Dwight Eisenhower — 34th President of the United States

October 14, 1890–March 28, 1969

Dwight David Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States, serving from 1953 1961.

Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President, Portrait

President Dwight Eisenhower. Image Source: WhiteHouse.gov.

Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower Biography

Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States and the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. Eisenhower was born in 1890 and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Although he graduated before the United States entered the First World War, he never received the combat command in France that he coveted. Instead, Eisenhower served in administrative assignments under such military luminaries as John J, Pershing, Fox Conner, and Douglas MacArthur until the U.S. entered the Second War War. His crowning military achievement was planning, organizing, and commanding the invasion of German-occupied France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Following the war, Eisenhower served two terms as President of the United States from January 20, 1953, to January 20, 1961. His middle-of-the-road policies proved popular with most Americans. Eisenhower is often remembered for creating the nation’s interstate highway system, using federal troops to expand civil rights in the South, and guiding the United States through the Cold War without losing one soldier in combat or one foot of American soil during his eight years in office.

General John J Pershing, Portrait, Horydczak
General John J. Pershing. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Dwight Eisenhower Quick Facts

  • Date of Birth: Dwight Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison Texas. His parents were David J. and Ida Stover Eisenhower.
  • Date of Death: Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969.
  • Nickname: His nickname was “Ike.”
  • President of the United States: Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States.
  • Famous Slogan: The popular slogan for his presidential campaigns was “I Like Ike.”

Dwight Eisenhower Early Life and Career

Dwight David Eisenhower was born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas. He was the third of seven sons born to David J. and Ida Stover Eisenhower. Two years after Dwight’s birth the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, where David worked as a mechanic at a local creamery. 

Known locally as Little Ike, young Eisenhower enjoyed the outdoors where he developed a lifelong love of fishing. Like his brothers, Eisenhower attended local public schools where he developed an early and lasting interest in military history. In 1909, Little Ike graduated from Abilene High School where he was a bright student and talented athlete.

Two years after leaving high school, Eisenhower received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, much to the chagrin of his mother who as a Mennonite was a religious pacifist.

West Point Cadet

Eisenhower entered West Point on June 4, 1911. Not a particularly stellar student, he excelled in athletics. By his second year, Eisenhower was the starting halfback on the academy’s varsity football team until a severe knee injury ended his athletic career.

Academically, Eisenhower was an above-average student who especially enjoyed his English studies. A bit of a mischievous prankster, Eisenhower piled up more than the usual number of demerits for his behavior at the academy, including his penchant for smoking.

On June 15, 1915, Eisenhower graduated from West Point, ranked sixty-first out of 164 cadets in one of the more outstanding classes in the academy’s history. Later known as “the class the stars fell on,” fifty-nine members of the class of 1915 eventually achieved the rank of general.

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Family Life

After graduating from West Point, Eisenhower was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army and deployed to Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas. In October 1915, he met nineteen-year-old Mary Geneva “Mamie” Doud, a native of Boone, Iowa, who was vacationing at her family’s winter home in San Antonio. The young lieutenant and Mamie hit it off immediately and on Valentine’s Day the following year, they were engaged to be married. The couple wed on July 1, 1916, at the home of Mamie’s parents in Denver, Colorado. Following a brief honeymoon, the pair visited Eisenhower’s parents before settling into married officers’ quarters at Fort Sam Houston. The Eisenhowers’ fifty-two-year marriage produced two children—both boys. 

  • Doud Dwight Eisenhower was born on September 24, 1917, in San Antonio, while Eisenhower was stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Affectionately called Icky, the boy died of scarlet fever on January 2, 1921, while Eisenhower was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. The distraught father later reminisced that Icky’s death was “the greatest disappointment and disaster of my life, the one I have never been able to forget completely.”
  • Eighteen months after Icky’s death, Mamie gave birth to John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower on August 3, 1922, in Denver, Colorado. Like his father, John attended the United States Military Academy. He graduated on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Afterward, he served in Europe during World War II and in Korea during the Korean Conflict. John remained on active duty with the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel until 1963, and he retired from the service as a brigadier general in 1974 after serving as United States Ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971 during President Richard Nixon’s administration. John died on December 21, 2013, at Trappe, Maryland.

Throughout their long marriage, Mamie Eisenhower remained a supportive wife despite the challenges presented by constant moves, long separations, and the responsibilities of being the First Lady of the United States. She died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District of Columbia on November 1, 1979, after suffering a stroke five weeks earlier.

