President Eisenhower

Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. During Eisenhower's presidency, the Cold War continued in the international sphere, whilst fears of communism and the Civil Rights Movement intensified in the US. What was President Eisenhower's tenure like, and what did he accomplish?

President Eisenhower President Eisenhower

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Table of contents

    Eisenhower Presidency Timeline

    Firstly, let's look at a timeline of Eisenhower's presidency.

    1953 JanuaryEisenhower became President.
    1953 - 1955"Operation Wetback" deported 1.3 million immigrants.
    11 April 1953The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare came into existence.
    27 July 1953A truce ended the Korean War.
    7 August 1953Eisenhower signed the Refugee Relief Act.
    15 - 19 August 1953CIA-supported coup overthrows the government in Iran.
    1954 - 1955The PRC engaged in conflict with the Nationalist islands of Jinmen and Mazu.
    17 May 1954Racial segregation in schools was ruled unconstitutional.
    18 -27 June 1954CIA-backed coup overthrows President Arbenz in Guatemala.
    24 August 1954Eisenhower signed a law that outlawed the American Communist Party.
    8 September 1954The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) was created.
    24 October 1954Eisenhower pledged support to South Vietnam.
    18 July 1955Eisenhower attended the Geneva summit.
    29 June 1956The Interstate Highway Program began.
    4 July 1956Secret spy flights began over the Soviet Union.
    19 July 1956Eisenhower withdrew support for the Aswan Dam.
    29 October - 7 November 1956The Suez Crisis.
    4 - 10 November 1956The Soviet Union repressed the Hungarian Revolution.
    6 November 1956Eisenhower won reelection.
    5 January 1957Eisenhower announced the Eisenhower Doctrine.
    20 January 1957Eisenhower was re-inaugrated.
    9 September 1957Eisenhower signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act.
    23 September 1957Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock.
    15 July 1958US marines entered Lebanon.
    23 August - 2 December 1958The PRC resumed attacks on the Nationalist islands.
    1959The St Lawrence Seaway was completed.
    27 September 1959Khrushchev travelled to the US for the Camp David summit.
    March 1960Eisenhower ordered the CIA to begin training Cuban exiles to attack Cuba.
    1 May 1960A US spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union.
    6 May 1960Eisenhower signed the 1960 Civil Rights Act.
    20 January 1961Eisenhower's presidency ended.

    President Eisenhower Biography

    Eisenhower was born in 1890 in Texas and raised in Kansas by his religious parents, along with his six brothers.

    In 1911, he joined the US Military Academy, which began a long military career. During World War One, Eisenhower commanded a tank training centre and became a captain.

    President Eisenhower Portrait of President Eisenhower StudySmarterFig. 1 - Portrait of President Eisenhower

    When the US entered the war in December 1941, Eisenhower was appointed to the Army War Plans Division. In June 1942, he was promoted to Commanding General of the US troops in Europe. Eisenhower led British and American troops in North Africa, negotiated Italy's surrender, and in 1944 was Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord - the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Eisenhower's service during World War Two made him immensely popular.

    After the end of the war, Eisenhower served as Army Chief of Staff. In 1950, he became Supreme Commander of the newly founded North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and worked to create an efficient military organisation to defend against communist aggression.

    Eisenhower then ran in and won the presidential election of 1952 with Richard Nixon as his Vice President. He served as president until 1961, before retiring. He died in 1969.

    Did you know? President Truman privately asked Eisenhower to consider running with him on the Democratic ticket in the 1948 presidential election. Eisenhower was asked repeatedly by many organisations and politicians but refused to enter politics. Eisenhower later confirmed he was a Republican and accepted the nomination in the 1952 election.

    President Eisenhower Facts

    Here are 5 facts about President Eisenhower:

    1. Eisenhower was nicknamed "Ike", and "I Like Ike" was used as his campaign slogan in both 1952 and 1956. It is only of the most memorable presidential campaign slogans and also appeared in the Disney-produced television advert of Eisenhower's campaign.
    2. During his presidency, Eisenhower balanced three out of eight budgets. His economic policies contributed to the prosperity many saw in the 1950s.
    3. Eisenhower ended the Korean War, which he considered his most important accomplishment as president.
    4. He signed the first piece of civil rights legislation since the 19th century.
    5. The Cold War strategy of massive retaliation emerged under the Eisenhower administration.

    Massive retaliation

    A military strategy in which a state will retaliate with much greater force when attacked, which implied the use of nuclear weapons. In 1954, Secretary of State John Fuster Dulles declared that the US would respond to aggression "at places and with means of our own choosing."

    Eisenhower Presidency Summary

    In this section, we'll look at the broad policies of the Eisenhower administration in both domestic and foreign policy, before going into more details about his specific accomplishments.

    Eisenhower Presidency Domestic Policy

    Eisenhower favoured modern Republicanism. This was a "middle of the road" approach that intended to preserve freedom and the workings of the free market but would provide government assistance to those who needed it.

