Skip To Content
Eisenhower poster image
Aired November 10, 1993


From the Collection: The Presidents

Film Description

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 a skillful politician, a tough Cold War warrior, and one of America's most misunderstood and unappreciated presidents.


Part One: Soldier

Written and Produced by
Adriana Bosch

Co-Produced and Edited by
Daniel McCabe

Part Two: Statesman

Written and Produced by
Austin Hoyt

Edited by
Sarah Holt

Executive Producer
Austin Hoyt

Series Editor
Adriana Bosch

Original Music Composed by
Michael Bacon

Principal Advisor
Michael R. Beschloss

Associate Producer
Chiara Andres

Mark Gunning

Field Audio
David Vos

Director of Film Research
Alison Smith

Production Assistant
Aileen Silverstone

Production Manager
Anita M. Scarry

Post Production Supervisor/Sound Editor/"Soldier"
Julia Dixon Eddy

Civil Rights Segment Written and Produced by
Adriana Bosch

Co-Producer and Editor
Daniel McCabe

Title Design
Alison Kennedy

Film Research
Gail MacFarqihar
Lewanne Jones
James Barker

Photo Research
Aileen Silverstone
Alison Smith

Additional Research
Elly Beintema
Alexandra Pollyea
Helen Weiss

Additional Camera
Chris Lee

Additional Audio
Nancy Cohen
David Lindsay
Bob Sullivan

Film Archives
John E. Allen, Inc.
CBS News Archives
Defense Nuclear Agency
Department of Defense
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Delta Airlines
Educational and Television Films, Ltd.
Great American Stock
Sherman Grinberg Film Libraries, Inc.
Guggenheim Productions
Hanoi Documentary Studios
Hearst Metrotone News
Imperial War Museum
Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
John F. Kennedy Library
Lockheed Advanced Development Co.
National Archives
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NBC News Video Archives
Petrified Films, Inc.
Douglas Price
Russian State Archive for Film and Photographs, Krasnogorsk
Transit Films GMBH
Twentieth Century Fox Movietonews, Inc.
UCLA Film, Television and Radio Archives
WPA Film Library

Photo Archives:
AP/Wide World Photos
The Bettmann Archive
Black Star
Central Intelligence Agency
Dickenson County Historical Society, Abilene, Kansas
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
George Tames, The New York Times
Globe Photos
Hulton Deutsch Collection Limited
Imperial War Museum
Kansas State Historical Society
Life Magazine/Time Warner, Inc.
George C. Marshall Research Library
U.S. Military Academy Archives
National Archives
National Park Service
Ira Rosenberg

Additional Photo Sources:
John Eisenhower
John Henderson, Esq.
Mickey, Pearlie & Mary Ann McKeogh
Albert Meserlin

On-Line Editors
Mary E. Fenton
Mark Steele
Jim Deerling
Doug Martin
Stephen Barasci
Steve Audette

Sound Mix and Narration Recording
Richard Block

Additional Narration Recording
John Jenkings

Animation Photography by
National Video Industrie

Aerial Image

Photo Restoration
Paul Wilson

Research Assistants
Nancy Baker
Maureen Kelleher

Score Preparation
Paula Kimpler

Special Thanks
Kathy Struss
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
Dr. Bruce Menning, U.S. Army Staff College
The Edwardian Hotels

Additional Funding by
Kansas Humanities Council


Post Production
Vanessa Ezersky
Glenn Fukushima

Series Designer
Alison Kennedy

On-Line Editors
Spencer Gentry

Sound Mix
John Jenkins

Series Theme
Joel Goodman

Molly Jacobs
Tory Starr

Production Manager
Nancy Sherman

Jay Fialkov
Janice Flood
Scott Kardel

Project Administration
Susana Fernandes
Pamela Gaudiano
Lauren Noyes

Marketing and Publicity
Mary Lugo
Cara White

Project Manager
Lauren Prestileo

Series Manager
James E. Dunford

Coordinating Producer
Susan Mottau

Series Producer
Susan Bellows

Senior Producer
Sharon Grimberg

Executive Producer
Mark Samels

A production of WGBH/Boston for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

Major funding for this program was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Additional funding was provided by the Kansas Humanities Council.

WGBH Educational Foundation ©1993 All Rights Reserved.


David McCullough: [voice-over]  He led the Allies to victory in Europe. He had left America an unknown soldier and returned its greatest hero. He made his reputation waging war. He staked it on a task just as trying: waging peace. As president, he appeared reassuring and uncomplicated, and was derided as a good-natured bumbler -- ''Old Bubblehead'' -- but behind the image was a man in control, a poker player who gambled with atomic bombs, a lifelong soldier with the confidence to speak against the military.

Andy Rooney, Reporter, Stars and Stripes: Eisenhower was the quintessential American to me. He meant to do the right thing. He was honest. I think he is the great American hero of our time.

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: People say, ''Well, wasn't it wonderful. I bet he slapped you on the back and he had that big grin.'' He didn't grin very much. He didn't slap people on the back. He didn't congratulate people particularly. What he did was to make people feel that what he was doing had some transcendent significance.

Amb. Vernon A. Walters, Interpreter: He was portrayed as a do-nothing president -- the famous story that, you know, on the golf course, ''Would you mind if the President plays through? New York has just been bombed,'' but he was more interested in finishing his golf game. This was the kind of image his political enemies sought to give of him.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Historian: He was a crafty, self-protective man. He presided over a country in which a number of problems were acute and were getting worse, where if he had taken action at the time, it might have meant that he could deal with those problems while they were still manageable.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: There are lots of things to argue about, especially his political years, but whenever he did something, you knew he did it 'cause he thought, according to his standards, it was right.

McCullough: [voice-over] Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general, for eight years president of a nation at the height of its power and prosperity -- to Americans, simply ''Ike.''

1st Newsreel Announcer: A Kansas farm boy comes home. At Kansas City Airport, General Dwight D. Eisenhower meets his mother, 83-year-old Ida Stover Eisenhower. His four brothers -- Arthur, Milton, Edgar and Earl -- and other members of the supreme commander's family join the welcome as General Eisenhower returns to the small midwestern town where he spent his childhood.

McCullough: [voice-over] In 1945, Abilene, Kansas welcomed its World War II hero and most famous citizen since Wild Bill Hickok.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. Army: I want to speak first of the dreams of a barefoot boy. Always in his dreams is that day when finally he comes home, comes home to a welcome from his own home town. That dream of mine has been realized. The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.

McCullough: [voice-over] Turn-of-the-century Abilene was a quiet rural community living down a lurid past as a mean frontier town -- the end of the line for cattle drives in the days of the Wild West. Ida and David Eisenhower moved there in 1891 after a failed business and a brief stay in Texas. Both of German descent, they had met while in college and been married for six years. They arrived with a growing family, their third son named after his father, David Dwight. But two Davids were too many for Ida, and she later reversed his name to Dwight David. The Eisenhowers instilled in their six boys what one son called ''ambition without arrogance.'' All six found success.

''Father,'' wrote Dwight, ''was the breadwinner, Supreme Court and Lord High Executioner. The application of stick to skin was a routine affair. Mother was tutor and manager of our household. She was by far the greatest personal influence in our lives.''

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: Without a doubt, what Grandma had to teach all six of her boys was self-reliance. She was not a pioneer woman in the sense of going out to the West by covered wagon, but they led very lonely lives. They were poor, and nothing-- I heard one of my uncles say to Dad one time, he said, ''Nothing ever defeated Mama.'' Her indomitable spirit and her independence were really a great contribution to them.

McCullough: [voice-over] Ida emphasized self-discipline and thought Dwight had the most to learn. ''Little Ike,'' as he was now known, had a fiery temper and an unruly attitude. He loved camping and hunting, learned poker from a local Wild West character, and enjoyed an occasional fistfight. But he was more than a roughneck. As a student, he exhibited a keen mind, excelling in history, his interest sparked by the battles of the Greek and Roman classics. His innate analytical ability led to a challenge from his teachers.

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: In high school, they discovered that in plane geometry, which is the area of math where sort of simple logical reasoning has the biggest payoff, that he was so good that rather than having him learn geometric solutions, they did a deal with him. They said, ''We will give you an A if you do the following thing. We'll give you Euclid's problems and you solve them yourself.'' And you can go back to his high school record and find that A.

McCullough: [voice-over] In 1911, Eisenhower left for West Point, but not with a military career in mind. He went mainly for the free education, also to pursue his great passion, football. ''I always played as hard as I knew how, trying to instill the fear of Eisenhower into every opponent,'' he later said. The New York Times called him ''one of the most promising backs in eastern football,'' but in his second year he injured his knee and was told he could never play again. ''I was almost despondent,'' he said. ''Life seemed to have little meaning. A need to excel was gone.''

Eisenhower had never been a model cadet, his rebellious nature clashing with the strict rules of the academy. Now he devoted much of his time to poker and took up smoking. His grades fell, his demerits increased, and he graduated near the middle of his class in academics, near the bottom in discipline.