World War I Begins

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, Eisenhower, who had been promoted to first lieutenant on July 1 of the previous year, requested a combat assignment in Europe. Instead, the army ordered him to remain at Fort Sam Houston training the 57th Infantry. Taking some sting out of his disappointment, the army promoted Eisenhower to captain on May 15, 1917.

Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, Illustration
This illustration depicts the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, which led to the outbreak of World War I in Europe. Image Source: Wikipedia.

In September 1917, the army sent Eisenhower to Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia to train officer candidates to lead troops in the war in Europe that he yearned to fight. A few months later in February 1918, Eisenhower was elated to learn that the army was reassigning him to the 65th Engineers stationed at Camp Meade, Maryland. Placed in command of the 301st Tank Battalion, Eisenhower was ordered to organize and train the unit, which was scheduled to go to Europe the next spring. Soon after the reassignment, Eisenhower received a promotion to major (temporary) on June 17, 1918.

Eisenhower’s hopes for an overseas combat command were again dashed just as his outfit prepared to embark for Europe. Army officials decided that Eisenhower’s organizational skills were indispensable and reassigned him to Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to command the newly organized Tank Corps. What would otherwise have been a plum promotion denied Eisenhower the opportunity to command troops during the Great War.

Eisenhower After WW I

In October 1918, the army promoted Eisenhower to lieutenant colonel (temporary) and ordered him to embark for France on November 18. On November 11, 1818, representatives of the belligerent forces signed the armistice that ended World War I hostilities. The army rescinded Eisenhower’s orders to leave for Europe. Instead of the combat assignment Eisenhower yearned for, he spent the next few months discharging most of the men he had trained, and commanding the remnants of his peacetime unit. On June 30, 1920, Eisenhower reverted to his rank of captain in the regular army. Two days later, on July 2, he received a promotion to major.

In the fall of 1919, Eisenhower met George S. Patton who had commanded a tank battalion in France during WWI. The two men shared an enthusiasm for tank warfare that spawned a long friendship. While attending a dinner party hosted by Patton at Fort Meade, Eisenhower met General Fox Conner. Conner was a powerful figure in the peacetime army who had served as General John J. Pershing’s operations officer when Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Force in Europe during WWI. After the war, Conner served as Pershing’s chief of staff when Pershing became Chief of Staff of the Army. 

General George S. Patton, USA, 1945
General George S. Patton in 1945. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Eisenhower at the Panama Canal

In 1921, Conner took command of the 20th Infantry Brigade in the Panama Canal Zone. He selected Eisenhower as his executive officer. During their time in Panama, Conner challenged Eisenhower to become a serious student of military history. Eisenhower later described his three years under Conner’s tutelage as “a sort of graduate school in military affairs.” Recognizing Eisenhower as a dedicated and able learner, Conner described Eisenhower as “one of the most capable, efficient, and loyal officers I have ever met.” Decades later, Eisenhower reminisced that “Fox Conner was the ablest man I ever knew.” 

Congress Reduces the Size of the U.S. Army

During the early 1920s, conservatives in Congress were eager to reduce the size of the nation’s standing army. As the number of officers and enlisted men shrunk, Eisenhower was discharged as a major and reappointed as a captain in the regular army on November 4, 1922. It was not until August 26, 1924, that Eisenhower was once again promoted to the rank of major. Despite Eisenhower’s indisputable talents, he would not receive another promotion for twelve years.

Eisenhower at Command School

In 1925, Conner arranged an appointment for Eisenhower to the Command and General Staff School at Leavenworth, Kansas, a graduate school for military officers. Eisenhower validated his mentor’s faith by graduating first in his class of 245 officers the following year.

Eisenhower’s achievements at the command school and Conner’s influence garnered Eisenhower an assignment on the American Battle Monuments Commission under General Pershing. Pershing put Eisenhower to work compiling a history of the American Expeditionary Forces’ battles on the Western Front during World War I. When Eisenhower completed A Guide to the American Battlefields in Europe in 1927,  a delighted Pershing remarked “What he has done was accomplished only by the exercise of unusual intelligence and constant devotion to duty.”

Assigned to the Staff of General George Moseley

In November 1929, Eisenhower was assigned to the staff of General George V. Moseley who was an executive to the Assistant Secretary of War. In 1930, Eisenhower remained with Moseley when he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army. When General Douglas MacArthur became the Army Chief of Staff on November 21, 1930, Moseley became MacArthur’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and Eisenhower served as Moseley’s executive officer. MacArthur quickly recognized Eisenhower’s administrative talents and Eisenhower became an unofficial military assistant. 

