In his magisterial bestseller FDR, Jean Edward Smith gave us a fresh, modern look at one of the most indelible figures in American history. Now this peerless biographer returns with a new life of Dwight D. Eisenhower that is as full, rich, and revealing as anything ever written about America’s thirty-fourth president. As America searches for new heroes to lead it out of its present-day predicaments, Jean Edward Smith’s achievement lies in reintroducing us to a hero from the past whose virtues have become clouded in the mists of history.
Here is Eisenhower the young dreamer, charting a course from Abilene, Kansas, to West Point, to Paris under Pershing, and beyond. Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary sources, Smith provides new insight into Ike’s maddening apprenticeship under Douglas MacArthur in Washington and the Philippines. Then the whole panorama of World War II unfolds, with Eisenhower’s superlative generalship forging the Allied path to victory through multiple reversals of fortune in North Africa and Italy, culminating in the triumphant invasion of Normandy. Smith also gives us an intriguing examination of Ike’s finances, details his wartime affair with Kay Summersby, and reveals the inside story of the 1952 Republican convention that catapulted him to the White House.
Smith’s chronicle of Eisenhower’s presidential years is as compelling as it is comprehensive. Derided by his detractors as a somnambulant caretaker, Eisenhower emerges in Smith’s perceptive retelling as both a canny politician and a skillful, decisive leader. Smith convincingly portrays an Eisenhower who engineered an end to America’s three-year no-win war in Korea, resisted calls for preventative wars against the Soviet Union and China, and boldly deployed the Seventh Fleet to protect Formosa from invasion. This Eisenhower, Smith shows us, stared down Khrushchev over Berlin and forced the withdrawal of British, French, and Israeli forces from the Suez Canal. He managed not only to keep the peace—after Ike made peace in Korea, not one American soldier was killed in action during his tenure—but also to enhance America’s prestige in the Middle East and throughout the world.
Domestically, Eisenhower reduced defense spending, balanced the budget, constructed the interstate highway system, and provided social security coverage for millions who were self-employed. Ike believed that traditional American values encompassed change and progress.
Unmatched in insight, Eisenhower in War and Peace at last gives us an Eisenhower for our time—and for the ages.
About Jean Edward Smith
Jean Edward Smith is the author of the highly acclaimed FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; John Marshall: Definer of a Nation; and Lucius D. Clay: An American Life. A member of the faculty at the University of Toronto for thirty-five years, and at Marshall University for twelve, he is currently a senior scholar in the history department at Columbia.
“Dwight Eisenhower, who was more cunning than he allowed his adversaries to know, understood the advantage of being underestimated. Jean Edward Smith refutes this durable misunderstanding. Smith, America’s greatest living biographer, demonstrates why, now more than ever, Americans should like Ike.” —George F. Will
“Jean Smith, indubitably America’s most distinguished biographer, has now produced the classic life of Dwight Eisenhower. Ike, who rose from an anti-military and non-elite background, resides in the ranks of the greatest war heroes of history, not to speak of his place as a leader of post–Second World War peace. Here he comes alive on every page—the beneficiary of the exhausting fresh research this handsomely written book is based upon. When the General died, Mamie, his lifelong wife, allowed that she never fully knew her famous husband. No reader of Smith’s work will render the same complaint.” —Henry F. Graff, Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
“Always engrossing . . . Smith describes a man who commanded the largest coalition army in history without grandiloquent posturing . . . leaving office more popular than any successor. . . . Smith portrays a genuinely admirable Eisenhower: smart, congenial, unpretentious, and no ideologue. Despite competing biographies from Ambrose, Perret, and D’Este, this is the best.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Eisenhower in War and Peace” by Jean Edward Smith
The Washington Post Book Review – February 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
Difficult though it is to believe for one of my generation, it has been more than half a century since Dwight David Eisenhower left the White House after 41 / 2 decades of exemplary public service. At the time — January 1961 — many of us welcomed his departure. We even more ardently welcomed the arrival of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and, with him, a new generation of political leadership: younger, more daring, more open to the “new ideas” about which the New Frontiersmen talked so loudly and excitedly.