    Eisenhower's main domestic focus was on reducing the federal budget. During his presidency, spending declined by 2% of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Domestic spending did however increase substantially from 1953 to 1961 when the Democrats gained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the latter years of Eisenhower's presidency.

    Gross Domestic Product

    An overall measure of a country's economy.

    Under Eisenhower's policies, middle-class Americans saw economic prosperity with a 45% increase in personal income. This was often used to buy consumer products such as televisions, as well as houses outside of cities. The growth of suburbia was caused by an expanding population, as well as white flight - white Americans moving out of cities as African Americans moved in.

    On the other hand, there was still huge poverty during Eisenhower's presidency. The rate declined, but around 35 million Americans remained in poverty by 1960. Poverty increased in northern cities, partly due to the migration of African Americans - job discrimination meant they had to accept low wages.

    President Eisenhower also increased the minimum wage, broadened Social Security, and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

    After World War Two, anticommunist hysteria grew in the United States which was furthered by the actions of Senator McCarthy. President Eisenhower did not publicly criticise McCarthy, although he privately disliked him.


    A 1950-4 campaign conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy against alleged communists within the US government and other institutions.

    Hundreds of government employees were fired under Eisenhower's loyalty program, although he worked indirectly to reduce McCarthy's influence.

    Eisenhower Presidency Foreign Policy

    Eisenhower's "New Look" foreign policy was comprised of four main elements:

    1. Building strength to fight the Cold War without compromising the US economy.

    2. Reliance on nuclear weapons.

    3. Use of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to carry out covert missions to overthrow governments seen to be a threat.

    4. Strengthening and gaining allies.

    Eisenhower was determined not to increase defence spending at the detriment of the federal budget, shifting finances from expensive conventional forces to nuclear weapons. These provided "more bang for your buck".

    President Eisenhower believed the best way to ease relations with the Soviet Union was through face to face meetings. This had some success, but ultimately failed when in 1960 a US spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, heightening tensions once again.

    President Eisenhower Accomplishments

    Having looked at an overview of Eisenhower's presidency and policies, we will now look in detail at what he achieved as President.

    President Eisenhower Domestic Accomplishments

    In 1956, Eisenhower established his most ambitious domestic project - the Interstate Highway Program. This created a 41,000-mile road system, which improved the experience of driving long distances and effectively stimulated the economy. Another transport initiative, the St Lawrence Seaway was completed in 1959 in partnership with Canada to connect the waters of Canada and the US.

    President Eisenhower Sign for the Eisenhower Interstate System StudySmarterFig. 2 - Sign for the Eisenhower Interstate System

    In terms of civil rights, Eisenhower notably sent federal troops to Little Rock in Arkansas to allow African American students to enter Central High School in 1957. Although segregation in schools had been ruled unconstitutional in 1954, desegregation was not widely supported and violence broke out at Little Rock. Eisenhower sent troops out of obligation to uphold the law.

    Eisenhower also signed the 1957 and 1960 Civil Rights Acts. The 1957 Act created a Commission of Civil Rights to investigate cases in which Black Americans were denied the right to vote, whilst the 1960 Act allowed federal judges to appoint officials to help African Americans register and vote. These Acts were limited in scope but were the first pieces of civil rights legislation passed since the late nineteenth century so marked a somewhat significant shift.

    President Eisenhower also oversaw policies on immigration. In 1953, he signed the Refugee Relief Act which welcomed 200,000 more European immigrants. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, he presided over the offensively-named "Operation Wetback" - the mass deportation of around 1.3 million Mexican immigrants.

    "Wetback" is a derogatory term for immigrants living in the US, most commonly referring to Mexicans. It originated from Mexicans who entered Texas from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande river, getting wet in the process.

    The final key domestic policy of Eisenhower was his outlawing of the American Communist Party in 1954.

    President Eisenhower Foreign Accomplishments

    Considered his biggest accomplishment, in 1953 Eisenhower was able to end the Korean War. He achieved these through a combination of factors: he hinted that he may use nuclear weapons, increased conventional military pressure, and the death of Joseph Stalin brought new Soviet leaders to power who feared the US escalation of the war. A truce was signed in July 1953.

    What was Eisenhower's policy towards China?

    US-Chinese relations remained tense after the war, as Eisenhower refused to recognise the communist People's Republic of China (PRC), instead supporting the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan (ROC). In 1954, the PRC began an assault on the Nationalist islands of Jinmen and Mazu.

    Eisenhower announced the US determination to defend Taiwan against communist attack and declared that he would authorise the use of tactical nuclear weapons. In 1955, the PRC negotiated with the US but restarted their attacks in 1958. The US supplied the islands' defences, ending the crisis.

    Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" program loaned American uranium to countries that had not previously possessed nuclear technology, for supposedly peaceful purposes.