Bonus Army Marches on Washington 

In May 1932, with the nation in the throes of the Great Depression, some 20,000 to 40,000 jobless WWI veterans descended on Washington, D.C., demanding early payment of military bonuses the federal government awarded to them for their service. Vowing to stay until the bonuses were paid, the veterans occupied buildings and set up camps in several locations near the nation’s capital. Convinced that Communists were inciting the veterans, President Herbert Hoover ordered the D.C. police to remove the trespassers. When violence erupted on July 28, resulting in two deaths, Hoover called in the army. 

Led by MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton were among the leaders of the force that used tanks and tear gas to drive the veterans off and burn their temporary dwellings. The next day, the Washington Daily News, described the action as “A pitiful spectacle,” to see “the mightiest government in the world chasing unarmed men, women, and children with Army tanks. If the Army must be called out to make war on unarmed citizens, this is no longer America.”

Bonus Army Protest, 1932, Fight with Police
Bonus Army members clash with the police in 1932. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Aide to General Douglas MacArthur

In February 1933, Eisenhower became MacArthur’s chief military aide, a position he held until September 1935. When MacArthur became the Chief Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines in 1935, Eisenhower followed and remained MacArthur’s aide until December 1939. One year after his arrival in the Philippines, Eisenhower received a promotion to lieutenant colonel on July 1, 1936.

During the roughly ten years Eisenhower served under MacArthur, they developed a mutual respect for each other. MacArthur once described Eisenhower as “the best officer in the Army.” Eisenhower characterized his boss as “decisive, personable, amazingly comprehensive in his knowledge.” Still, the two men often clashed because their personalities differed. The naturally self-effacing Eisenhower had trouble adapting to MacArthur’s bombastic leadership style. Despite their differences, Eisenhower observed that “Hostility between us has been exaggerated. After all, there must be a strong tie for two men to work so closely for so many years.”

General Douglas MacArthur, WW 2, Portrait, LOC
General Douglas MacArthur during World War II. Image Source: Library of Congress.

General Eisenhower During World War II

In September 1939, German soldiers stormed across the Polish border in a blitzkrieg that stunned the world. Three months later, Eisenhower returned to the United States, where he served at Fort Ord, California, Fort Lewis, Washington, and Fort Sam Houston until December 1941. During that period, as the army ramped up for the possibility of war, Eisenhower received promotions to colonel (temporary) in March 1941, and to brigadier general on October 3, 1941.

December 7, 1941 — Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise air raid against U.S. military forces in Hawaii. The next day, Congress declared war against Japan. The year 1942 was a whirlwind for Eisenhower. Chief of Staff Marshall summoned him to Washington in December 1941 to develop plans for mobilizing the army and conducting the war. Eisenhower impressed Marshall immediately, and he quickly worked his way up the ladder on Marshall’s staff. By February 1942, Eisenhower was chief of the War Plans Division. One month later, on March 27, he was promoted to major general (temporary), a rank appropriate for his important prominent office. Together with Marshall, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Eisenhower helped develop the strategic plan to defeat the Axis powers in Europe before waging an all-out effort against Japan.

Attack on Pearl Harbor, Burning Ship, NA
Thick smoke rolls out of a burning ship during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. December 7, 1941. Image Source: National Archives.

Eisenhower Named Commanding General in Europe

Marshall and Eisenhower also agreed that all American forces sent to fight in Europe should be under the command of one man. Eisenhower recommended General Joseph T. McNarney, but with approval from Roosevelt, Churchill, and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Marshall had Eisenhower promoted to lieutenant general (temporary) on June 7, 1942, and selected him as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations on June 11. Two weeks later, on June 24, Eisenhower arrived in England and took command of all American ground, naval, and air forces in Europe. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1944, Campaign Portrait
President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Image Source: FDR Presidential Library & Museum.

Operation Torch

Working with Marshall and the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, Eisenhower began planning Operation Sledgehammer and Operation Roundup, two Allied invasions of German-occupied France. Opposed by the British, the offensives were designed to relieve pressure on Soviet troops fighting the Nazis in the USSR. To Eisenhower’s dismay, Churchill convinced Roosevelt to postpone the invasion of France in favor of confronting the Germans in North Africa.   

On July 26, 1942, the British and American Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff (CSS) appointed Eisenhower to command all allied troops during the North African Campaign, code-named Operation Torch.