Lieutenant Eisenhower was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He paid for his first uniform with money won at the poker table. One October afternoon, he met a family out on a Sunday drive, the Douds of Denver. ''The one who attracted my eye instantly was a vivacious and attractive girl,'' Eisenhower said, ''saucy in the look about her face and in her whole attitude.'' Mamie Doud, in turn, described her new suitor as ''the handsomest male I had ever seen.'' They were married within a year. It was 1916, and Eisenhower thought he would leave shortly for Europe to fight in the Great War, but he was ordered to stay behind to train volunteers.

Eisenhower never made it into combat. His career was going nowhere. Time and again, he was assigned to coach football even against his wishes. But he was a happy man, taking great joy in his first son, Doud Dwight, nicknamed Icky. He adored the baby and transformed an old Army barracks into a home. Ike made plans for his family. His son, he hoped, would become the greatest soldier of all time. Then, at age three, Icky contracted scarlet fever. Almost half a century later, Eisenhower remembered Icky's death as ''a tragedy from which we never recovered.'' Every year until his own death, Dwight sent Mamie flowers on the day of Icky's birth.

McCullough: [voice-over] Two thousand miles from home at age 32, Eisenhower found a new beginning. He was assigned to Panama to protect the newly-built canal. Army life in Panama was primitive. Mamie hated it. She spent much of her time in Denver where she gave birth to the Eisenhowers' second son, John Sheldon Dowd. In Panama, Eisenhower grew close to General Fox Conner, a commander known for his intellect. Conner saw in Eisenhower the makings of a great officer and launched his career.

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: Conner gave Eisenhower book after book. Some of them were military, but they discussed Plato. He read the great military theorist Clausewitz, who treats the military and political problems of leadership as hand-in-glove. He read Clausewitz's On War three times during this period. Between 1922 and, I guess, 1925, Eisenhower has an incomparable and highly personalized graduate school education.

McCullough: [voice-over] Conner got Eisenhower into the elite Staff School at Leavenworth. He graduated first in his class. A man who seemed destined to coach football now began his ascent toward the inner circles of high command. In the 1930s, he was assigned to the War Department in Washington under Army chief of staff General Douglas MacArthur. By then, Ike was becoming known within the military, but the only Eisenhower in the public eye was his brother Milton. Ten years younger, he was already a high official in the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: At one cocktail party, Milton noticed a prominent reporter leaving, and he said, ''Don't leave quite yet. I want you to meet my brother. You really ought to meet him. He's going places.'' So the reporter went over to shake hands with Major Eisenhower. He'd been a major for 14 years. And he shook hands with the brother that was going places, and the reporter thought to himself, ''He better get started soon.'' He was a 44-year-old major.

McCullough: [voice-over] In peacetime, there were few opportunities for advancement, even for a major regarded by MacArthur as ''the best officer in the U.S. Army.'' MacArthur had come to rely on Eisenhower, so much that in 1935 he took him to the Philippines as his chief aide. Their job was to draw up plans to defend the islands and to create a Filipino defense force. At first, it seemed a great opportunity, but MacArthur was demoted and his influence in Washington faded. Eisenhower could do little more than mark time. He became an avid golfer, shaved his head to keep cool in the tropical heat, and at age 46 learned to fly. Later in life, Ike would on occasion take over the controls from his pilot, but drew the line a flying jets, saying he came from a horse-and-buggy background.

Michael R. Beschloss, Historian: Under the veneer, it was a very unhappy time for Eisenhower. He was not getting along with MacArthur, he was not getting along with his wife. There wasn't enough money to really do the kind of things with the Philippine army that he had been promised, and in many ways he thought that this was going to be a graveyard for his career, that it all might end in the Philippines.

McCullough: [voice-over] In December 1939, the Eisenhowers left the Philippines for the United States. With war breaking out in Europe, Ike wanted to be closer to Washington. He was a lieutenant colonel and, at 49, too close to retirement to ever make general, but he told his son John, ''Of course, in an emergency, anything can happen.''

On December 12, 1941, five days after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was summoned to Washington. Chief of staff, General George Marshall needed a plan to defend the Philippines under Japanese attack. A man of unsurpassed integrity and intelligence, Marshall had been charged by President Roosevelt with directing America's war effort. There was no better place to serve than in General Marshall's war plans division. Eisenhower's years languishing in the Philippines now paid off.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: It was my dad's knowledge of the plans for Philippine defense that brought him to General Marshall's staff, and that of course led to the jobs he had. I'm sure that my dad would have had a good job in World War II, possibly as an army commander or something like that, but the jobs that he had -- that spectacular -- were probably due to the fact that he served in the Philippines with MacArthur, no question about that.

McCullough: [voice-over] With his sharp analytical skills, Eisenhower soon rose to the top. His plan to defend the Philippines impressed Marshall. But Eisenhower's efforts were soon directed to another theater: Europe. Night after night for three months, Hitler had bombed London, trying to vanquish his only remaining opponent in western Europe. But Britain had endured and now had a new ally in its war against the Nazis. Marshall asked Eisenhower for a plan to fight in Europe, to be implemented by an American commander yet to be appointed.

Forrest Pogue, U.S. Army Historian: And when Ike brought that to Marshall at the War Department, Marshall said, ''Are you satisfied with it? Is that what you want? Is this the kind of directive you want to issue to that man?'' And when Ike said yes, he thought it was a good one, Marshall said, ''Well, you better like it, because you're going to carry it out.''

English Newsreel Announcer: General Eisenhower, the newly-appointed American C-in-C Europe, takes office in London on the establishment of a European theater of operations for the United States forces.

McCullough: [voice-over] Two million Americans were coming. Eisenhower's task was to prepare them for an invasion of France, to be carried out in a fighting partnership with England, but at first, Eisenhower said, ''The British and the Americans came together like a bulldog meeting a cat.''

Sir Michael Howard, Military Historian: The British approached the alliance from the point of view that the Americans have got everything to learn and the British were there to teach them. The Americans approached it through the point of view that if anybody had anything to teach them, it was not the British who had been beaten over and over again and were not a very good army and did not produce any very good generals. So they did start with this mutual suspicion, mutual antagonism which Eisenhower had got to deal with, and which he dealt with extremely effectively.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower's easy charm served him well in London. He was popular with the British and at home. Featured in magazines and newsreels, he soon become the face of the American war effort in Europe.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: Ike was popular with the American people because he was of the American people. He evidenced that optimism that Americans like, that can-do attitude that Americans like. The family was like a magnet to the press, who flocked to Abilene to do background stories on where this general came from. The press also found it fascinating that his mother was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which was a pacifist sect. And here we've got this famous general who is the son of a pacifist. So there were just so many angles to play.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''I live in a goldfish bowl,'' he wrote Mamie, ''no home to go to where there is incentive to forget the work part of my existence, no exercise, either. In fact, hotel life is bearing down on me.'' Eisenhower soon found a substitute home in a wooded area just outside London, Telegraph Cottage. He called it a godsend and insisted that atmosphere remain informal. There he gathered what he referred to as his ''family.'' Among them were Mickey McKeogh, Eisenhower's orderly; a black Scottie named Telek, and Kay Summersby, a young Irishwoman who was Eisenhower's driver and secretary. It was rumored they were having an affair.

Andy Rooney, Reporter, Stars and Stripes: She was a wonderfully attractive, bright, beautiful woman. I never faulted Eisenhower for whatever happened between him and Kay Summersby. I think he loved his wife, Mamie, and like the old joke goes, ''What's the difference between British and American women?'' ''Well, none, but she was there.''

Lt. Col. Mattie Pinette, Confidential Secretary: I think he was very fond of Kay, no doubt about that. After all, she was very attractive and she drove him here and she drove him there, so-- but as far as having an affair, I don't think so. After all, she lived with us, and she was with us all the time when she wasn't driving him. So I don't-- they could have-- if they had an affair, it was a very discreet one.

Sgt. Mickey McKeogh, Eisenhower's Orderly: If you are having an affair, you can't hide it that much, and I put him to bed every night, and I woke him every morning. He was in bed by himself and he was in bed still by himself when he got up in the morning.

McCullough: [voice-over] Mamie, who spent the war in a Washington hotel, despaired over rumors of her husband's infidelity. As the war went on, tensions between them grew.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: He came back to the States, and Ike and Mamie went to White Sulfur Springs for three days just alone. Marshall insisted that he take that time to do that. Twice during that three days together, Eisenhower slipped and called Mamie ''Kay.'' He immediately apologized, said, ''Kay's the only woman I ever see, she's the only woman I'm ever around, it was just a slip of the tongue,'' but of course none of this sounded all that good to Mamie, who was terribly worried through the war, because every time she saw her husband's picture -- which was daily, really -- there was Kay at his side. And the rumors were sweeping not just England but the United States about Ike and his driver.

McCullough: [voice-over] Despite the strain created by Kay Summersby and the demands of running the war, Eisenhower wrote Mamie almost twice a week - 319 letters in three years. ''London, August 26, 1942. Darling, in a place like this the commanding general must be a bit of a diplomat, lawyer, promoter, social hound, liar, at least to get out of social affairs, and, incidentally -- sometimes I think most damnably incidentally -- a soldier.''

Eisenhower had come to Lyndon to plan the liberation of Europe, but Allied leaders decided to invade North Africa first. Eisenhower would command. He was now a three-star general. He would lead 60,000 soldiers into battle, he who had never been in combat.

