15 Fascinating Facts About Dwight D. Eisenhower Everyone Needs to Know!
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States between 1953 and 1961. This got me thinking, what are some interesting facts about Dwight D. Eisenhower? Today, Eisenhower is ranked among the greatest presidents this country has ever had, owing mostly to Eisenhower’s dynamic nature as a politician and world leader… Eisenhower’s […]
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the 34th President of the United States between 1953 and 1961. This got me thinking, what are some interesting facts about Dwight D. Eisenhower?
Today, Eisenhower is ranked among the greatest presidents this country has ever had, owing mostly to Eisenhower’s dynamic nature as a politician and world leader…
Eisenhower’s presidency presided over some of the most turbulent times in US and international politics, such as McCarthyism, the U-2 spy plane incident and the launch of the first Soviet satellite, Sputnik.
15. “Dwight” Wasn’t His Name
Today, we remember the 34th president’s name for “Dwight David Eisenhower” or more commonly “Dwight D. Eisenhower.” However, technically “Dwight” wasn’t his first name…
When he was born in 1890, his parents decided to name him in honor of his father, David Jacob Eisenhower. Instead of calling their son, “David Jacob Eisenhower II/Jr.,” his parents chose to call him “David Dwight Eisenhower.”
But this is where things got tricky. Now, the family technically couldn’t call the future president “David Eisenhower II/Jr.,” as he didn’t share his father’s middle name, which made it so there were two “Davids” in the family.
Not wanting the confusion, the future president’s parents began to call him “Dwight” instead of “David”. Eventually, the future president’s name would be changed to “Dwight David Eisenhower” although this would be well into his early childhood…
14. Not The Only “Ike”
It seems that most presidents (and world leaders in general) earn their fair share of nicknames. Whilst not his only nickname, by far the most famous was “Ike” which Eisenhower himself used during his election campaign.
The nickname itself is a diminutive of Eisenhower’s surname, which is of German origin (meaning “iron hewer/miner”). Being a diminutive of the family name, Eisenhower’s family had been called “Ike” since they moved to America in the 1740’s.
Due to this, the Eisenhower family referred to themselves as the “Ikes”, with each member of the family being a different Ike. For example, Dwight’s older brother, Edgar, was “Big Ike” whilst Dwight’s was “Small Ike”.
Despite this, the family had seemingly stopped using the nickname by the mid-1930’s. By the end of WWII, the future president was the only member of the family still using the nickname.
With that being said, upon ascending to the presidency, the Eisenhower family started to use the “Ike” nickname once again.
13. A Military Man
When you look at the life experiences of presidents before entering the White House, you’ll find that almost all of them were politicians of some note beforehand. However, for Eisenhower, he wasn’t a politician, instead he’d been a military man for almost his entire adult life!
In 1911, a 21 year-old Dwight D. Eisenhower enrolled at West Point. Four years later, he would graduate, beginning his lifelong military service, which would see him serve during both WWI and WWII.
In fact, the 1915 West Point class would be called “the class which the stars fell upon” due to 36% of the class obtaining of general, Dwight D. Eisenhower included (other notable members of the class include: Omar Bradley, James Van Fleet and Joseph T. McNarney among others.)
Eisenhower would serve in the military from 1915 until 1953, only leaving the military due to becoming the president! After his two terms as president ended, Eisenhower would be recommissioned by Congress as a five-star general in the US Army, where he’d serve until his death in 1969!
12. Never Served on The Frontlines
Despite serving in the army for almost his entire adult life, it probably comes as a shock to find that despite serving in both world wars, Eisenhower never served in actual combat. Not a single day.
Eisenhower graduated in 1915, two years before the US entered WWI. Once the US entered the war, they needed semi-experienced soldiers to teach new recruits. Eisenhower was one of these semi-experienced soldiers that were brought in to train these new recruits.
During the war, Eisenhower did try to transfer to the frontlines, however was denied. According to the army at the time, Eisenhower was better off teaching new recruits from the safety of the US, rather than dying in the trenches of Europe.
In the interwar years, Eisenhower would climb the ranks of the army, achieving the rank of general by the time the US entered WWII in 1941. As a general, Eisenhower was too valuable to serve, and potentially lose, on the frontlines.
Due to this, Eisenhower spent the entirety of the war well behind friendly lines, often miles away from actual combat.
Following the war, five-star general Eisenhower spent most of his time in the US, mostly around Washington, DC. After rejoining the army after his presidency, Eisenhower was too old to send to wars like Vietnam, even if his tactical knowledge would’ve been invaluable!
11. He Was Against Atomic Weapons
In July 1945, then-General Eisenhower traveled to the Potsdam Conference alongside President Truman (and a handful of other high-ranking military and political leaders) to discuss what should happen to Europe when the war was over.