Beginning on November 8, 1942, and ending on November 16, the Allied offensive was successful, but not without problems. Still, Eisenhower demonstrated his ability to coordinate multinational military operations. He also gained invaluable experience organizing and commanding large amphibious invasions, which would serve him well in 1944.

Eisenhower’s success in Africa prompted the War Department to promote him to the temporary rank of general on February 11, 1943.

Operation Husky — Invasion of Sicily

At the urging of Churchill, the Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff postponed a cross-channel invasion of France in favor of further operations in the Mediterranean Sea against German forces on the Island of Sicily. The CSS charged Eisenhower with planning and coordinating the invasion. Code named Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily began on July 9, 1943. Five weeks later, the Allied campaign ended on August 17 when thousands of German and Italian troops evacuated the island. 

At the completion of Operation Husky, the War Department promoted Eisenhower to the permanent rank of brigadier general and major general on August 30, 1943. 

Invasion of Italy

While Allied ground forces were fighting in Sicily, their air forces began bombing mainland Italy. On July 25, 1943, the Italian Grand Council voted Prime Minister Benito Mussolini out of power, and King Victor Emmanuel III ordered him imprisoned. Two weeks later, on September 8, the Italian government surrendered to the Allies. The surrender, however, did not impact the thousands of German troops occupying Italy. 

On September 9, 1943, under Eisenhower’s overall direction, an amphibious invasion code-named Operation Avalanche landed Allied troops at Salerno and Taranto on mainland Italy. It took the Allies over a year to drive the Nazis out of Italy. By that time, Eisenhower had moved on to command a larger invasion.

Operation Overlord

As 1943 drew to a close, the Soviet Union’s Red Army and the German Wehrmacht were engaged in savage fighting on the Eastern Front. Meeting with Churchill and Roosevelt in Tehran in December, Soviet Premier Josef Stalin continued to press the United States and Great Britain to open a new front on Germany’s west. After the conference, British officials finally agreed to take part in an invasion of German-occupied France across the English Channel. 

Most military officials expected Roosevelt to assign Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall the honor of leading the long-anticipated final assault against Germany. Instead, on December 24, 1943, Roosevelt selected Eisenhower to lead Operation Overlord.

June 6, 1944 — The Invasion of Normandy

Assigned the title of Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, Eisenhower immediately left the Mediterranean Theater and traveled to England where he spent the next six months planning the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Under Eisenhower’s command, on June 6, 1944, over 150,000 Allied troops stormed five beaches in Normandy, France. The successful operation enabled the Allies to establish a foothold on Western European soil and gradually drive east, culminating with Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945.

As a reward for his accomplishment, Eisenhower received a fifth star when he was promoted to General of the Army on December 20, 1944.

D-Day, WW 2, American Troops Approach Omaha Beach
This photograph shows American troops wading toward Omaha Beach on D-Day. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Dwight Eisenhower Post-War Career

Immediately after Germany’s surrender, Eisenhower served briefly as the Military Governor of the U.S. Occupied Zone, in Frankfurt, Germany. On November 19, 1945, President Harry S. Truman appointed him Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, a position held until February 6, 1948. During his tenure as Chief of Staff, Eisenhower oversaw the demobilization of millions of soldiers who saw service during World War II. Five months after his appointment, on April 11, 1946, Eisenhower’s wartime rank of General of the Army became permanent. 

On June 7, 1948, the trustees of Columbia University, appointed Eisenhower as president of the university. He served in that capacity until January 19, 1953, although he was on leave for much of the time, earning him the enmity of many faculty members.

In an informal capacity, Eisenhower served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the newly created defense department.

On December 16, 1950, the member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) unanimously selected Eisenhower as the organization’s first Supreme Allied Commander, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Europe (SHAPE). Eisenhower took leave from Columbia and headed off to Brussels, Belgium. On April 2, 1951, he signed the activation order for Allied Command Europe and he subsequently commanded all NATO forces in Europe until May 30, 1952. 

While serving with NATO in Brussels, Eisenhower began testing the political waters back home. After winning the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary election in March 1952, Eisenhower resigned from his NATO position and returned to the U.S. On May 31, 1952, Eisenhower retired from active military duty and six weeks later, on July 18, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army.