On November 5th, Eisenhower arrived at Gibraltar, a British colony in the Mediterranean. His first command post would be in its caves. ''Our headquarters were established in the most dismal setting we occupied during the war,'' Eisenhower later wrote. ''The eternal darkness of the tunnels was here and there partially pierced by feeble electric bulbs. Through the arched ceilings came a constant drip, drip, drip of surface water that faithfully but drearily ticked off seconds of the interminable, almost unendurable wait.''

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: He described what had to be one of the most dismal and depressing episodes of World War II. It was the point when he was down in the dank tunnels of Gibraltar, waiting to see whether the United States would be able to land its troops under his leadership in North Africa, whether the Vichy France would resist the landing. The physical circumstances were depressing. It was clear that this dismalness began to overpower him.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: He said that he learned the most important lesson of leadership at that time, and that was that optimism spreads downward from the supreme commander and pessimism spreads downward even faster, that it was therefore critical in a leadership role to always exude optimism.

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: And it was at that point that he realized how important the grin-- and what was behind it: the radiation, the ability to radiate a sense of self-confidence, how important that was.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''I firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect cheerful certainty,'' Eisenhower wrote. ''Without optimism in the command, victory is scarcely obtainable.'' On November 8, 1942, Eisenhower's British-American force landed in North Africa. They would fight their way east to link up with the British 8th Army, approaching from Egypt. The landings went smoothly. Eisenhower's command did not. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel dealt Eisenhower his first defeat at Kassarine Pass in Tunisia. One hundred American tanks were destroyed in two days. Six thousand Americans were killed, missing or wounded.

Sgt. McKeogh, Eisenhower's Orderly: Well, when he came home from the office-- and there was a piano in the house we were living in and he sat down at the piano and tapped out Taps. So that showed me that there was something that really hit him.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''The general was glum and weary,'' wrote Kay Summersby. ''Headquarters had all the cheer of a funeral parlor.''

Michael R. Beschloss, Historian: The North Africa command was the first time that Eisenhower had commanded troops in battle, and it really showed. This is someone who was nervous, who was uncertain, who did not display the kind of commanding instincts that Eisenhower showed later in the war and that we now remember him for.

McCullough: [voice-over] For Eisenhower and the American Army, the defeat at Kassarine was a baptism by fire. He now replaced his American field commander with General George Patton. Patton made a name for himself beating the Germans back. After seven months of fighting, Eisenhower's forces linked up with the British 8th Army, trapping the Germans against the sea. Seven days later, it was all over.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Adolf Hitler once had a great army which he called the Africa Corps. He considered it invincible. It was commanded by General Erwin Rommel, who came to be known as ''the Desert Fox.'' Today, the brood of the fox has been utterly destroyed. This great victory stands as a monument to the perfection of cooperation among the fighting services of the allied nations in this theater.

McCullough: [voice-over] For the first time in history, the armies of many nations had fought together under a single, unified command. In the coming months, the alliance that defeated the Germans in North Africa would cross the Mediterranean and push deep into Italy. The credit went to Eisenhower.

Sir Michael Howard, Military Historian: He built up a most astonishing degree of efficient cooperation and of, beyond, their friendship. Over that 18 months, he had really-- he'd been the coach, he had been the trainer, he'd been the organizer, he'd been the inspirer. He had created a remarkable team.

McCullough: [voice-over] When Eisenhower would continue to lead this team was about to be determined. In December 1943, Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met at Teheran. They agreed to launch Operation Overlord, the invasion of France. Stalin insisted that a commander be named. The decision was Roosevelt's. Whomever he chose would be hailed as the victor of World War II. The choice seemed to clear. ''I hate to think that 50 years from now nobody will know who George Marshall was,'' Roosevelt had told Eisenhower. ''That is one of the reasons I want George to have the big command. He is entitled to establish his place in history as a great general.'' But with war raging in the Pacific, Roosevelt changed his mind. He needed Marshall in Washington. ''I couldn't sleep at night,'' he told him, ''if you were out of the country.''

''After the President left the meeting, I received a tattered piece of paper that is one of my war souvenirs,'' Democrat later wrote. ''At the bottom of the paper, General Marshall had written, 'Dear Eisenhower, I thought you might like to have this as a memento.' At the top, these few words: 'The immediate appointment of General Eisenhower to command the Overlord operation has been decided upon. Roosevelt.'''

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: When Roosevelt informed Eisenhower that it was his, Eisenhower was quite astonished, and, of course, naturally pleased. He had thought that he was going to be sent back to Washington to take over from General Marshall as chief of staff while Marshall ran Overlord.

Forrest Pogue, U.S. Army Historian: Unless Marshall himself commanded, there was no other man in the American Army who could command the respect of the British. Ike's only exploits brought him that command.

McCullough: [voice-over] Roosevelt asked Eisenhower whether he liked the new title, supreme commander. Ike admitted that it had a ring of importance, something like Sultan. Eisenhower's appointment as supreme commander transformed him from a soldier into a lasting symbol: the great crusader against Nazi evil. His life was forever changed.

David Eisenhower, Grandson: Suddenly, in the fall of 1943, there's a divide -- which I think happens to anybody at that level -- where private thoughts and historical thoughts become impossible to segregate. There's a point there where the man I knew suddenly begins and a more remote figure -- my grandfather, Dwight Eisenhower as a colonel or a major in the peacetime Army -- where that individual suddenly begins to fade. And so there's a personal transition and I think it's where he has a premonition that he has heavy responsibilities and accountability for anything that happens thereafter, also awareness that his actions will be recorded by history.

2nd English Newsreel Announcer: This is the last alerting announcement. From supreme headquarters, allied expeditionary force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force, you are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

McCullough: [voice-over] June 6, 1944 -- D-Day, the invasion of Hitler's Europe. Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in France. Eisenhower had launched the largest and most complex military operation in history. After a day of bitter fighting, German resistance on the beaches was overcome. The liberation of Europe was under way. On June 12th, Eisenhower visited the now-secure beachhead. On the eve of the invasion, he had drafted a note to the press. ''Our landings have failed. The troops did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.'' The note was now forgotten. For the next three months, Eisenhower's troops fought their way across the field of Normandy.

The war in France ended when the Allies encircled the Nazis at Falaise, capturing 40,000, killing 10,000. Eisenhower later described the battlefield -- ''Falaise was one of the greatest killing grounds of the war. Roads, highways and fields were so choked with dead men and animals that passage through the area was extremely difficult. I encountered scenes that could be described only by Dante. It was literally possible to walk for hundreds of yards at a time, stepping on nothing but dead and decaying flesh.''

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: More than any other general in the war, I think he recognized the human cost of war and hated war. That's one of the reasons Eisenhower was so popular with the American people. He was the kind of general they wanted leading their boys into combat, because they knew that he felt deeply, personally, and sincerely the loss of every one of them.

McCullough: [voice-over] August 26th, the day after the liberation of Paris. Eisenhower entered the city quietly, but was soon discovered by grateful Parisians. He found their exuberant greetings a bit embarrassing. The general had come to stay, but not in Paris. ''Too many temptations to go night-clubbing,'' he said. His new headquarters would be in Versailles. For the first time, the supreme commander took direct control of the land campaign.

Sir Michael Howard, Military Historian: He has now ceased to be the sort of Olympian figure in the background, sitting in London dealing with the all the political problems. He now becomes a commander in the field, which means that he takes on all the responsibilities of actually having to conduct the campaign, as well as the continuing responsibilities of political leadership and political liaison.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower was taking over from the British general, Bernard Law Montgomery, who had directed the Normandy campaign and got much of the credit for its success. But America was financing the war and contributing most of the soldiers in the field. General Marshall thought it was high time for an American to be visibly in charge.

Nigel Hamilton, Montgomery's Biographer: And Monty felt that it was really one of the great tragedies of history that Eisenhower, who was such a good supreme commander, who was so good at this business of getting people around a table and getting Army people to speak to Navy people to speak to Air people-- he felt it was a tragedy that that man should insist to take over the Allied armies in the field for, he thought, political, nationalistic reasons.

McCullough: [voice-over] As the Americans and the British raced across Europe, there was talk of the war ending by Christmas, but supplies were scarce and only one advance could continue its dash forward. Eisenhower had to choose between his American general, Patton, and his British general, Montgomery. Fearing the alliance couldn't stand the strain, he refused.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: One of the criticisms of General Eisenhower is that he was too political, that he-- in Patton's words, ''the best damn general the British have got.'' Patton felt that Eisenhower was always appeasing the British. Montgomery felt, to the contrary, that Ike was always trying to appease Patton. In fact, Eisenhower was trying to keep a balance, and it was a political as well as military balance.

Nigel Hamilton, Montgomery's Biographer: Well, Monty always said to me that that was the point at which the Allies lost the war in 1944. The Germans had suffered half a million casualties. He felt that that was the one moment when the Allies had such superiority, such momentum and the Germans were in such disarray, fighting on two fronts against the Russian and against the Allies, that that was the moment we should have seized; and that if he'd been allowed to continue [being] commander of the field armies, he could have brought the war to an end in 1944.

