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Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower, (1890-1969), American general and 34th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES was the principal architect of the successful Allied invasion of Europe during World War II and of the subsequent defeat of Nazi Germany. As President, Eisenhower ended the Korean War, but his two terms (1953-1961) produced few legislative landmarks or dramatic initiatives in foreign policy. His presidency is remembered as a period of relative calm in the United States.

Eisenhower spent his first 50 years in almost total obscurity. A professional soldier, he was not even particularly well known within the U.S. Army. His rise to fame during World War II was meteoric: a lieutenant colonel in 1941, he was a five-star general in 1945. As supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, he commanded the most powerful force ever assembled under one man. He is one of the few generals ever to command major naval forces; he directed the world’s greatest air force; he is the only man ever to command successfully an integrated, multinational alliance of ground, sea, and air forces. He led the assault on the French coast at Normandy, on June 6, 1944, and held together the Allied units through the European campaign that followed, concentrating everyone’s attention on a single objective: the defeat of Nazi Germany, completed on May 8, 1945.

In 1950, President Harry TRUMAN appointed Eisenhower the supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, thus making Eisenhower the first man to command a large, peacetime multinational force. His genius lay in getting people of diverse background to work together toward a common objective, but he was equally skillful as a strategist and administrator.

He displayed the same talents as President, but they did not produce the same spectacular results. The discipline characteristic of military organizations was unknown to American politics, and rebellion against his leadership occurred frequently—the more so because his REPUBLICAN party controlled CONGRESS during only two of Eisenhower’s eight years in office. His dislike of politics was also a handicap. He calmed fears about Communist infiltration of the national government. He provided partial relief from the divisiveness engendered by his predecessor’s approach to issues, yet Eisenhower’s achievements seem less impressive in retrospect because he minimized the importance of racial tensions and of socioeconomic antagonisms that erupted so explosively in the 1960’s.

Although only a little above average in height and weight, Eisenhower dominated any gathering of which he was a member. His bald pate, prominent forehead, and broad mouth made his head seem larger than it was. He had a wonderfully expressive face, and it was impossible for him to conceal his feelings.

He had a sharp, orderly mind. No one thought of him as an intellectual giant, and outside his professional field he was not well read. He was not likely to come up with brilliant insights. But he could look at a problem, analyze it, see what alternatives were available, and choose from among them. His beliefs were those of Main Street; his personality that of the outgoing, affable American writ large.

Almost everyone liked him. His easy manners, his obvious concern with the welfare of others, his ability to listen patiently—all contributed to his popularity. Most important was his trustworthy nature. His grin, his mannerisms, and his generosity and kindness all exuded sincerity.

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