President Eisenhower

1952 Presidential Candidate

On June 4, 1952, Eisenhower announced his candidacy for the Republican Party nomination for President in Abilene, Kansas. His main competitors were Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio who represented old-guard conservatives, and New York Governor Thomas Dewey whom President Harry S. Truman had defeated in the 1948 presidential election. When Republicans assembled for their national convention in Chicago on July 11, 1952, an acrimonious disagreement arose over the seating of delegates. Eisenhower’s team finessed the rules in their candidate’s favor and on July 11, Eisenhower secured the Republican presidential nomination on the first vote on July 11. 

Following the convention’s dramatics, the presidential election held on November 4, 1952, was anti-climactic. The wildly popular Eisenhower swamped the Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower received 34,075,529 votes (55.2%) to Stevenson’s 27,375,090 (44.3%). In the Electoral College voting, the results were even more one-sided; Eisenhower carried thirty-nine states, receiving 442 electoral votes, compared to Stevenson’s nine states and eighty-nine electoral votes. 

Two weeks after his victory, Eisenhower tendered his resignation as president of Columbia University, effective January 19, 1953, the day before his inauguration as President of the United States.

First Term in Office — January 20, 1953–January 20, 1957

Eisenhower took the oath of office in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 1953. His middle-of-the-road policies enabled him to work well with Congress even though the Democrats held majorities in both houses. 

The major events and achievements of his first four years as president included:

  • Creation of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
  • Enactment of legislation creating the St. Lawrence Seaway, a project that linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River.
  • Eisenhower’s authorization for the CIA to kindle the overthrow of the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).
  • Eisenhower’s administration negotiated an armistice ending the Korean War.
  • Eisenhower’s nomination of Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, followed by the Senate’s confirmation.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education that led to the desegregation of public schools in the U.S. (Although Eisenhower did not support the ruling, he fulfilled his duty as President by enforcing it.)
  • Enactment of the Atomic Energy Act promoting the peaceful use of atomic energy.
  • The Senate’s censure of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Although Eisenhower abhorred McCarthy and his ruthless tactics, he refused to use the power of his office to curb McCarthy.)
  • Creation of the Southeast Atlantic Treaty Organization (SEATO).
  • Enactment of the Federal Highway Act creating the interstate highway system. (Eisenhower was a strong advocate for improving the nation’s highways.)

As Eisenhower neared the end of his first term, he suffered a serious heart attack on September 23-24, 1955, while vacationing in Denver, Colorado. While hospitalized in Colorado until November 11, he continued in his role as president as he convalesced.

1956 Presidential Candidate

Despite the seriousness of his 1955 heart attack, Eisenhower announced on February 29, 1956, that he would seek a second presidential term. When the Republican Party convened its national convention in San Francisco, California, on August 20, 1956, it was a foregone conclusion that Eisenhower would secure the party’s presidential nomination. During his acceptance speech on August 23, after being unanimously nominated, Eisenhower stressed the theme of the Republican Party as “the party of the future.”

When American voters went to the polls on November 6, 1956, Eisenhower defeated repeat-Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson even more convincingly than he had in 1952. Eisenhower received 35,579,180 popular votes (57.4%) to Stevenson’s 26,028,028 (40%). In the Electoral College voting, Eisenhower carried forty-one states, receiving 457 electoral votes, compared to Stevenson’s seven states and seventy-three electoral votes.

Second Term in Office — January 20, 1957–January 20, 1961

Once again, despite working with a Democratically controlled Congress, Eisenhower’s middle-of-the-road policies enabled him to maintain good relations with the legislative branch. 

The major events and achievements of his second term included:

  • Enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first major civil-rights legislation since Reconstruction. The act empowered federal officials to prosecute individuals who conspired to deny or abridge another citizen’s right to vote. 
  • Deployment of federal troops to Arkansas to enforce court-mandated integration at Little Rock Central High School. This marked the first time since Reconstruction that a president sent military forces into the South to enforce federal law.
  • Deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps into Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government.
  • Creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • Enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1960, expanding the enforcement powers of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
  • Severing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Was Eisenhower a good President?

The American electorate rebuffed Eisenhower’s vice-president Richard M. Nixon, in favor of Democrat John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Yet, when the aging general left office on January 20, 1961, his fellow countrymen still liked Ike.

Times were generally good for most white Americans, and although Eisenhower was no champion of civil rights, conditions improved for black Americans because of his determination to enforce the will of Congress and the Supreme Court.

The nation’s economy was purring along and Eisenhower managed to balance the federal budget for half of the eight years he was in office. The interstate highway system, created under his leadership, fueled the economy and made it easier for Americans to visit distant parts of the nation.