Sir Michael Howard, Military Historian: The British needed a rapid result because they were virtually running out of resources. They had no more troops. They had virtually no more supplies. Their whole economy depended on the war ending at the end of 1944. Eisenhower didn't have any of those problems. He had vast numbers of men. The resources of the United States were endless. There was no great hurry about finishing the war.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower ordered his armies to advance together on a broad front stretching across Europe, slowly wearing down German resistance, but in November the advance ground to a halt. The Allies were bogged down in the cold and rain of early winter. With the Germans fiercely defending their fortified border, the western front settled into a war of attrition. Eisenhower felt discouraged. He wrote Mamie, ''Well, sweet, I'd like to think that this mess would soon be over, but the fighting and the dying go on. When the war is over, we'll have to take a vacation on some lonely beach and oh, lordy, lordy, let it be sunny.''

December 16th was a day of celebration at Eisenhower's headquarters. On that day, the supreme commander got his fifth star. Hal Meserlin, his photographer, took the official portrait.

Albert Meserlin, U.S. Army Photographer: Well, I'm sure Ike, on a day he got his fifth star, was as happy as somebody being promoted to a vice president in plant or an office. You could just see how he acted, 'cause he was so easygoing and relaxed that day.

McCullough: [voice-over] That same day, Eisenhower hosted the wedding of his orderly, Mickey McKeogh.

Sgt. McKeogh, Eisenhower's Orderly: Well, the general put on the wedding for us, and it was through his influence that we could get married in a chapel at Versailles -- Marie Antoinette's chapel. And he was the guest of honor, put on the wedding reception for us at our home up in St. Germain. Pearlie and I went on to Paris for our honeymoon and he went on conduct the rest of the war.

McCullough: [voice-over] In the afternoon, news arrived at Allied headquarters of a German assault through the Ardennes Forest, a thinly-defended section of Eisenhower's broad front. At first, it seemed like a diversionary tactic, but it wasn't. Hitler hurled half a million soldiers and 1,800 tanks against the American front lines. It was the beginning of what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The Americans were overwhelmed. One after another their positions caved in. In one instance, 7,000 soldiers surrendered at once. Replacements were rushed to the front. Units which had never seen battle were now fighting on the front lines and getting massacred. The Germans seemed unstoppable.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: There was panic all around. In France, people began putting away the American flags they had just pulled out and they started to get their swastikas ready to hang out again. In New York, the stock market tumbled. Around the world, people thought about this wehrmacht this terror of the world of 1940, '41 was on the march again.

McCullough: [voice-over] On December 19th, Eisenhower called a meeting of his top commanders.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: He and the rest of the American commanders realized that we had been surprised. It was, on paper and on the ground for the moment, a disaster, but at that meeting, he came in and said, ''This situation has got to be regarded as an opportunity and there will be nothing but cheerful faces around this table.''

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: And here is where I think Eisenhower is shown as a general way ahead of all of his contemporaries. He looked at their situation and immediately saw not danger, not possible loss of the battle or even of the war itself, he saw opportunity.

McCullough: [voice-over] By rushing out from behind the border fortifications, the Germans had made themselves vulnerable. Eisenhower saw an opportunity to turn Hitler's gamble into his worst defeat. He signaled his troops, ''Let everyone hold before him a single thought: to destroy the enemy everywhere, destroy him.'' Together the Allies contained the Nazi advance. But Hitler's offensive renewed tensions in the Anglo-American alliance. Montgomery, Britain's top field general, had always questioned Eisenhower's broad-front strategy. He now challenged the supreme commander.

Nigel Hamilton, Montgomery's Biographer : He not only humiliated Eisenhower by saying that the Americans had really got what they deserved, that if only they'd listened to his -- Monty's -- advice, this need never have happened; but also humiliated him by saying that his, Eisenhower's, plans for developing the battle were all wrong, that instead Eisenhower should give Monty charge of all the forces in northwest Europe. And Eisenhower really felt that, really, this was incredible cheek. He went back to his headquarters, saying that either Monty or he would climb down.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower threatened to give his superiors the choice. He knew what the outcome would be. So did Monty. ''Dear Ike,'' he wrote, ''you can rely on me 100 percent. Your very devoted subordinate, Monty.'' The note saved Montgomery's job. The Allies won the Battle of the Bulge. Eisenhower had inflicted upon Hitler his worst and final defeat in the West. From then on, the Allies advanced virtually unopposed. Nine months after D-Day, Eisenhower's armies were posed to cross the Rhine into Germany. The war was almost over. Eisenhower alone would determine how it would end. At stake was the unity of the alliance. The issue was Berlin.

3rd Newsreel Announcer: Out of the fog and smoke of the western front and a partial blackout of news, peace rumors sweep America as the amazing drive to Berlin races ahead. Every day, every hour, the borders of the Reich shrink back. And from the East come new films of the Russian offensive, the first to reach America in months.

McCullough: [voice-over] In the spring of 1945, the Russians were gallant allies. They had dealt the Germans their worst defeat at a price of 20 million Russian lives. They had liberated most of Eastern Europe, but in the closing days of the war, Stalin seemed reluctant to restore self-rule to the nations the Red Army occupied. Churchill worried that a new enemy was looming. He urged Eisenhower to take Berlin to use as a bargaining chip with Stalin.

Sir Michael Howard, Military Historian: And Eisenhower said, ''This is a political objective, it is not a military objective. If my political boss or bosses'' -- the United States together with the British -- ''tell me to go for Berlin, I will, but so long as it is left to me how to the end the war, I will end if in the usual way, destroying the German army first.''

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower cabled Stalin that he had ordered his American army south, away from Berlin, to destroy the remnants of the German forces. Stalin ordered his best general, Georgi Zhukov, and one million men to take Berlin. In later years, during the Cold War, Eisenhower would be criticized for leaving the German capital to the Russians, but in 1945, the Russians were not his enemy.

Forrest Pogue, U.S. Army Historian: Ike saw no point picking trouble, and as a matter of fact, his efforts as early as this period was to build bridges, as he called it, to Zhukov, to develop a personal feeling with the military commander of the Soviet Union.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: He felt that the Russians deserved the honor of capturing Berlin. He also thought, ''If they want to pay the price for it, that's fine.'' The estimates were it was going to take 100,000 lives to take Berlin and that's approximately what the Red Army lost in the Battle of Berlin.

McCullough: [voice-over] On May 1, 1945, Berlin fell to the Russians. Five days later, the German high command came to Eisenhower's headquarters to sign Germany's unconditional surrender.

Sgt. McKeogh, Eisenhower's Orderly: Well, the night of the surrender, I had driven General Eisenhower down to headquarters for the signing. And it was late at night, it was 11:00. And after I got him there, he told me, he said, ''Maybe you better go back to the house and get me an egg sandwich,'' which I did.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower waited in an adjoining office while the ceremonies took place. At 2:41 a.m., Germany surrendered. After six years of destruction and the death of millions, the war in Europe was finally over.

Albert Meserlin, U.S. Army Photographer: After the papers were officially signed, the Germans were taken out and all the Allied soldiers, they went into Ike's office. And then the Germans were brought in, and Ike, in a very stern way, pointed to them and said, ''I hope you understand the terms of this treaty.'' He wanted no part of them and that was it.

McCullough: [voice-over] After the Germans left, Kay Summersby saw Eisenhower's face break into what she called ''the proudest grin of his career. 'Come on, he said, 'Let's have a picture.''' All of Eisenhower's staff posed for a victory photograph, all except Mickey McKeogh, who was outside, still holding Eisenhower's egg sandwich.

Sgt. McKeogh, Eisenhower's Orderly: After the ceremony was over, I went in and asked him if he still wanted it, and he-- probably it was too cool for him to eat at that time.

McCullough: [voice-over] Describing how he felt that morning, Eisenhower said, ''Like so many other men and women had been at war physically, exhaustion rather than exultation was my first reaction to victory in Europe. Before retiring, Eisenhower sent General Marshall a simple message: ''The mission of this allied force was fulfilled at 0241 local time May 7, 1945.''

In the days following the surrender, Eisenhower was swept up by the magnitude of the triumph. He had come to personify victory over the Nazis. General Marshall. his champion, summed up the feelings held throughout the world -- ''You have completed your mission with the greatest victory in the history of warfare. You have been selfless in your actions, always sound and tolerant in your judgment, and altogether admirable in the courage and wisdom of your military decisions. You have made history, great history for the good of mankind.'' As Europe's liberator, Eisenhower had earned the confidence of world leaders and the hearts of millions.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Whether or not you know it, I am now a Londoner myself. I've got just as much right to be down in that crowd, yelling, as you have.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower had left home an unknown soldier. He came back his nation's most loved and admired hero. ''I luxuriated in the freedom from decisions about the life and death of human beings,'' he later wrote. ''I had been liberated, too.'' In time, Eisenhower would once again shoulder the fate of millions.

Clark Gable, Movie Star: [1952 Republican National Convention] Ladies and gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you the man who has written the songs that all America loves to sing. Tonight he will teach you his newest, the campaign song for the next president of the United States -- Mr. Irving Berlin.

Irving Berlin, Songwriter: [singing] I like Ike / I'll shout it over a mike / Tried and true / Courageous, strong and human. / Why even Harry Truman / Says, ''I like Ike.''

McCullough: [voice-over] In 1952, Republicans mounted a grassroots movement to draft Eisenhower as their presidential candidate. In 1948, he had faced a similar choice.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower: [1948] Ever since I have first heard my name connected with possible political office, I have consistently declined to consider such a contingency. I am a soldier, I belong to the Army, and the Army is truly national. It lives to serve the nation and nobody else, no party, no special group.