Over the course of the conference, the western allies began to discuss the use of the atomic bombs against Japan, who were refusing to surrender at the time.
Many of the political and military brass were enthusiastic about using atomic weapons, believing that it would shock the Japanese Emperor into suing for peace, or risk losing his throne to a coup d’état.
However, there were a small group of mostly military leaders who were against using atomic weapons against the Japanese. By far the most outspoken of them, was General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
General Eisenhower was against the use of atomic weapons against Japan, reasoning that the US had pushed Japanese forces back to a point where Japan would be suing for peace within a couple of weeks anyway, regardless of whether atomic bombs were used.
Alas, the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki less only a month later, with Japan then suing for peace. Throughout his presidency, Eisenhower would threaten to use nuclear weaponry on numerous occasions, but was allegedly only bluffing, according to his memoirs anyway.
10. Loved by Both Parties
Truman noticed Eisenhower at the conference, realizing that the famed general would make a great president if he ever decided to go down that path. To that end, Truman spent the next three years trying to convince Eisenhower to run for president in 1948.
Eisenhower refused, stating that he had no ambition for the job. It got so bad for Truman that he even offered to run as Eisenhower’s vice-president, which would essentially guarantee his support from the Democrats. Still, Eisenhower refused.
Due to this, Truman would be picked to run for president again in 1948, where he’d win and serve his first full term.
By 1951, both parties were looking for a new candidate. Both parties came across decorated WWII general Dwight D. Eisenhower, and begged him to accept to become their party’s candidate for president.
To the rest of the world, it seemed like both parties were trying to persuade a man who didn’t want to accept either nomination. Alas, Eisenhower would accept the Republican nomination in 1951, registering as a Republican that the following year…
9. A Left-Wing President?
On paper, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a conservative. However, by his own admission, he was a much more moderate conservative than other members of his party at the time were. Today, however, he’d have probably been labelled left-wing…
During his presidency, Eisenhower was a big spender, establishing numerous government agencies and investing heavily in infrastructure. Not wanting to borrow billions of dollars, Eisenhower kept taxes high to pay for all of this.
Under Eisenhower, the highest earners in the country could be looking at paying a marginal tax rate of 91%, something that we haven’t seen since his presidency (subsequent presidents would reduce this gradually, forming what we have today!)
Eisenhower also warned about the military-industrial complex. Although he couldn’t ever push it through, the former five-star general wanted the US to have a much smaller military, fearing that the military-industrial complex would rob the US blind if the military remained as large as it was at the time.
8. Expanded Air Force One
In 1945, FDR became the first sitting president to fly on an aircraft. Although it would be called this at the time, this essentially created what we now know as Air Force One.
FDR would use a converted C-54 Skymaster, known as a VC-54. In 1957, FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, would replace the VC-54 with a modified C-118 Liftmaster, known as a VC-118.
Upon assuming the presidency, Eisenhower would acquire two Lockheed Constellations (officially designated as the VC-121), to replace the VC-118s.
In an unprecedented move, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower would give these VC-121s a nickname, calling the first VC-121, Columbine II and the second VC-121, Columbine III, after the official state flower of her adopted home state of Colorado.
For shorter-haul routes, Eisenhower would introduce two Aero Commander 500s, which were cheaper to operate on short-haul routes than the VC-121s.
Incidentally, Eisenhower’s VC-121s would be the first aircraft to use the Air Force One callsign, something that has stuck to this day!
7. Created Marine One
In 1957, Eisenhower wanted to travel quickly between the White House and his summer home in Pennsylvania. Not wanting to travel for hours in the presidential limousine, Eisenhower originally contemplated using the aforementioned Aero Commander 500s.
After seeing the costs, however, Eisenhower decided that whilst cheaper than flying the VC-121s, it was still too much. Plus, there was no runway on his property (nor was there a military airbase to accommodate the Aero Commander 500s).
As a military man, Eisenhower was familiar with the first generation of practical helicopters, many of which were in use with the army in scout/reconnaissance roles, which allowed them to fly over mildly long distances as faster speeds than the presidential limo could.
Seeing this, Eisenhower started to use a US Army Bell UH-13 Sioux to go from the White House to his summer home in Pennsylvania. In effect this effectively created what we now call Marine One (although it was originally called Army One due to being operated by the army, not the marines!)
The following year, Eisenhower would replace the UH-13s with much larger Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorses. Nearing the end of his presidency in 1961, the Seahorses would be beginning to be replaced by SH-3 Sea Kings (officially designated as VH-3s).
6. His Late Start as a Painter
Much like his British counterpart, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower was a prolific painter. Over the course of the last 21 years of his life, Eisenhower would paint over 200 paintings, mostly of landscapes (just like Churchill did!)