    In Southeast Asia, the US created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in 1954 to unify the region against a potential Communist threat. Eisenhower also gave aid to the French, who were fighting to regain control over Indochina (modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), though they were eventually unsuccessful. He did not authorise an airstrike to rescue French troops at the crucial battle of Dienbienphu, avoiding entering the war in Indochina. Under Eisenhower, the US also offered support to Ngo Dinh Diem to establish a non-Communist government in what became South Vietnam; Eisenhower considered this a success, but this was a precursor to US involvement in the Vietnam War.

    President Eisenhower Ngo Dinh Diem shaking hands with Eisenhower as he visit the US StudySmarterFig. 3 - Ngo Dinh Diem shaking hands with Eisenhower as he visited the US

    A key conflict Einsehower faced was in Egypt. In 1952, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal and put it back into Egyptian control. Britain, France and Israel launched military action against Egypt - this is referred to as the Suez Crisis.

    Eisenhower was outraged and ordered the withdrawal of troops, increasing US reputation in the Middle East. From this crisis came the Eisenhower Doctrine, which detailed that the US would provide economic and military aid to Middle Eastern countries facing Communist aggression. This was implemented in 1958 when Eisenhower sent over 14,000 US marines into Lebanon to settle unrest at the request of its pro-Western government.

    The CIA

    President Eisenhower used the CIA to protect US interests and undermine communism, most notably in Iran, Guatemala, and Cuba.

    Eisenhower was concerned about Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh's willingness to cooperate with communists. In 1953, the CIA engineered a coup to overthrow Mossadegh's government and return the anti-Communist Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power. US corporations gained an equal share with the British in Iran's oil industry as a result.

    What did the CIA do in Guatemala?

    In 1954, the CIA helped overthrow President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán's government in Guatemala. Arbenz had undertaken a program of land reform, which confiscated land from the exploitative American-owned United Fruit Company and give this land to Guatemalan peasants.

    The President had also bought weapons from Communist Czechoslovakia after the US cut off Guatemala's access to military supplies. After the coup, Carlos Castillo Armas became President - he was anti-communist, reversed the land reform, and restricted civil liberties.

    In Cuba, communist leader Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and the US placed an embargo on sugar exports so Cuba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. Eisenhower decided that Castro needed to be removed from power, and authorised the CIA to begin training anti-Castro Cuban exiles to overthrow him.

    Relations with the Soviet Union

    In July 1955, Eisenhower met with Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union in Geneva, seeing in an era of summit diplomacy. The new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev rejected Eisenhower's "Open Skies" proposal, which would have permitted the US and the USSR to inspect each other's military capabilities via air. Despite this, the "Spirit of Geneva" eased tensions.

    Summit diplomacy

    Diplomacy through face to face meetings between countries' leaders.

    In November 1956, Soviet tanks suppressed a freedom movement in Hungary. Eisenhower decided not to take action to support the movement in order to avoid war with the Soviet Union.

    In September 1959, Khrushchev journeyed to the US for the Camp David summit, which again improved relations. However, when they met again in Paris in May 1960, a US spy plane had been shot down over the Soviet Union two weeks prior. Eisenhower had authorised the CIA to begin intelligence flights in 1956 and had to admit this to Khrushchev at the summit. Cold War tensions increased once more.

    President Eisenhower - Key takeaways

    • Eisenhower's military career made him immensely popular with both the American public and politicians who tried to persuade him to run for president for their party.
    • Eisenhower's domestic policy strategy was moderate republicanism - a middle of the road approach that focused on balancing the budget whilst still providing assistance to those that needed it.
    • Under Eisenhower, the first civil rights legislation since the late 19th century was passed, marking a new era. Eisenhower himself was not especially devoted to improving civil rights.
    • His largest accomplishment was ending the Korean War shortly after he became President.
    • Eisenhower employed the CIA to protect US interests and undermine communism through direct intervention in other countries - they supported coups in Iran and Guatemala.
    Frequently Asked Questions about President Eisenhower

    When was Eisenhower President? 

    Eisenhower was president from 1953 until 1961.

    What was President Eisenhower's ethnic background?

    President Eisenhower was born into a German-American family.

    What concern did President Eisenhower express in his farewell address?

    Eisenhower was concerned about the potential of a military-industrial complex. This refers to the relationship between the government, the military, and military producers. He believed that the complex would promote detrimental policies such as participation in the nuclear arms race, and was worried it could undermine American democracy.

    How many years was Eisenhower President?

    Eisenhower was president for 8 years.

    What is President Eisenhower known for?

    Eisenhower is known for being a celebrated hero in World War Two. He was known for "middle of the road" conservatism that focused on reducing the federal budget. His major achievements include the Interstate Highway Programme which connected different states and stimulated the economy. He passed the 1960 Civil Rights Act, though he personally did not care much for civil rights. He was strict against communism and directed the CIA to secretly engineer coups in Iran and Guatemala. Cold War tensions increased under his presidency.

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