The passage of time is the greatest gift to the biographer possessing the brilliance and patience to seize upon that window to bring to readers a modern-day perspective of iconic historical figures and events.
Jean Edward Smith has accomplished in EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE, exactly what he offered his readers in his remarkable works Grant and FDR. Historian and biographer Jean Edward Smith is rightfully in the company of historians Robert Caro, Edmund Morris, David McCullough and Max Hastings. EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE, places Eisenhower in an objective perspective within his military career, the presidency and his personal life. Don’t look for an in-depth history of D-Day. While there is plenty of detail of the European Theater in WW II, this book steps back to place the enormity of the impact of Eisenhower’s approach to leadership in a sweeping overview of the war in Europe .
Smith takes a similar approach to the eight years of Eisenhower’s presidency and the manner in which he organized and staffed the White House, dealt with both political supporters and opponents and world affairs. There is vivid detail on decisions, relevant today, (The building of the Interstate Highway System as a stimulus to help reverse a post Korean War recession), school desegregation in Little Rock, Vietnam, Formosa, China and the Cold War.
Readers of EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE will be left with no doubt about Ike’s intimate relationship with Kay Summersby and the impact on his marriage to Mamie. Smith writes this narrative in a most factual manner and details the openness with which Eisenhower and Summersby were together publicly and privately throughout the war. Smith also details Eisenhower’s changing relationship with his wife Mamie over the course of four decades.
The book clearly reveals that Eisenhower’s brilliance as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces was in his political dexterity in contrast to his grasp of battlefield strategy. With the exception of marginal success ( that may be a generous assessment) in the North Africa Campaign, Eisenhower had no battlefield command experience prior to D-Day! However, his ability to bring discordant bigger than life individuals together and promote cooperation ( Churchill, FDR, Montgomery, Patton, Bradley, de Gaulle) was exactly why FDR chose Eisenhower over Marshall to lead the European Campaign.
I have previously read considerably about Eisenhower, but just as in Smith’s biography Grant, I now have a view through a twenty-first-century lens of the two famous generals who became two-term presidents. Many popular conceptions and mis-conceptions are clarified. Smith peels away the Eisenhower myths and reveals his brilliant mind and the thought processes by which as a leader, not a battlefield commander, Eisenhower established his legacy.
Some interesting insight from EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE:
Ike was not the first president to embrace golf. Actually Woodrow Wilson secretly played more rounds during his president than Eisenhower! However, Eisenhower made no secret of his love of golf and is credited with the explosion of the national popularity of the game.
In his first term in office, Eisenhower increased the budget of the National Institute of Health ten-fold.
Eisenhower may have prevented World War III by forcing Britain and France to withdraw from its invasion of Egypt over the closing of the Suez Canal.
A coalition of Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the passage of most of Eisenhower’s domestic programs. Ike was considered “too liberal ” by the old guard right-wing of the Republican Party.
It was Eisenhower who carried out Harry Truman’s earlier attempts to desegregate all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
At the end of the war Ike wrote in a letter to his boss General Marshall that he planned to return to the U.S., divorce Mamie and marry Kay Summersby. Marshall in the strongest terms admonished him not to destroy his reputation and career! Eisenhower took the advice. Later, out of respect for Eisenhower and fearful that if the letter became public it would become a campaign issue in 1952, President Truman, who was at that time at political and personal odds with Ike, ordered the letter destroyed!
There is much, much more! Look for many literary honors for EISENHOWER IN WAR AND PEACE