Throughout his entire life, Eisenhower never had any formal training as an artist. As a military man, the future president was constantly on the move, rarely being able to sit and relax. Instead, he took his time to enjoy pretty landscapes wherever he went.
At the age of 58, in 1948, the future president would begin to paint these landscapes, keeping many of them in his private collection. Whilst only ever meant to be a bit of fun, Eisenhower would continue to paint various landscapes whilst in office.
Once he left office, in 1961, Eisenhower would complete the bulk of his paintings before his death in 1969.
Unlike Churchill, however, art collectors are seemingly apathetic towards the president’s work, with his work selling for between $100 and $1500 per painting, compared to the several thousand dollars collectors are willing to pay for Churchill’s work!
5. A Prolific Writer
Whilst serving in the military, Eisenhower discovered that he had a talent for writing. Initially, Eisenhower would sit and write for fun, keeping his talent to himself. As time progressed, however, his comrades began to discover Eisenhower’s talent for writing too.
Eventually, the Army top brass discovered this and managed to convince Eisenhower to author a series of speeches for Douglas MacArthur, which soon led Eisenhower to author many more speeches, letters, briefing, staff studies and reports for other members of the Army top brass.
During his time in the army, Eisenhower would also publish a series of books on his experiences at West Point, during the interwar period, WWII and the post-WWII world too.
After leaving the White House in 1961, Eisenhower would sit down to write several more books, which although never labelled as such, essentially form Eisenhower’s memoirs, alongside his previously-published books!
During his lifetime, Eisenhower would write (and publish) almost 30 books, seemingly a record among the presidents of the last 60 years!
4. Nearly a Journalist
However, it wasn’t just the military top brass that discovered Eisenhower’s impressive abilities as a writer. Soon after Eisenhower began writing speeches for Douglas MacArthur in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, the press caught wind of this.
Impressed at his skills as a writer, American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (the founder and owner of the Hearst media empire) began trying to convince Eisenhower to leave the US Army.
In exchange, Hearst offered to pay Eisenhower three times his army salary to become a war correspondent for his newspaper chain. Despite the pay being considerable, even by modern standards, Eisenhower turned Hearst down.
Even in spite of this, Eisenhower would receive mostly positive coverage from Hearst’s newspaper chain, partly contributing to Eisenhower being loved by both parties whilst in office.
3. He Created NASA
Eisenhower’s presidency presided over the beginning of what is now called the Cold War. Here, the capitalist west, led primarily by the Americans (but also the French, British and West Germans) against the communist east, primarily, the USSR.
Prior to Eisenhower’s presidency, the US and USSR had been engaged in an arms race, mostly centering around trying to create more powerful nuclear weapons at a much faster rate than the other side.
Then, in 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik, placing the world’s first artificial satellite in orbit. Obviously, the USSR flaunted this at every opportunity, humiliating the US in front of the rest of the world.
In response to this, Eisenhower authorized the establishment of NASA, to rival the Soviet space program. In turn, this would lead to the space race, which would end when the US placing a man on the moon in 1969 during Lyndon B Johnson’s presidency.
2. The Eisenhower-Nixon Family
A common theme among presidents is that they’re often related to one another. For example, both Roosevelt presidents are related to 15 other presidents (including each other!) by either blood or marriage.
For Eisenhower, however, he’s only related to one other president: His former vice-president, Richard Nixon. However, unlike relations between other presidents, Eisenhower and Nixon aren’t related due to being cousins of some degree. Instead, they’re related through marriage.
In 1968, Eisenhower’s oldest grandson, David (of Camp David fame), married Nixon’s youngest daughter, Julie. This made Dwight D. Eisenhower Julie Nixon’s grandfather-in-law, and Richard Nixon, David Eisenhower’s father-in-law.
Since then, the couple have gone on to have three children, one son and two daughters, who are the great-grandchildren of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the grandchildren of Richard Nixon respectively!
1. Ike Coins
Following Eisenhower’s death in 1969, the nation mourned the loss of one of its greatest presidents of modern times. To honor him, the US Mint announced a commemorative dollar would be minted in his honor, in 1976.
The year they chose to do this was symbolic. Whilst other presidents got them within a few years of their death, Eisenhower’s coin was released at the US bicentennial, commemorating two hundred years of American independence.
On the front of the coin, the US Mint would have a special design which commemorated how much the US had changed since its independence two hundreds previously, whilst on the back would be President Eisenhower’s head. This coin has since gone on to be known as the Ike dollar.
Whilst the Ike dollar is the most famous coin with Eisenhower’s head on it, the Ike dollar isn’t the only coin with Eisenhower’s head on it.
A few years ago, the US Mint released a commemorative coin set, which included coins with the faces of all former presidents (up until that point) on them. As a former president, a different Eisenhower dollar was in that set!
Which are your favorite facts about Dwight D. Eisenhower? Tell me in the comments!