McCullough: [voice-over] At war's end, Eisenhower the soldier had joined his Russian allies in Moscow to celebrate their defeat of Nazi Germany. He hoped his warm relations with the Soviet Union would help keep the post-war peace. That vision faded as fast as Stalin's Red Army subjugated eastern Europe. By 1952, Eisenhower was once again a supreme commander, rallying the West to confront the new enemy. He was waging what he called ''a war of light against darkness, freedom against slavery, godliness against atheism.'' He was serving President Truman in a crusade against Communism. The new alliance was called NATO. His view from Paris was grim. Not just looking east to the Communist bloc, but looking homeward to an America obsessed by Communists within.

1st Senate Hearing Witness: I am not and never have been a member of the Communist Party.

2nd Senate Hearing Witness: I deeply resent this attack upon my loyalty.

3rd Senate Hearing Witness: There is not a Communist bone in my body.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower saw Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy's popularity rise with reckless charges of Communists in government. He looked to America and saw Senator Robert Taft, the Republican candidate for president, turn his back on NATO and an active role for America in world affairs.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: After five straight defeats, there was some fear expressed to Eisenhower by leading Republicans that, ''If we don't win this one in 1952, Ike, there isn't going to be Republican Party anymore.'' And he had a duty, as they put it, to run just to save the Republican Party, but more specifically to save the Republican Party from Joe McCarthy and Bob Taft.

So everything came together for Eisenhower in this quite agonizing decision. He wanted to retire. He didn't think soldiers should become politicians, but he wanted his country to have the best in leadership. And he looked around in 1952, and he decided, ''I'm the best.''

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower resigned from the Army and kicked off his campaign in Abilene. He was 61 years old. His themes that day were surprising ones for a man who had spent a career in the military.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican Presidential Candidate: Today staggering federal expenditures for civil and military purposes have soared to totals beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals. In a world threatened by war, a great portion of these is inescapable, but because necessary expenditures are so great, our entire arms program must be under constant scrutiny that not one dollar be spent without full value received. Armament, of its nature, is sterile. Heedless expense is investment in bankruptcy.

McCullough: [voice-over] The retired five-star general promised to defend America not just from the Russian military but from the crush of his own country's military spending.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: [1952 Republican National Convention] Ladies and gentlemen, you have summoned me, on behalf of millions of your fellow Americans, to lead a great crusade for freedom in America and freedom in the world. I know something of the solemn responsibility of leading a crusade. I have led one.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower defeated Taft and with him the isolationist wing of the Republican Party. He committed his party to defend Europe and the free world against Communism. But he was not the only one leading an anti-Communist crusade. To his dismay, he had to share the podium with Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, (R), Wisconsin: [Republican National Convention]: And our job-- as Americans and as Republicans is to dislodge the traitors from every place where they've been sent to do their traitorous work.

McCullough: [voice-over] Among McCarthy's ''traitors'' was Eisenhower's mentor, General George C. Marshall. As Army chief of staff when the war began, Marshall had vaulted Eisenhower to prominence. In 1946, Marshall had tried to mediate a civil war in China, which Mao's Communists won. For this, McCarthy charged him with ''a conspiracy so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.'' General George Catlett Marshall -- there was no man whom Eisenhower owed more or respected more, and McCarthy had called him a traitor.

Eisenhower mustered his public smile for McCarthy, but dreaded campaigning with him. McCarthy would join the train in Peoria. He may have wished he hadn't.

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: McCarthy flew to Peoria, Illinois, and Eisenhower called him to come to his room. He wanted to talk to him. McCarthy came in and sitting outside the door was a single observer who heard the conversation, Kevin McCann, who was one Eisenhower's principal speechwriters. Kevin said that he never heard Eisenhower so cold-bloodedly skin a man alive. The air turned blue, so blue, in fact, that McCann -- and McCann was a man who was brought up under a cabbage leaf -- he said he had to leave. It was embarrassing for him, and he said that he just literally took McCarthy apart.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (archival): I spent about half an hour with the General last night. While I can't-- while I can't report that we agreed entirely on everything, I can-- I can report that when I left that meeting with the General, I had the same feeling as when I went in, and that is that he's a great American who'll make a great president, an outstanding president.

McCullough: [voice-over] From Peoria, the train headed for McCarthy's home state, Wisconsin. Eisenhower had praised General Marshall in Denver, and planned another tribute that night in Milwaukee. Until then, he tried to avoid McCarthy, but he could not avoid the harsh reality of politics.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: Then came a terrible moment when Governor Kohler of Wisconsin got on the train and said that, ''We've got an advance copy of your text, and we see that you're going to praise General Marshall. General, we lost Wisconsin in 1948. This might cost us Wisconsin, because it's such an obvious attack on Joe McCarthy. Say it in some other state.''

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: ''You cannot go into Milwaukee, Wisconsin, get up on the stage in the largest public auditorium in this city, have Joe McCarthy sitting there, running for the Senate -- you're running for the presidency on the Republican ticket -- and punch him in the nose. Don't destroy the chances of a Republican victory in the State of Wisconsin by an unnecessary remark.''

Dwight D. Eisenhower: We can nothing by trying to make everyone think and act alike. Such a course would deaden the lively spirit of freedom itself. We would have nothing left to defend if we allowed ourselves to be swept into any spirit of violent vigilantism. At the same time, we have the right to call a spade a spade. That means in every proved case the right to call a Red a Red.

McCullough: [voice-over] What he did not say was this: ''I have been privileged for 35 years to know General Marshall personally. I know him, as a man and as a soldier, to be dedicated with singular selflessness and the profoundest patriotism to the service of America. And this episode is a sobering lesson in the way freedom must not defend itself.'' Word of the tribute never given became public. It was leaked to The New York Times. Eisenhower would be haunted for the rest of his life by the charge that he had betrayed his mentor and pandered to McCarthy.

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: It was a mistake, and he was stuck with it and he was infuriated by it. And finally, you will see in his memoirs a grudging admission that, ''All right, if I had it to over again, I would not have done it that way.''

Pres. Harry S. Truman: The Republican candidate showed in Wisconsin what he has shown throughout this campaign, that in his mind the end of getting elected justifies the means. To him it appears to justify betrayal of principle and of friend.

McCullough: [voice-over] The campaign soured Eisenhower's relationship with his former commander-in-chief. He had worked with President Truman to shape the post-war world, eager to execute Truman's foreign policy, but over time he became convinced that Truman's domestic spending was hurting the economy. Now Eisenhower ran against Adlai Stevenson by attacking what he called ''Truman's mess in Washington.''

Dwight D. Eisenhower: We shall cast away the incompetent, the unfit, the cronies and the chiselers. And it won't take years of congressional investigations and a lot of tax money to clean out the whole mess.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: And they began taking cracks at each other that got worse and worse -- Truman especially, saying, ''You know Eisenhower doesn't know any more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday.'' And they were so furious with each other that when the transition took place, Eisenhower refused to go into the White House to have a cup of coffee with President Truman. And then Truman joined Eisenhower in the open limousine for the ride to the inaugural and they say that silence was the coldest you ever heard.

McCullough: [voice-over] Truman did not think Eisenhower was prepared for the presidency. He mused, ''Poor Ike. It won't be a bit like the Army. He'll sit here and he'll say, 'Do this, do that,' and nothing will happen.'' That was not to be the case.

Americans had elected the victorious general of World War II to deal with the problems of the Cold War while they settled down in the burgeoning suburbs and continued what would be called a ''baby boom.'' But Eisenhower saw the American economy and way of life under threat. War in Korea had dragged on for two and a half years. The war had begun when Communist North Korea invaded the South. The U.S. rallied the United Nations, while China sided with her Communist neighbor. Eisenhower wanted to end the war. Republican hard-liners hoped he would roll back Communism in Korea and all over the world. Instead, Eisenhower settled for limiting the spread of Communism, for ''containing'' the Communists. This had been Truman's policy. Eisenhower made it America's policy for the long haul of the Cold War. But containing aggression with ground forces was costly in men and treasure. Early in his term, Eisenhower spoke with eloquence of the cost of war.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those are cold and are not clothed. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: ''The cost of one modern destroyer is just this: five fine, fully-equipped hospitals in towns across America.'' And he went on to sketch out the cost of the arms race to the American people.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

McCullough: [voice-over] In six months, he ended the war in Korea and brought the troops home. He had threatened the Chinese with nuclear weapons, but Americans didn't seem to care. Eisenhower kept the defense budget down by relying on nuclear weapons. They were cheap. He would contain Communist expansion by threatening massive nuclear retaliation. Covert action was also cheap. It had served Eisenhower well in the war against Hitler. He would fight the Cold War with the CIA as a secret presidential army. To protect Iran and British oil from Soviet meddling, the CIA stirred up a riot and returned the Shah to his throne, no matter that a legitimate leader was overthrown. He avoided another war in Asia when he refused to send bombers of atomic bombs to help France fight the Communists in Vietnam. His commitment to a non-Communist South Vietnam seemed harmless enough at the time.

