely conducted his own foreign policy. In an effort to improve relations with the Soviets and resolve the Berlin crisis, Eisenhower invited Premier Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States. Khrushchev did visit in September 1959, but the Camp David meeting did not resolve differences over Berlin. The later summit meeting in Paris in May 1960 effectively ended when Khrushchev walked out because Eisenhower would not apologize for the U-2 incident. Eisenhower also broke off all relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961 after Cuba, under communist leader Fidel Castro, seized all properties owned by U.S. companies.

Eisenhower left office and retired to his farm in Pennsylvania in January 1961. There he raised cattle and wrote books. He died after a series of heart attacks on March 28, 1969, at age 78.

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