Military Industrial Complex

Dwight D. Eisenhower Biography

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 01/2013

The man behind the immortal words.

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Vintage Eisenhower
Dwight Eisenhower Military Industrial Complex Farewell Address
[ Transcript ] [ Biography ]
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Revered by some as one of America's greatest presidents (Eisenhower consistently makes the top ten list for most notable US Presidents), considered a lame duck national leader for his tenure as President by others, no one can argue that Dwight Eisenhower will long be remembered for a most prominent role in American history in particularly turbulent times. Serving as both a top-level general during World War Two, commander of forces for NATO in the Korean War of the early fifties, administer of the Free World during the Cold War and head of the government effort to desegregate schools (along with the armed forces), Dwight David Eisenhower will also be remembered for his timely and dire warning presented in his 1961 farewell address in which he brought to light the power of the military-industrial complex. Having had first-hand exposure to the possibility of such an entity from both sides of the table, Eisenhower envisioned a military complex that had gotten out of control. An entity that had risen from the production efforts in World War Two and were still alive and well in a global peacetime mentality. "Ike" made no mistake on his stance against the expansion of a large military community supporting a global presence but still wholeheartedly believed in an America that could capably defend itself.


The Man


Eisenhower was born as the third of seven brothers in Denison, Texas on October 14, 1890 though he was reared in Abilene. Kansas (to which the Eisenhower Center is based at to this day). His parents were David Jacob Eisenhower, an engineer by profession, and Ida Elizabeth. Dwight David Eisenhower would become quite the accomplished athlete (before a knee injury shortened his promising future) before graduating from Abilene High School in 1909. Eisenhower would go on to find true love in Mamie Geneva Doud, a Colorado native, and the couple would produce two sons - the first, Doud Dwight Eisenhower would be born in 1917 but would sadly succumb to scarlet fever by 1921. The second, John Sheldon David Doud Eisenhower, would go on to follow in the footsteps of dad and serve in the United States Army.


The General


By this time, Dwight Eisenhower was already being steered by friends in the direction of the Naval Academy, to which he applied and passed the entrance exam but was too old for admission by Naval Academy requirements. After a recommendation a Kansas Senator Joseph L. Bristow, Eisenhower began the next chapter of his life with the Military Academy at West Point by June of 1911. Once out of the Academy, Eisenhower went on to serve in World War 1, though any combat exposure was limited to the training of tank crews in State-side Pennsylvania. After holding various more roles, he came under the wing of General Douglas MacArthur, serving as his chief military aid. In fact, once a part of the United states Army, Dwight Eisenhower served under some of the most memorable names in US Military history that would included General John J. Pershing (of World War 1 fame) and General Douglas MacArthur (soon to be a house-hold name in World War 2). His call to action would not commence until the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Empire of Japan, when General George C. Marshall tabbed Eisenhower to work under him. The exposure to such a "colorful" character as General MacArthur lead many people to believe that this experience strengthened Eisenhower's personality to dealing with such types as General Bernard Law Montgomery, General George S. Patton and Winston Churchill throughout the Second World War. By 1941, Eisenhower had achieved the position of Chief of Staff to high-ranking General Walter Krueger and later appointed as Brigadier General in September of that year. By 1942, Eisenhower was serving with the General Staff in Washington, D.C., drawing up plans to combat German and Japanese aggression. From there, Eisenhower would become the head of the pivotal Allied beach landings of 1942 in North Africa and later serving as Supreme Allied Commander of forces on 1944 in the D-Day beach landings which, considering his lack of direct combat exposure on any front lines, was an unheard of appointment. Nevertheless, his name would become synonymous with the American war effort in Europe throughout the remainder of the war years making him a national hero by the time of his return to the United States. Several instances during the war would embody the character of Eisenhower, but none more than the discovery of German concentration camps throughout Europe to which Ike would order thorough filming on the premises so as to give the world an undisputable account of German atrocities.


The President


Following the war, Eisenhower headed off to civilian life, becoming president of Columbia University. The tensions of the Cold War forced Eisenhower's military prowess back into action, this time as head of Allied forces in the Korean War overseeing the newly-formed NATO. He was designated as the Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in December of 1950 but would retire from all official military capacities by 1952, to which, persuaded once again by his peers, would run for the presidency of the United States. Eisenhower, already a war hero in the eyes of many, was popular throughout the country, going under the banner of "We Like Ike", a catchy slogan that endeared him to many more. He earned a sweeping Republican victory over Democratic rival Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 Presidential Elections, making Eisenhower the 34th President of the United States. This same year, Eisenhower published the well-accepted wartime memoirs entitled "Crusade in Europe". Incidentally, Eisenhower's presidential victory of 1952 made him the only serving US President with experience as a military general. Ike also became the first Republican in the White House in 20 years. With the Korean War stalled at an armed armistice in 1953, followed by the death of Stalin that same year, tensions eased with the communist supernation, opening the door to talks. A meeting in Geneva during the summer of 1955 lay down the groundwork for even more openness.


In other events, Eisenhower was part of a movement to bring about the phrase "under God" to the United States Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Additionally, he was instrumental in the usage of the phrase "In God We Trust" as both a motto of the nation in 1956 and as printed on all US currency starting 1957. In 1959, the states of Alaska and Hawaii were officially accepted into the Union, making them the 49th and 50th state respectively. Eisenhower continued along in his presidency, though a heart attack in September of 1955 sidelined him for several months. His political successes continued with another major victory in the 1956 Presidential Elections. Now focusing on domestic issues, Eisenhower turned his attention to the desegregation of schools and of the military with the eternal words of "There must be no second class citizens in this country."


Unsuccessfully campaigning for a young Richard M. Nixon (whom would eventually lose to the energetic John F. Kennedy), Eisenhower's public wartime fame had decreased substantially especially when compared to that of his successor. He would go on to deliver a most profound speech on the evening of January 17, 1961, to which the mention of the "military-industrial complex" would become synonymous with the US military and big business. In this speech, Ike warned a war-weary nation against the growth of such an entity to the common way of American life, understanding the very real threat inherent in this type of combination.


Once out of office, Eisenhower retreated to his working farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, though he still worked in limited political capacities. Upon suffering from a lengthy illness in the final months of his life, Eisenhower passed away at 12:25pm on March 28, 1969 at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in DC of congestive heart failure. Dwight D. Eisenhower would later be honored by having his name bestowed upon the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. By the time of his death and years afterwards, Eisenhower would hold numerous national and international military and peacetime awards and titles while having a multitude of schools, parks and roadways named in his honor.

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