Eisenhower wanted to avoid war, contain Communism and protect the American economy. He often worked with a style that Vice President Richard Nixon called ''devious, in the best sense of the word.''

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: Eisenhower maintained support with the great, beaming smile he had acquired in World War II, but simultaneously, he was a political sophisticate who operated behind the scenes, pulling strings, and I came to call his presidency the hidden-hand presidency.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Historian: Fred Greenstein calls it ''the hidden-hand presidency,'' but I think there are obvious defects to the hidden-hand presidency. FDR used to say, ''The presidency is preeminently a place of moral leadership.'' Now, TR called it ''a bully pulpit.'' You miss a large point of the presidency if you do everything through a hidden hand.

McCullough: [voice-over] Nowhere was Eisenhower's indirect style more apparent than in his efforts to undermine Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Herbert Brownell, Attorney, General: Eisenhower gave orders early in his first term that one of his objectives was to destroy McCarthy. At the same time, he realized and said to the Cabinet that he didn't think that Truman's method of dealing with McCarthy had been successful. Truman had denounced McCarthy from the Oval Office and that just fueled the controversy, created headlines for McCarthy and McCarthy loved that.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''Nothing will be so effective in combating this kind of trouble-making as to ignore him,'' Eisenhower wrote. ''This he cannot stand.'' The President's interest quickened in late 1953 when McCarthy began to probe for Communists in the U.S. Army. McCarthy charged Army dentist Irving Peress with ''Communist affiliations.'' He then lambasted Peress' commanding officer for not preventing the dentist's automatic promotion.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy: Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to general and who protects Communists is not fit to wear that uniform, General!

Robert Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: McCarthy, who never in his life caught a Communist spy but was always after them, turned on the Perez case to show that the Army itself, if you will, was soft on Communism, and berated Army officers for his promotion, got into a terrible brawl with the Defense Department over it, and drove Eisenhower up the wall.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower had asked his staff to find a way to undermine McCarthy, and they did. After one of McCarthy's aides, David Schine, was drafted, McCarthy tried to use his influence to get Schein cushy assignments. The Army kept records of these attempts for preferential treatment and Eisenhower's staff gave them to all members of McCarthy's committee. That turned the tables. McCarthy's quest for who in the Army promoted ''the pink dentist'' became also a hearing on the Army's charge of influence-peddling.

1st Army Officer: At that time, Senator McCarthy informed me that he was very much interested in obtaining a direct reserve commission for his consultant, Mr. G. David Schein.

McCullough: [voice-over] McCarthy fought back, probing for details of the meeting where Eisenhower aides decided to investigate him.

Herbert Brownell, Attorney, General: The President then issued an executive order which instructed everyone in the executive branch not to answer McCarthy's subpoenas. He cut off the fodder, so to speak, for the day-to-day examination by McCarthy of employees in the executive branch, and it was very effective in bringing the McCarthy era to an end.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy: I must admit I'm somewhat at a loss as to know what to do at this moment. I don't believe that this is the result of President Eisenhower's own personal thinking.

McCullough: [voice-over] But it was, and it worked. Eisenhower prevented McCarthy from rummaging at will through White House files. With the exposure of the hearings, televised for eight weeks to 20 million Americans, McCarthy's credibility plummeted.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy: Now, I just give this man's records, and I want to say, Mr. Welch, that it has been labeled--

Sen. Welch: Let us not assassinate this man further, Senator.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy: --for he is a member--

Sen. Welch: You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency? You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness.

McCullough: [voice-over] After the hearings ended, McCarthy was censored by his Senate colleagues.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Historian: It was not a noble chapter in American history, nor did Eisenhower behave with much courage in confronting him. He let nature take its course, and eventually McCarthy self-destructed. I don't see how Eisenhower could claim credit for it.

Robert Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: What I hoped Eisenhower would do -- and what I still wish he had -- was deliver one great speech about the evils of McCarthy and McCarthyism. We're going to have more McCarthys as time goes by -- it's inevitable -- and Eisenhower was then a great voice. He would have been listened to. The speech would have had enormous impact.

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: If Eisenhower had confronted him head-on, it's not obvious who would have won. In fact, as I studied this episode and looked very closely about it, I began examining some of the public opinion polls. And what I concluded was that by handling McCarthy more indirectly and letting things move to the point where the Senate confronted him and where McCarthy gradually undermined himself in public, I think Eisenhower did almost a perfect job of contributing to the downfall of Joe McCarthy.

McCullough: [voice-over] The Communists that concerned Eisenhower the most were not in the U.S. Army. They were in Moscow and in Peking. In confronting them after McCarthy was censured, Eisenhower came as close as he ever did to nuclear war.

4th Newsreel Announcer: Ships of the United States Seventh Fleet race through stormy seas towards the island of Formosa. The chain of islands off the coast of Communist China, including Formosa, are threatening to become the center of a new clash between East and West.

McCullough: [voice-over] In late 1954, Communist China began to shell two tiny islands -- Quemoy and Matsu -- held by the Nationalist Chinese on Formosa, which Eisenhower had pledged to defend. If he considered an attack on the islands to be an attack on Formosa, Eisenhower faced war with China.

Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, Presidential Aide: Well, immediately, everyone wanted to sound him out. What would constitute an attack that he would consider an attack on Formosa? And he was determined not to show his hand.

McCullough: [voice-over] He would not show his hand. Instead he put on quite a show. He staged maneuvers off the coast of China. The Army tested battlefield nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert. To send China a message, Eisenhower wanted the tests made public, and then threatened to use the weapons.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Now, in any combat where these things can be used on strictly military targets and for strictly military purposes, I see no reason that they shouldn't be used just exactly as you'd use a bullet or anything else.

5th Newsreel Announcer: It's Operation Alert 1955. President Eisenhower leads the way in a test evacuation of the entire executive branch.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower wanted the world to believe that the U.S. could fight and survive a nuclear war. In private, he had no such hopes.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: One day in a Cabinet meeting, I was a witness and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers got up and gave a briefing on what we would do in the event of nuclear war, what we would do to reestablish the dollar. And Dad stopped the meeting. He says, ''Boys, listen to me.'' He says, ''If we have a nuclear exchange, we're not going to be talking about reestablishing the dollar. We're going to talking about grubbing for worms.''

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower had committed the United States to a nuclear arsenal, one he felt he could never use, but he had threatened China with it. If China's ally, the Soviet Union, got involved, there could be global nuclear war. He had outwitted his classmates at West Point, later paid for his uniforms at the poker table. How he was playing poker with the Chinese.

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: Eisenhower was on his way to a press conference, and Press Secretary Hagerty says, ''The State Department people are really worried about what you're going to say about the offshore islands. They say, if you get a question on that, please refuse to answer.'' And Eisenhower says to Hagerty, ''Don't worry, Jim. If that comes up, I'll just confuse them.''

1st Reporter: Sir, it would seem to me that if we got into an issue with the Chinese -- say, over Matsu and Quemoy -- that we wanted to keep limited, do you conceive of using a specific kind of atomic weapon in that situation or not?

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Well, Mr. Harsch, I must confess I cannot answer that question in advance. The only thing I know about war are two things. A), the most changeable factor in war is human nature, in any-- in its day-by-day manifestations, but the only unchanging factor in war is human. And the next things is....

Fred L. Greenstein, Presidency Scholar: And then he produced what was both the most confusing array of semantic wandering that you can imagine, but something which also was enormously reassuring because it wound with the punch line, saying, ''Nobody can really know how an event like that will break, so you have to have a prayerful confidence in the decision-maker.'' Well, what the American people knew that it was the great General Eisenhower who was the decision-maker.

McCullough: [voice-over] Within weeks, China stopped shelling the islands. Eisenhower had gone to the brink and prevailed, but he knew there had to be a better way than threatening nuclear war.

Geneva, 1955 -- Eisenhower prepared to dine with the Russians, who led what the West called ''the worldwide Communist conspiracy.'' He was the first American president to meet with other world leaders in peacetime to try to avoid war. ''The only way to save the world is through diplomacy,'' Eisenhower told the Kremlin leaders at dinner. The Russians seemed to agree. At the formal meeting, he made a startling proposal: each country would permit the other to conduct aerial photography of its military installations. This would lessen the fear of surprise attack, of a nuclear Pearl Harbor. Eisenhower's proposal became known as ''Open Skies.''

Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, Presidential Aide: When we broke up and went to tea, it was Khrushchev who came walking up to Eisenhower -- waddling, in fact -- and he said-- shaking his finger, he said, ''No, no, no, no, no.'' And then in Russian, he said, ''We cannot agree. You're simply trying to look into our bedrooms.''

McCullough: [voice-over] Stalin had died and Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the new Soviet leader. The military secrets he would not willingly reveal Eisenhower now planned to steal. The next July, a spy plane, the U-2, left West Germany to begin its secret photography of the Soviet Union. It flew high over Moscow as Nikita Khrushchev attended an Independence Day party at the American embassy. He toasted Eisenhower and world peace.

Richard M. Bissell, Jr., Central Intelligence Agency: And we saw an incredible amount. A colleague of mine looked at these photographs and he said, ''What you see here is the whole life of the Russian people. You see them going to beaches. You see them in the streets. You see them driving on the roads.'' Extraordinary wealth of information.

