Dwight D. Eisenhower was a hero of our time, the real thing, the soldier of democracy. The last of our presidents born in the 19th century, he was also the only one except for Grant educated at West Point. He was not as tall as most people imagined -- less than six feet -- and the magic trademark smile was not so evident offstage as on.
Those close to him would remember the striking blue of his eyes and how, in conversation, he used his large expressive hands to make a point. The fact that when he stepped to a microphone he sounded like Clark Gable did him no harm. He loved golf and fly fishing, playing bridge, at which he was an expert -- and reading for relaxation, he loved pulp westerns. At Churchill's urging, he took up oil painting. His hands, Eisenhower said, were better suited for an ax than a small brush, but the real benefit of painting, he explained, was that it gave him an excuse to be absolutely alone, ''And it interferes not at all with what I'm pleased to call my contemplative powers.''
The often-scrambled syntax of his presidential press conferences was in odd contrast to his considerable skill as a writer. His best-selling book, Crusade in Europe, was not ghost-written by James Michener, as rumored. The author was Eisenhower himself. Indeed, his editor Ken McCormick once said that the general wrote so well there was hardly a need to change a word.
It could be said, too, for certain that he inspired one of the best, most straight-forward campaign buttons in our political history: ''I Like Ike.'' That was in 1952, the year he announced he was a Republican and ran for president for the first time. Everybody liked Ike. Even Harry Truman had tried earlier to get him to run as a Democrat.
To many today Eisenhower is pictured on the one hand as the mastermind of victory over the Nazis, or on the other as a bland old bumbler in the White House. Neither of these notions is accurate. The story is more complex and more interesting than that, as is he.
He went off to war an unknown soldier and returned a beloved national hero. Often dismissed as a "do-nothing" president and a good-natured bumbler, Dwight D. Eisenhower -- the last American president to be born in the 19th century -- was actually a skillful politician, a tough Cold War warrior, and one of America's most misunderstood and unappreciated presidents. When he left office in 1960, historians ranked Eisenhower in the bottom third of American presidents, below Chester Arthur. By the 1990s, he ranked near the top.
Program Segments: The program has been produced for home video use on DVD. The total viewing time is 2.5 hours. For your convenience, we have described the program in segments. You may want to use specific segments to focus classroom discussion and activities.
Tape One, Part One -- Soldier
Segment 1 (begins at: David McCullough appears on screen)
Length: approximately 6 minutes
Starting image: David McCullough speaking
David McCullough introduces the program -- overview of Eisenhower's life
Segment 2 (begins at: 6 minutes, 5 seconds)
Length: approximately 8 minutes
Starting image: Eisenhower disembarking from an airplane
Ike's childhood and relationships with brothers and parents -- education at West Point -- marriage to Mamie Doud -- first son's death from scarlet fever
Part Two -- Road to the Top
Segment 3 (begins at: 13 minutes, 57 seconds)
Length: approximately 4 minutes
Starting image: photo of Eisenhower
Ike's military career -- meets mentor General Fox Conner -- service under MacArthur in the Philippines
Segment 4 (begins at: 18 minutes, 37 seconds)
Length: approximately 18 minutes
Starting image: blackout and sound of a siren
Ike's role in World War II -- his part in the general command under George Marshall -- coordination of the British/American war effort -- rumors of an affair with his driver Kay Summersby
Part Three -- Supreme Commander
Segment 5 (begins at: 36 minutes, 36 seconds)
Length: approximately 24 minutes
Starting image: a ship firing its cannons
Ike promotion to Supreme Commander -- coordinates the D-day invasion of Europe -- promoted again to Commander in the Field, with Patton and Montgomery under him -- becomes a five-star General -- World War II ends (Note: This segment contains graphic scenes of the aftermath of war. We recommend that you preview the segment before using it in the classroom.)
Tape Two Part Four -- Statesman
Segment 1 (begins at: 0:00)
Length: 14 minutes, 30 seconds
Starting image: Clark Gable at a political rally
Ike's nomination for president in 1952 -- Russia's subjugation of Eastern Europe -- the rise of McCarthyism -- Ike's betrayal Marshall -- sparring with Truman during the 1952 campaign
Part Five -- The Hidden Hand
Segment 2 (begins at: 14 minutes, 30 seconds)
Length: 11 minutes
Starting image: Ike and Mamie
Ike's first term -- war in Korea ends -- communism "contained" through covert actions and the threatened use of nuclear weapons -- Ike works behind the scenes to undermine McCarthy.
Segment 3 (begins at: 25 minutes, 34 seconds)
Length: approximately 13 minutes
Starting image: Eisenhower at a Cabinet meeting
The Cold War -- crisis with China is averted -- Ike's meeting with the Soviets to negotiate peace, proposes "open skies" policy --CIA begins spying on the Soviets -- booming U.S. economy -- Mamie as first lady -- despite a heart attack, Ike runs for a second term
Part Six -- Another Four Years
Segment 4 (begins at: 38 minutes, 36 seconds)
Length: approximately 7 minutes
Starting image: a riot
Ike's domestic policy -- civil rights crisis -- Brown v. Board of Education decision -- Ike sends federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas -- vows to uphold the Constitution despite personal feelings
Segment 5 (begins at: 45 minutes, 1 second)
Length: approximately 11 minutes, 33 seconds
Starting image: satellite launch
Arms and space race with Russia -- Sputnik is launched -- Congress's "missile gap hearings" -- Ike suffers a stroke but attends NATO summit -- U.S. satellite launch fails -- Eisenhower and Krushchev meet -- Eisenhower advocates diplomacy -- the "Spirit of Camp David" -- Ike's goodwill tour of the world
Part Seven -- Mayday
Segment 6 (begins at: 56 minutes, 34 seconds)
Length: approximately 18 minutes
Starting image: invitation to White House dinner
Paris summit between U.S. and USSR -- détente predicted but CIA surveillance of Russia is uncovered -- U.S. pilot Gary Powers shot down and captured -- invitation to visit the USSR rescinded -- failure of Paris summit -- Ike's presidency ends in disappointment over failed peace negotiations
Part Eight -- At Ease
Segment 7 (begins at: 1 hour 14 minutes., 51 seconds.)
Length: approximately 5 minutes
Starting image: the White House
Ike leaves office -- press dubs him "Old Bubblehead" -- dies in 1969 at age 78 -- Ike's status and reputation improves dramatically over time
My American Experience
Who is your favorite 20th-century American president? Was it FDR? Reagan? Clinton? Or one of the other 14 men who helped usher the United Sates through the 1900s? Who do you think was the most influential?