Eisenhower one of many who went from military to president

Published 9:25 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

By  Betty Etchison West

Cana/Pino Correspondent

The American people always seem to think that success as a military leader means a person will be a successful president. This belief has led to a number of former military leaders being elected to the highest office in the United States.

Washington, the successful leader of the Colonial Forces during the Revolutionary War, was chosen as the first president. Other military men who were elected president with their popularity as military leaders being a major factor in their election: Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.  Some of these men were quite successful and others were rather dismal failures. Many other presidents served in the military; but the military service did not seem to be the main characteristics that attracted the American people.

After Truman, the 33rd president, declared that he would not seek another term, both the Democrats and Republicans were searching for a candidate who could win the next election. The most popular man in the country at that time was the man who had served as the Commander of Allied Troops in Europe during World War II.

Under General Eisenhower’s leadership the Allied Forces had defeated Hitler and the Axis. He returned home a hero in every sense of the word. After he left the military, Dwight D. Eisenhower took a job as president of Columbia University. He then he went back into service for two years and served as the Commander of the NATO Forces in Europe.

While General Eisenhower was in the military, while he was at Columbia University, and while he served as the Commander of NATO Forces, no one knew whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. Since no one knew which party he favored, both parties courted him with the hope that he would be their party’s standard bearer. Eisenhower finally declared that he was a Republican. That settled the question for the Democrats who chose Adlai Stevenson as their candidate. The Republicans finally convinced Five Star General Dwight David Eisenhower that he should run as the Republican candidate for president. He finally agreed, ran with Richard Nixon as vice president, and won by a landslide.

Dwight David Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1953.

Exploring the history of the man who was elected as the 34th president reveals an interesting family.

Dwight David Eisenhower was born on Oct. 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas.  He was one of the seven sons of David and Ida Stover Eisenhower. While he was still young, the family moved to Abilene, Kan., where Dwight spent the years of his youth.  All of the Eisenhower boys had to help with the chores – cooking, cleaning, etc. and outdoor jobs, such as tending the garden and milking the cow.  Dwight evidently excelled as a cook because he enjoyed cooking the rest of his life.

Even though Dwight’s father had a good job in a creamery, money was tight because there were so many mouths to feed in the Eisenhower family.

Dwight was an above-average student who excelled in math and history. After he finished high school, he applied to the U.S. Naval Academy; but he was turned down because he was too old. He had repeated a grade in high school because of an injury, and then he had worked two years for a local business before he applied to the Naval Academy. Not to be outdone, Eisenhower applied later to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was accepted. Dwight’s brothers said that the only time they ever saw their mother cry was when Dwight left to go to the military academy. Dwight’s Mother was a religious lady and a pacifist; but neither she nor her husband made any effort to stop their son from doing what he was determined to do. At West Point, Eisenhower stood at about the middle of his class academically; and he graduated with the rank of second lieutenant in 1915.

Dwight Eisenhower was on his way. He was sent to Fort Sam Huston in San Antonio, Texas. While there, he met Mamie Doud, the daughter of a rich family that had a vacation home in San Antonio. Dwight was not interested in girls according to his friends, but Mamie evidently caught his eye because a courtship followed. Dwight and Mamie were married in 1916. Just a month after they were married, Dwight started packing to go on maneuvers.  According to Family Field Guides: “When Mamie voiced concern (about him leaving), Dwight said, ‘Mamie, there’s one thing you must understand.  My country comes first and always will.” Mamie evidently accepted that because they were married for 53 years, many spent with him serving his country.

During those years, Mamie was a supportive military wife and was an asset to her husband. She became an accomplished hostess, who made their home a comfortable place to live during all their postings from Paris to Panama and in many places in the United States. She found Panama a challenge, however, because of the heat and the critters that wanted to live in their quarters.

In 1917, Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower had a son, who was named Doud but who was called Icky. In 1921, tragedy struck. Icky died from scarlet fever. Dwight loved Icky dearly and spent a lot of time playing with him. The son’s death hit Dwight hard. Another son, John, was born in 1922, but the books say that Mr. Eisenhower was never as close to his second son as to his first. The death of Icky seemed to set up some kind of shell that kept Dwight from getting really close to his second son. John, like his father, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy; and he too had a career in the military and was a noted military historian.

While campaigning for the presidency, Eisenhower promised to end the Korean War, which was sometimes called “Truman’s War.” Shortly after he was elected, President Eisenhower began to negotiating an armistice which was put in place in January 1953. The armistice stopped the shooting war, but United States troops remained in Korea.  In fact, U.S. troops are still in Korea today over 50 years after the armistice.

