Eisenhower: A Life
Author Paul Johnson’s “Eisenhower: A Life” is a short read at 123 pages about President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It covers “Ike’s” time as staff officer, supreme commander of WWII Allied forces in Europe, university president and then U.S. President for two terms in the 50’s and early 60’s, which was America’s most prosperous time according to GNP/unemployment data.
Of militaristic interest to me is Operation Torch, which Ike personally took charge of. This amphibious assault occurred before D-Day, a Mediterranean conflict which began in 1942, one year after Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the WWII theatre. This operation spanned Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is described in the book as a western pincer against the Germans, while Egypt was the eastern end of a similar effort. Nine places were selected for landing, across three major ports. It is considered the largest amphibious operation in history (since Xerces invaded Greece across the Hellespont though whether this happened the way it did is up for debate, according to the author).
When Ike was campaigning for the White House, one person claimed he possessed a verbal glutinosity. He knew how to work any system in which he found himself in charge of. Another claimed Ike’s political intelligence was outstanding. This person described him as a tortoise shell and that “we laughed at him, we talked wistfully about moving, all the while we never knew the cunning beneath the shell.”
The Cold War period generated more nuclear missles than at any other time in U.S. history. Also, the governments of Iran and Guatemala were overthrown by covert U.S. forces under Eisenhower during the 50’s.
Ike was a proponent of the Cold War but detested battle. He says: “We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” A few days before the end of his second and final term, President Eisenhower warned the public on television (which came into households in 1952-ish) about the dangers of the military-industrial complex: “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. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new … The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government … we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”
I give this book 4/4 stars (excellent rating). I am a Democrat and a peacenik but I found it enjoyable, nonetheless. Eisenhower was a Republican.