Too often we forget, even after having had half a century to think about it, that, as Jean Edward Smith puts it in this fine new biography, Eisenhower was “the only president in the twentieth century to preside over eight years of peace and prosperity.” This was not because he was a cautious, passive caretaker president but because his long, distinguished military career had led him, as earlier their own experiences of war had led Ulysses Grant and William T. Sherman, to hate war. In 1953, when he took office, the United States was in the midst of the Korean War, a conflict the American public loathed. “Ike believed the country wanted peace,” Smith writes, “and he was determined to provide it. War was neither a board game nor a seminar exercise for armchair intellectuals.” So he got the country out of Korea, refused to rescue France from the folly of Dien Bien Phu (thus keeping the United States out of Vietnam) and declined to go along with France and England in their subsequent folly at Suez. [Read the full article...]
Book review: ‘Eisenhower in War and Peace’ by Jean Edward Smith
The Chicago Tribune Book Review – March 11, 2012 (Excerpt)
Jean Edward Smith’s massive work, the first comprehensive biography of Dwight D. Eisenhowersince Stephen Ambrose’s two-volume work in the 1980s, joins a flurry of recent books — grandson David Eisenhower’s affectionate memoir (“Going Home to Glory”), L.A. Times editor at large Jim Newton’s presidential portrait (“Eisenhower: The White House Years”), and scholar David A. Nichols’ study of the Suez crisis (“Eisenhower 1956″) — in viewing Eisenhower as the embodiment of a midcentury spirit of consensus noticeably absent from the current political scene.
He was “a progressive conservative [who] believed traditional American values encompassed change and progress,” writes Smith, who follows that assessment with a pointed comment from a letter by Eisenhower that is difficult to imagine being written by a prominent Republican today: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would never hear of that party again,” he observed to his brother Edgar. “There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can do these things….but their number is negligible and they are stupid.”
Eisenhower would never have been that blunt in public. From the very beginning of his military career, Smith argues persuasively, Eisenhower was a shrewd political operator who concealed his acumen and ambition behind an affable façade. Born in 1890, he grew up in poverty; his dour father, a failure in business, practiced a grim variety of Christianity so off-putting that Ike did not join a church until after he was inaugurated as president and then only because he deemed it politically necessary. The six Eisenhower brothers (a seventh died in childhood) were all driven to high achievement by their father’s cautionary example, and everyone agreed that Ike was the one who most resembled their cheerful, problem-solving mother. [Read the full article...]
He Made It Look Easy - ‘Eisenhower in War and Peace,’ by Jean Edward Smith
The New York Times Book Review – April 20, 2012 (Excerpt)
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s memoirs came out while I was in graduate school in the 1960s, and one of my professors commented — not entirely facetiously — that he’d been surprised to see print on the pages. My fellow students and I were being taught that despite Eisenhower’s victories in World War II, the presidency had been beyond his capabilities. Like Ulysses S. Grant, the last general to make it to the White House, Ike won elections easily, but did not rise to the responsibilities these thrust upon him.
Jean Edward Smith challenged that argument about Grant in a well-received biography published a decade ago: Grant had been a better president than contemporaries or previous biographers realized, Smith maintained. In “Eisenhower in War and Peace,” Smith, who is now a senior scholar at Columbia after many years at the University of Toronto and Marshall University, makes a more startling claim. Apart from Franklin D. Roosevelt (whose biography Smith has also written), Ike was “the most successful president of the 20th century.”
Historians long ago abandoned the view that Eisenhower’s was a failed presidency. He did, after all, end the Korean War without getting into any others. He stabilized, and did not escalate, the Soviet-American rivalry. He strengthened European alliances while withdrawing support from European colonialism. He rescued the Republican Party from isolationism and McCarthyism. He maintained prosperity, balanced the budget, promoted technological innovation, facilitated (if reluctantly) the civil rights movement and warned, in the most memorable farewell address since Washington’s, of a “military-industrial complex” that could endanger the nation’s liberties. Not until Reagan would another president leave office with so strong a sense of having accomplished what he set out to do. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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