McCullough: [voice-over] The CIA assured Eisenhower that if a plane were hit, it would be destroyed along with the pilot. There would be no evidence of espionage. Yet Eisenhower worried. If Soviet aircraft made similar flights over the U.S., he wrote, he would consider it an act of war. Khrushchev, whose radar tracked the U-2, drew one conclusion: improve Soviet rockets, improve fighter planes. The CIA told Eisenhower the Russians would, by 1960.

Eisenhower could enjoy his leisure in the summer of 1955. American was at peace, McCarthy was dispatched. He had controlled spending and the economy was booming. After Geneva, he was enormously popular. When it came time to relax, Eisenhower was most comfortable in the world of men, especially self-made millionaires. He could unwind with those he called his gang, be himself in ways that he couldn't with others. Men who had made it on their own impressed Eisenhower. He enjoyed the life of the rich, but Americans still felt he was one of them.

Television Show Hostess: The women of our country swept Dwight D. Eisenhower into office and they like Ike. And here's somebody else they like, too: Ike's beloved Mamie. Her smile and modesty and easy, natural charm make her the ideal First Lady.

McCullough: [voice-over] America's First Lady was a wife, a mother and a grandmother. Mamie did have a career, she said, ''And his name is Ike.'' By the time she got to the White House, she had moved 35 times, working her way up the pecking order on Army bases. Now she was queen bee and relished her role.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: She would stay-- in the White House, for example, she would stay in bed till 1 or 2 in the afternoon. She'd have the papers brought into her and she was very tight and would circle the bargains and then make her orders over the telephone. And she ordered people around in that White House-- I wouldn't want to make comparisons with other first ladies, but in a way and in a style that made its impression on the White House staff that here was a woman not to be crossed. She had her way.

McCullough: [voice-over] From her bed, propped up by pillows, Mamie conducted her business, including meeting with her tax adviser.

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: A short time thereafter, he and his wife were invited to a white-tie dinner at the White House, and they were going through the receiving line and Mrs. Eisenhower said, ''Oh, Walter, it's so good to see you. This is the first time I've ever seen you when I wasn't in bed.'' And he looked around at all these people around him and wondered what did they think of this going-on. And she was effervescent that way, you know, and quite open, frank and bubbly and delightful.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower faced an election the next year, but could relax that summer of 1955 with grandson David and his chums. If he wanted it, another four years would be his for the asking.

6th Newsreel Announcer: A stunned nation hears that its president is stricken with a heart attack at the Denver home of his mother-in-law, Mrs. John Doud.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower was wheeled to the roof of his Denver hospital to reassure the nation, but people began to worry. His brother Milton urged him to retire with a reputation intact as ''one of our greatest military and political leaders.'' Besides, he feared if the President ran again, he might face serious setbacks at home and upheavals abroad. But Eisenhower felt a sense of duty. ''History might condemn a failure,'' he wrote. ''It cannot weigh the demands of conscience.''

McCullough: [voice-over] As the school year began in his second term, Eisenhower faced the gravest domestic crisis of his presidency. In the South, resistance to the desegregation of public schools turned violent.

Arkansas Woman: I think they should-- the niggers should not enter a school with the whites and if the niggers just keep on going, I think the whites should keep those children out of the schools.

McCullough: [voice-over] More than two years had passed since the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. As the day of integration neared, resistance in the South may have been encouraged by the perception that Eisenhower was sympathetic.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: If ever there was a time when we must be patient without being complacent, when we must be understanding of other people's deep emotions as well as our own, this is it. Extremists on neither side are going to help this situation.

Robert Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: Well, I think Eisenhower thought it was too much all at once, that it was very, very difficult, especially in the South, for people to absorb such a radical change overnight. He would have preferred it done in stages. Eisenhower was a gradualist.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower refused to speak out in favor of the decision, but time and again stressed his intention to uphold the law.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: And the Constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court. I'm sworn to uphold it. I don't ask myself whether every single phase of that Constitution, with all its amendments, are exactly what I agree with or not. I'm sworn to uphold it and that's what I intend to do.

Judge Constance Motley, NAACP: What was needed then was for the President of the United States to say, ''We have a new day in this country and that is a decision of the Supreme Court, which means that the way we have been doing business has to end, and we have to desegregate our schools and everything else.'' And we needed that desperately, desperately.

McCullough: [voice-over] The struggle over desegregation came to a head as school opened in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Governor Orville Faubus ordered out the National Guard to maintain order and to prevent nine newly-enrolled black children from entering Central High. The nation watched as a mob, backed by the power of a state governor, stood between the children and their constitutional rights. Hoping to stay out of the controversy, Eisenhower began the vacation he had planned in Rhode Island.

7th Newsreel Announcer: He's off to a good start, with a good gallery at the Newport Country Club.

McCullough: [voice-over] But the crisis escalated. Anxious to defuse it, Eisenhower invited Governor Faubus to Newport. They spoke alone for 20 minutes. The crisis seemed resolved. Eisenhower thought Faubus had agreed to change the orders of the National Guard to allow the black children into Central High. Instead, Faubus sent the Guard home. That left only the local police to protect the students from the crowd.

2nd Reporter: Do you think the Negro students ever will get in here?

Arkansas Man: I think they'll get in here, but I don't know how long they'll live after they do get in here.

McCullough: [voice-over] The governor triggered the confrontation the President wanted to avoid. Now Eisenhower had to act.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: To make this talk, I have come to the President's office in the White House. I could have spoken from Rhode Island where I've been staying recently, but I felt that in speaking from the house of Lincoln, of Jackson and of Wilson, my words would better convey both the sadness I feel in the action I was compelled today to make, and the firmness with which I intend to pursue this course until the orders of the federal court at Little Rock can be executed without unlawful interference.

McCullough: [voice-over] In June 1944, Eisenhower had sent the elite 101st Airborne to secure the routes from the Normandy beaches. He now sent them to secure the integrity of the Constitution and the rights of nine children.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: Eisenhower told me that it was the most agonizing decision of his life. It was a terribly difficult decision for him to make. He had many southern friends. He agreed in many way with their point of view, but his duty was there, it was clear and he never hesitated. He did what the Constitution required him to do and he could never imagine himself doing other. As for personal, inner feelings, yeah, it tore him apart, sending American troops into an American city.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''My main interest is not in the desegregation question,'' Eisenhower wrote a friend. ''If the day comes when we can obey the orders of our courts only when we personnel approve of them, the end of the American system will not be far off.'' Brother Milton's predicted upheaval abroad came on the heels of Little Rock. It cast a shadow over Eisenhower's presidency for the next three years.

8th Newsreel Announcer: Today a new moon is in the sky, a 23-inch metal sphere placed in orbit by a Russian rocket.

McCullough: [voice-over] The Soviet Union called the satellite Sputnik. It was harmless, like a beeping basketball in space, but it dawned on Americans that soon the Russians could launch a missile.

Chalmers Roberts, Washington Post: Oh, it was the most shocking thing that had happened to us. Here was the United States, the great world leader in technology and everything. Suddenly, some primitive bunch of peasants were shooting Sputnik up and it was going around our head. And we used to go right out this door and listen to it as it went by. It was a pretty impressive trick. It was a pretty impressive trick, but Ike was not upset about it, and he tried to keep the country calm about it, but he had a hard time. The country really, really was upset about it.

McCullough: [voice-over] Sputnik did not surprise Eisenhower. The U-2 had shown the launch site in preparation and the U-2 should warn when Soviet missiles became operational. His photographs had already discounted the notion that the U.S. lagged behind the Soviet Union in bombers. Eisenhower had foreseen the dangers of the missile age and commissioned a high-level secret report. The report warned that the U.S. was facing the greatest danger in its history, but Eisenhower dismissed much of it as ''hysterical.''

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: It is my conviction, supported by trusted scientific and military advisers, that although the Soviets are quite likely ahead in some missile and special areas and obviously ahead of us in satellite development, as of today the overall military strength of the free world is distinctly greater than that of the Communist countries.

9th Newsreel Announcer: In Washington's historic Senator Caucus Room, a sweeping probe of the U.S. missiles program.

McCullough: [voice-over] Senate Democrats saw Eisenhower as vulnerable and began hearings on what became known as ''a missile gap.'' The day the hearings began, Eisenhower suffered a stroke.

3rd Reporter: Jim, can you tell us anything about his speech impairment? Is that progressing or has that been-- any word on that?

James Hagerty, Press Secretary: Well, I visited with the President this morning with Dr. Snyder and Mrs. Eisenhower. He was in good spirits. He did have a slight difficulty in pronouncing one or two longer words while I was there.

McCullough: [voice-over] Speculation focused on whether Vice President Richard Nixon was ready to assume Eisenhower's duties, but Eisenhower would not be written off. There was an important NATO meeting in Paris on the implications of Sputnik.

Arthur Larson, Presidential Aide: I remember one day, with just a few days before it was time to leave, we were in his office because he wanted me to prepare several short speeches to be made when he got off the plane and at NATO, which I was doing. And he says, ''You know, Art, I'm going to do this God damned job if it kills me,'' and he did. Such a display of fortitude I have never seen.

3rd English Newsreel Announcer: To the NATO summit talks in Paris comes the man nobody believed would be able to make it -- President Eisenhower, with his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles.

