Dwight D. Eisenhower - Facts, Presidency & Accomplishments (2024)

Dwight Eisenhower

Eisenhower’s Early Life and Military Career

Born in Denison, Texas, on October 14, 1890, Dwight David Eisenhower grew up in Abilene, Kansas, as the third of seven sons in a poor family. To the distress of his mother, a devout Mennonite and pacifist, young Ike (as he was known) won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and graduated in the middle of his class in 1915. While stationed as a second lieutenant in San Antonio, Texas, Eisenhower met Mamie Geneva Doud. The couple married in 1916 and had two sons, Doud Dwight (who died of scarlet fever as a small child) and John.

Did you know? At the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, General Eisenhower was among those who opposed the use of the atomic bomb against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He argued that Japan was on the verge of surrender already and that being the first to use such a fearsome new weapon would damage U.S. prestige in the international community just as it had reached its highest point.

World War I ended just before Eisenhower was scheduled to go to Europe, frustrating the young officer, but he soon managed to gain an appointment to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Graduating first in his class of 245, he served as a military aide to General John J. Pershing, commander of U.S. forces during World War I, and later to General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army chief of staff. During his seven years serving under MacArthur, Eisenhower was stationed in the Philippines from 1935 to 1939.

Eisenhower in World War II

Eisenhower returned soon after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland sparked the outbreak of World War II in Europe. In September 1941, he received his first general’s star with a promotion to brigadier general. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor that December, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall called Eisenhower to Washington, D.C. to work as a planning officer. Beginning in November 1942, Eisenhower headed Operation Torch, the successful Allied invasion of North Africa. He then directed the amphibious invasion of Sicily and the Italian mainland in 1943 that led to the fall of Rome in June 1944.

Made a full general in early 1943, Eisenhower was appointed supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in December of that year and given the responsibility of spearheading the planned Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. On D-Day (June 6, 1944), more than 150,000 Allied forces crossed the English Channel and stormed the beaches of Normandy; the invasion led to the liberation of Paris on August 25 and turned the tide of the war in Europe decisively in the Allied direction. Having risen from lieutenant colonel in the Philippines to supreme commander of the victorious forces in Europe in only five years, Eisenhower returned home to a hero’s welcome in 1945 to serve as chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

Ike’s Road to the White House

In 1948, Eisenhower left active duty and became president of New York City’s Columbia University. His brief return to civilian life ended in 1950, however, when President Harry S. Truman asked him to take command of the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Europe. In that position, Eisenhower worked to create a unified military organization that would combat potential communist aggression around the globe.

In 1952, with Truman’s popularity sagging during the ongoing war in Korea, leading Republicans approached Eisenhower and persuaded him to make a run for president. After mixed results in primary elections against the Republican front-runner, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, Eisenhower resigned his commission in the Army and returned from his NATO base in Paris in June 1952.

At the party’s national convention that July, he won the Republican nomination on the first ballot. Under the slogan “I Like Ike” and with Senator Richard M. Nixon of California as his running mate, Eisenhower then defeated Adlai Stevenson to become the 34th president of the United States. (Eisenhower would beat Stevenson again four years later in a landslide to win reelection, despite health concerns after suffering a heart attack in 1955.)

Inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower’s Domestic Policy

As a moderate Republican, Eisenhower was able to achieve numerous legislative victories despite a Democratic majority in Congress during six of his eight years in office. In addition to continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs of his predecessors (Franklin Roosevelt and Truman, respectively), he strengthened the Social Security program, increased the minimum wage and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1956, Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System, the single largest public works program in U.S. history, which would construct 41,000 miles of roads across the country.

During Eisenhower’s first term, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade violated the civil liberties of many citizens, culminating in a series of sensational televised hearings in the spring of 1954. To preserve party unity, Eisenhower refrained from publicly criticizing McCarthy, though he privately disliked the senator and worked behind the scenes to diminish McCarthy’s influence and eventually discredit him. Eisenhower was even more hesitant, however, in the realm of civil rights for African Americans.

In 1954, in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional. Eisenhower believed that desegregation should proceed slowly, and was reluctant to use his presidential authority to back up the enforcement of the Court’s verdict, though he did send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 to enforce integration of a high school there. Eisenhower did sign civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 providing federal protection for black voters; it was the first such legislation passed in the United States since Reconstruction.

Eisenhower’s Foreign Policy

Soon after taking office, Eisenhower signed an armistice ending the Korean War. Aside from sending combat troops into Lebanon in 1958, he would send no other armed forces into active duty throughout his presidency, though he did not hesitate to authorize defense spending. He also authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to undertake covert operations against communism around the world, two of which toppled the governments of Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954. In 1954, Eisenhower decided against authorizing an airstrike to rescue French troops from defeat at Dien Bien Phu, avoiding a war in Indochina, though his support for the anti-communist government in South Vietnam would sow the seeds of future U.S. participation in the Vietnam War.

