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Dwight D. Eisenhower

(1890—1969) American general and Republican statesman, 34th President of the US 1953–61

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US general and Republican statesman; thirty-fourth president of the USA (1953–60).

Born in Denison, Texas, Eisenhower graduated from West Point military academy in 1915 and held senior military positions until the outbreak of World War II. During the war he served as chief of staff of the Third Army (1941), US commander in Europe (1942), and Allied commander in North Africa and Italy (1942–43). Following the success of the North African campaign, Eisenhower became supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe (1943), and in June 1944 commanded the D-Day invasion of Normandy. At the end of the war he was appointed army chief of staff in Washington and (in 1950) military commander of NATO.

In 1952 Eisenhower decided to accept the Republican invitation to run as candidate in the presidential election, and had an overwhelming victory over the Democratic candidate, Adlai Stevenson. Although naturally conservative in his own approach, Eisenhower was restricted by a Democratic Congress; in the domestic field he presided over major developments in the field of civil rights (using troops to enforce desegregation at schools in Little Rock, Arkansas), instigated public works projects, and made stringent efforts to revitalize the depressed economy. In foreign affairs, Eisenhower's administration adopted a stern attitude against communism during the period of the Cold War, especially through the policies of his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, and at home it endorsed the hysterical anticommunist ‘witchhunt’ of Senator Joseph McCarthy. However, Eisenhower's personal inclinations were towards a more conciliatory approach, and in 1953 he concluded a truce to end the Korean War. He also held back from intervention in the Hungarian uprising and the Suez Crisis (both in 1956). During his later years in office relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated, however, and the ‘Eisenhower Doctrine’ (1957) promised military aid to Middle Eastern countries to repel communist advances. Matters came to a head when the Soviets threatened to compel US withdrawal from Berlin and (in 1960) shot down a U-2 American spy plane in the Soviet Union, on the eve of a crucial summit conference in Paris.

With failing health, and unable in any case to stand for a third term of office, ‘Ike’ retired in 1960, his personal popularity almost as great as when he was first elected. After his retirement he retained his interest in political affairs and wrote several books on his career: Mandate for Change (1963), Waging Peace (1965), and At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (1967).

Subjects: Social sciences

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