Eisenhower’s administration was a period of relative prosperity. New houses were being built and jobs were plentiful. One thing most people remember when Eisenhower’s administration is mentioned is that he began the interstate highway system which is now so important to travelers and to commerce in our country. This, of course, was not a project that could be completed in a short time; but Mr. Eisenhower was forward-looking enough to begin a project which would affect the future travel of most everyone in the United States. (In 1972, my family took a trip to the West Coast.  The plan was to travel on I-40 from Mocksville to California. We found that we could travel on that magnificent road many of the 3,000 miles to the West Coast, but there were places where the road was not complete – 11 years after Mr. Eisenhower had left office.)

Even though things seemed to be fairly calm on the home front during the Eisenhower administration, there were concerns about the Cold War and communism. President Eisenhower backed the Central Intelligence Agency as it tried to discredit communism in the Middle East and Central American countries. The threat of communism set Sen. Eugene McCarthy on a mission to weed out communists in this country, particularly within government agencies. The truth was that Mr. McCarthy made many accusations which were entirely false. Mr. Eisenhower did not say much about McCarthy until he made accusations about the military, which hit a nerve and caused the President to challenge McCarthy.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons was still a problem. Eisenhower hoped that he would be able to work with Russia on control of such weapons, but it would be hard because of the distrust between the two countries. Eisenhower authorized high-altitude aerial surveillance of the Soviet nuclear program. This caused great trouble for Eisenhower during his second term when one of the U-2 high-altitude airplanes was shot down. Eisenhower denied that he knew anything about the flight until the Russian showed pictures of the plane and of the pilot, Francis Gary Powers.  The President had to admit that he knew about the flights, and the Russian called off a planned conference at which there were to be discussions about a nuclear test ban treaty.

There were other problems on the world stage while Eisenhower was president, and there were problems concerning segregation in the United States.According to The President Fact Book, Eisenhower never said much about segregation until “African-American students were refused admittance to Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. in 1957. He (Eisenhower) ordered regular army units to escort them to class, and sent a clear signal that court-ordered integration would not be compromised.” That action clarified President Eisenhower’s feeling about integration.

President Eisenhower had completed two terms in office in 1961. In his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 17, 1961, he said something to the effect that we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. This is one statement that is heard today. It is clear that Mr. Eisenhower understood the military industrial complex.

The 22nd amendment would have prevented Mr. Eisenhower from running for a third term if he had wanted to do so, but he certainly did not want another term.  He had a heart attack some years earlier, and he and his wife just wanted to return to their home at Gettysburg, Pa., the only home that they had ever owned. The Eisenhowers had remodeled the old farmhouse into an attractive home which fitted their needs. There was a sun porch with perfect light for Mr. Eisenhower to paint to his heart’s content and there was a bedroom that was pink to the last detail where Mamie could sleep until noon and where she could watch her favorite soap opera, “As the World Turns.” The house and grounds were certainly remodeled to serve the needs and desires of the occupants.  Mr. Eisenhower even had a practice putting green built beside the Gettysburg house.

In 1961, President Kennedy once again reinstated Eisenhower as a General so he could serve as an advisor.Even if he went to Washington, Mr. Eisenhower could easily return to Gettysburg to relax and enjoy his favorite pastime activities.

One of the former president’s happiest moments occurred when he was 77 – he made his first and only hole in one. Golf was always a game he loved and that hole in one seemed to be the icing on the cake.

The property that the Eisenhowers bought at Gettysburg included the farmhouse and a 159 acre farm. Mr. Eisenhower raised prize beef cows. He was extremely proud of his cows and the barn which he had built to house them. Visitors to the farm had to go to the barn and see the animals whether they wanted to do so or not.

In 1969, Dwight David Eisenhower died at the Walter Reed Army Hospital as the result of heart problems. After lying in state at the White House, his body was taken to Abilene, Kan. where it is buried in the Place of Meditation at the Eisenhower Center.

Mrs. Eisenhower died in 1979, ten years after the death of the former President.  She was buried beside her husband at the Eisenhower Center in Abilene. The Eisenhower’s son, Icky, who died when he was 3, is buried beside his parents in Abilene.

The house where Dwight Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, and the house where he grew up in Abilene, Kan., are both open to the public. The house at Gettysburg is also open to the public and it is a delight to visit. You can almost see the President painting on the sun porch while his wife listens to her favorite soap in her pink, bedroom. A visit to the Eisenhower Gettysburg property still requires a visit to that barn, which is indeed outstanding. The Eisenhowers enjoyed their Gettysburg house, and it is also a joy for a person to be able to visit it today.