Eisenhower sought to improve Cold War-era relations with the Soviet Union, especially after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953. In July 1955, when Eisenhower met with British, French and Russian leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, he proposed an “open skies” policy, in which the United States and Soviet Union would conduct air inspections of each other’s military programs; the U.S.S.R. rejected the proposal, though it won international approval. Under the rising threat of Soviet nuclear weapons technology, Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles did succeed in strengthening NATO and in creating the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to combat communist expansion in that region.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Legacy and Post-Presidential Life

Though U.S.-Soviet relations remained relatively cordial throughout his presidency, including a summit meeting with Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959, the Soviet shooting of a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane in May 1960 dashed Eisenhower’s hopes for a treaty before he left office. In his farewell address of January 1961, Eisenhower spoke of the dangers inherent in what he called the “military-industrial complex.”

Due to the combination of national defense needs with advances in technology, he warned, a partnership between the military establishment and big business threatened to exert an undue influence on the course of the American government. His warnings would go unheeded, however, amid the ongoing tensions of the Cold War era.

While weathering criticism from both left and right, Eisenhower enjoyed high approval ratings throughout his administration. After leaving office in January 1961, he retired to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He worked largely on his memoirs and would publish several books over the following years. He died on March 28, 1969, after a long illness.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower - Facts, Presidency & Accomplishments (2024)


What did Dwight D. Eisenhower do as president? ›

On the domestic front, Eisenhower governed as a moderate conservative who continued New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security. He covertly opposed Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking executive privilege.

What got Eisenhower into politics? ›

Did Eisenhower establish NASA? ›

President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 into law on July 29, creating NASA. The agency opened for business on Oct. 1, 1958.

What did Eisenhower do in Vietnam? ›

President Eisenhower sent some 700 military personnel as well military and economic aid to the government of South Vietnam. This effort was foundering when John F. Kennedy became president.

What did Eisenhower do in 1952? ›

The 1952 United States presidential election was the 42nd quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 1952. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Democratic Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson II in a landslide victory, becoming the first Republican president in 20 years.

What wars did Eisenhower serve in? ›

During World War II, he rose through the ranks to become the Allied Supreme Commander and five-star General of the Army, orchestrating the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings at Normandy, France. After World War II, Eisenhower was elected the 34th President of the United States and served two terms from 1953-61.

Was Eisenhower a good president? ›

Eisenhower left office popular with the public but viewed by many commentators as a "do-nothing" president. His reputation improved after the release of his private papers in the 1970s. Polls of historians and political scientists rank Eisenhower in the top quartile of presidents.

What was Eisenhower's final warning? ›

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Did Eisenhower end the Korean war? ›

On July 27, 1953, seven months after President Eisenhower's inauguration as the 34th President of the United States, an armistice was signed, ending organized combat operations and leaving the Korean Peninsula divided much as it had been since the close of World War II at the 38th parallel.

What is NASA's old name? ›

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created in 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and other related organizations, as the result of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

Who is the CEO of NASA? ›

Clarence William Nelson II (born September 29, 1942) is an American politician and attorney serving as the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Which president went to space? ›

Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan on their upcoming historic Enterprise Flight, humanity's first deep space time capsule. This, in turn, will make it the first time in history that any president has gone to space in any fashion symbolically or otherwise.

Which president started the Vietnam War? ›

Johnson. Recognizing that the South Vietnamese government and army were on the verge of collapse, Johnson sent the first U.S. combat troops into battle in early 1965. He simultaneously authorized a massive bombing campaign, codenamed Operation Rolling Thunder, that would continue unabated for years.

Who sent U.S. to Vietnam? ›

A major factor that led President Lyndon B. Johnson to intervene into Vietnam militarily was the fear of communism due to Cold War tensions with communist countries such as China and the Soviet Union.

What war was 1961? ›

the Vietnam War

What action did President Eisenhower take and why? ›

Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957, mainly a voting rights legislation, which was the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction. Eisenhower orders federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to end white supremacist violence and protest against the desegregation of local schools.

How good was Eisenhower as a general? ›

Reputation. Eisenhower's contemporaries in the British and American militaries regarded him as an excellent administrator; General Montgomery called him a "military statesman." Historian Russell Weigley ranked Eisenhower as the third-greatest U.S. Army leader after George Washington and Ulysses S.

What role did Eisenhower play in the Cold War? ›

Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower insisted on having plans to retaliate, fight, and win a nuclear war against the Soviets, although he hoped he would never feel forced to use such weapons. As the ground war in Korea ended, Eisenhower sharply reduced the reliance on expensive Army divisions.

Why was Dwight D Eisenhower important quizlet? ›

Dwight D. Eisenhower was an important general during World War II because. In particular, it was under him that some of the most important Allied victories took place, perhaps most notably the Normandy landings.


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