After negotiating an end to the Korean War, Eisenhower led the country through perilous times during the Cold War. Despite facing international crises in Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, the man who led the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare, and subsequently guided the Allies to victory in Europe, was able to accurately boast “The United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground in my administration.”

On January 17, 1961, three days before leaving office, Eisenhower addressed the nation on television. During his now-famous farewell address, Eisenhower warned Americans:

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.

In light of America’s later military involvement in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, his counsel proved to be especially prescient.

Later Life and Death

Following his presidency, Eisenhower returned to private life living at his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Shortly after leaving office, an act of Congress restored him to the rank of General of the Army on March 30, 1961. During his retirement, Eisenhower remained only moderately involved in politics, preferring instead to spend his final years traveling, farming, fishing, oil painting, golfing, and playing bridge. 

By the late-1960s, Eisenhower’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. On April 29, 1968, he suffered a heart attack while golfing in California. Following a two-week hospital stay, he traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, to convalesce at Walter Reed Hospital.

While there, Eisenhower suffered three more heart attacks (June 15, August 6, and August 16, 1968) and underwent surgery for an intestinal blockage on February 23, 1969. Four days following the surgery, he contracted pneumonia, which doctors successfully combated with antibiotics. Still, the former president’s health continued to decline.

On March 28, 1969, after being hospitalized for nearly a year, Major General Frederic Hughes, hospital commander, announced Eisenhower had succumbed to congestive heart failure “after a long and heroic struggle against overwhelming illness.”

Following a three-day state funeral in Washington, D.C., Eisenhower’s body traveled by train to Abilene, Kansas, where it was interred in the Place of Meditation on April 2, 1969.

Significance of Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower was important to the history of the United States for many reasons. He led Allied forces to victory in Europe during World War II and was later elected the thirty-fourth President of the United States. During his eight years in office, Eisenhower championed the construction of the nation’s interstate highway system, used federal troops to expand civil rights in the South, and guided the United States through the Cold War without losing one soldier in combat or one foot of American soil. For many Americans who lived through the Eisenhower Era, he is viewed as an American Hero.

Dwight Eisenhower Accomplishments

  1. Dwight Eisenhower graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point on June 15, 1915.
  2. Eisenhower served as an aide to American military luminaries John J. Pershing, Fox Conner, Douglas MacArthur, and George C. Marshall.
  3. Eisenhower became the commander of all U.S. troops in the European theater of World War II on June 25, 1942.
  4. Eisenhower commanded the successful invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy in 1943.
  5. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe on December 24, 1943.
  6. Eisenhower commanded the successful invasion of Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
  7. Eisenhower was promoted to General of the Army (five stars) on December 20, 1944.
  8. Eisenhower served as the first Supreme Allied Commander, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces from 1951 – 1952.
  9. Eisenhower served as President of the United States from January 20, 1953, to January 20, 1961.
  10. Eisenhower championed the construction of the United States Interstate Highway System.

10 Interesting Facts About Dwight Eisenhower

  1. Eisenhower’s mother was a member of the Mennonite Church and a pacifist.
  2. Eisenhower was an outstanding athlete who was a starting halfback on the U.S. Military Academy’s varsity football team until a severe knee injury ended his athletic career.
  3. Eisenhower was the third of seven sons.
  4. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, but he grew up in Abilene, Kansas.
  5. Eisenhower married his wife of fifty-two years, Mary Geneva “Mamie” Doud, on July 1, 1916.
  6. Eisenhower described the death of his son, “Icky,” in 1921 as “the greatest disappointment and disaster of my life, the one I have never been able to forget completely.”
  7. Although Eisenhower dutifully followed orders while breaking up the Bonus March on Washington in 1932, he was critical of Douglas MacArthur’s excessive use of force.
  8. Eisenhower was an avid fisher, golfer, artist, bridge player, and avocational farmer.
  9. When not traveling, Eisenhower spent most of his retirement at his farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which is now Eisenhower National Historic Site. It is near the location where the Battle of Gettysburg took place in 1863.
  10. Although Eisenhower qualified to be buried at Arlington Nation Cemetery, he chose his hometown, Abilene, Kansas as his final resting place.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Dwight Eisenhower — 34th President of the United States
  • Date October 14, 1890–March 28, 1969
  • Author
  • Keywords Dwight Eisenhower, World War I, World War II, D-Day, 34th President
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date April 18, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update December 13, 2023

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