McCullough: [voice-over] To the country's dismay, the first attempt to launch a U.S. satellite flamed out, derided as a ''flopnik,'' ''a stay-put-nik.'' The further fueled Eisenhower's defense critics and their charge of a missile gap.

2nd Army Officer: As a matter of fact, most of the missile programs are slipping now for a lack of funds. They should be accelerated, just about all of them.

Senator: Did you ask last year for more money for more missiles, for more men?

3rd Army Officer: Yes, sir.

Senator: And you were denied it?

3rd Army Officer: Yes, sir.

Senator: By whom?

McCullough: [voice-over] ''Sanctimonious, hypocritical bastards,'' Eisenhower told an aide. ''If you tell a commander Ike says he'll give him an extra star if he cuts his budget, there'll be such a rush to cut costs, you'll have to get out of the way. God help the nation when it has a president who doesn't know as much about the military as I do.'' Four months after Sputnik, the U.S. launched its first satellite. Five months after the Soviets launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, the U.S. launched its first ICBM. Eisenhower never feared a missile gap; he feared a missile race that threatened what he called ''an age of terror.'' But now he was under political attack and the military, chafing under his tight budgets, saw its chance for more. These officers were part of what Eisenhower later warned against: a military-industrial complex. They fed the perception that Americans could no longer trust the old general to defend them.

In a gesture welcomed even by his critics, Eisenhower invited Khrushchev to the United States. He felt an age of terror demanded reduction of tensions, and all diplomatic skills.

10th Newsreel Announcer: Mr. Eisenhower's courtesy transcends barriers of language and nation. It is personal contact carried to something of an extreme as the Khrushchevs and the President find the back seat a tight squeeze and hunch together good-naturedly for the ride into Washington. A name, a face, a man comes alive. Nikita Khrushchev is to see America and America is to see Nikita Khrushchev.

David Eisenhower, Grandson: He was amazing, and I felt that, I think, probably more intensely than anybody else my age, because I was around the White House a good deal at that time. I knew where the bomb shelters were and where the situation rooms were. And the imminence or the possibility of war with the Russians was something, as a child, that I can remember worrying about all the time. And suddenly, the leader of it all, Nikita Khrushchev, in your wildest fantasy, is suddenly standing there in front of you and he's not much taller than you are.

Chalmers Roberts, Washington Post: And he came here and brought a miniature Sputnik replica and gave it to Ike in the White House, and he was sort of shoving it at him, you know. Ike swallowed hard and accepted it gracefully, and these two guys, somehow or other, their chemistry did mix.

Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, Presidential Aide: Khrushchev said, ''My generals come to me and they tell me that you're building up these forces and therefore we have to increase our military programs.'' And he asked, ''How is it on your side?'' And Eisenhower said, ''I get the same kind of pressures on my side.'' And they did seem to lay the basis for an understanding that there could be a reduction in the heavy burdens that the military forces on both sides were imposing on the national societies.

McCullough: [voice-over] The meeting at Camp David began a thaw on the Cold War. Khrushchev removed an ultimatum threatening the West and Berlin, agreed to a summit and invited Eisenhower to visit the Soviet Union.

Robert Donovan, New York Herald Tribune: And the expression, ''spirit of Camp David,'' emerged, and I give Eisenhower great credit for really starting detente. Maybe it would be hard to say who exactly and when started detente, but I think Eisenhower's dealings with Khrushchev had a big part in it.

McCullough: [voice-over] ''I have relatively few months left,'' Eisenhower wrote of a 19-nation goodwill tour he began in the late fall of 1959. ''I want to prove that we are not aggressive, that we seek no one else's territories or possessions. Such prestige as I have on earth, I want to use it.'' Of this tour, his interpreter wrote, ''I can never forget this old soldier, tirelessly and without regard for his own health, moving around the world to advance the cause of peace. He has never been given full credit for what he did to project an image of the United States as a country of justice, honor and decency.''

With de Gaulle, he planned the summit. He would return to Paris in May to negotiate with Khrushchev. For Eisenhower, the promise of Paris was the promise of peace.

Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower Biographer: Eisenhower's hopes, as his second administration was coming to an end, were to bring about that brave new world that everyone had agreed that we were going to be entering in 1945, but which had become instead this terrible Cold War that had mankind hanging under this threat of nuclear obliteration at any moment. He thought that this could be the real turn-around, that the year 1960 could see the fulfillment of the dreams of the year 1945, and that the peoples of the world could live in peace. It was nothing short of that.

McCullough: [voice-over] The summit would cap the career of a soldier who knew the cost of war, of a president who saw the mission of eight years as waging peace.

11th Newsreel Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States requests the pleasure of your presence at dinner and, for the first course, we take you to Los Angeles, California.

Gordon MacRae, Singer: [singing] You've been a great, great, five-star leader / And we're so proud we've been working with you / You traveled far to build a friendlier world.

McCullough: [voice-over] As Republicans welcomed the old general home, Democratic hopefuls began attacking him on the missile gap.

Democratic Senator: The American are enticed down a trail of insecurity by the issuance of misinformation about our deterrent power, and specifically about the missile gap.

Sen. John F. Kennedy (D), Massachusetts: I do not believe that any candidate for the presidency can run on a platform that all is well, that all is being done in good time.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: If anybody -- anybody -- believes that I have deliberately led the American people, I'd like to tell him to his face what I think about him. I get tired of saying that defense is to be made an excuse for wasting dollars. I don't think we should pay one cent for defense more than we have to, but I do say this: our defense is not only strong, it is awesome and it is respected elsewhere.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower did not believe the Soviets were ahead in missile development, but he could negotiate with more confidence in Paris if he knew for certain. CIA director Allen Dulles asked for more U-2 flights in April after the winter clouds had cleared. Soviet defenses had improved, Dulles told Eisenhower, but not enough. With Eisenhower's approval, a U-2 took off on April 9th and headed for rocket installations in the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan.

Gen. Georgi A. Mikhailov, Air Defense Command, USSR: And it went straight over them, taking photos. It was a real intelligence reconnaissance flight over all the most secret places at that time in the Soviet Union, but we couldn't do anything. And then some officers and generals were severely punished.

McCullough: [voice-over] Clouds grounded the U-2 until late April. It had failed to photograph a site in the Arctic town of Plesetsk that the CIA thought was crucial. But the skies would be clearing and the shadows of the spring sun would highlight any missiles at Psetsk. The CIA pleaded for another chance. Eisenhower weighed the diplomatic risk of a provocative act so close to the summit. Reluctantly he approved one more flight, but none after May 1st. On May 1st, the last possible day, a U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Edward A. Ivanian, Foreign. Ministry, USSR: Everything seemed so peaceful by May 1960. Not only authorities in Moscow, but in some very remote places from Moscow, they were getting ready to welcome the President of the United States, and everybody knew about it. That was a kind of a glimpse of hope for the man in the street.

McCullough: [voice-over] May Day in Moscow. Pravda wrote, ''May 1960 could become a very great May. Men with great responsibility will meet in Paris. The fate of peoples will depend on what they decide.'' Since meeting Eisenhower, Khrushchev ordered cuts of more than one million men from the Soviet military. In Paris, he might limit nuclear tests. Nikita Khrushchev was practicing detente. It made some colleagues nervous. By May Day 1960, Nikita Khrushchev was out on a limb.

Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, Presidential Aide: Well, I had a call from the CIA that the plane was overdue and we had to assume that it was down somewhere in the Soviet Union. I then called the President and passed the word on to him and told him that, in his term, ''The winds will blow,'' and he said, ''You're probably right.''

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower assumed the pilot was dead, the plane in cinders. Confident Khrushchev could prove nothing, he assumed Khrushchev would say nothing. Eisenhower approved a CIA cover story that the U-2 was NASA weather plane. The story, dated May 3rd, said the plane crashed in Turkey. It got very little play. On May 5th, Khrushchev announced that an American plane had been shot down in the Soviet Union. He blamed Pentagon militarists acting without Eisenhower's knowledge. The press badgered Secretary Hagerty about the missing weather plane. He sent them scurrying to the State Department.

State Department Spokesman: It is entirely possible that, having a failure in the oxygen equipment which could result in the pilot losing consciousness, the plane continued on automatic pilot for a considerable distance and accidentally violated Soviet air space.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower stuck with the cover story. The CIA told him the photo that Khrushchev released was not the U-2, so it was business as usual: an industrial exhibit with labor leader George Meany. His strategy of bluffing seemed to be working. The next day would be different.

Khrushchev knew he held all the cards and now he played them with skill before a packed session of the Supreme Soviet. He displayed photographs that he said had been taken from the downed U-2. He announced that pilot Gary Powers had been captured alive and had admitted to spying. But he still blamed the Pentagon, not Eisenhower. ''When they learn the pilot is alive, the Americans will have to think up something else,'' he concluded, ''and they will.''

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: I was at Gettysburg, and Joe Goodpaster called me at my house. He said, ''I got more news on the U-2,'' and I says, ''Is it bad?'' He says, ''Yes.'' I said, ''How bad?'' He said, ''It's as bad as it gets. They've got him alive.''

McCullough: [voice-over] John told his father. ''Unbelievable,'' Eisenhower said. What the CIA claimed would never happen had happened. There was no further point in denying espionage. The question now was who should take the blame.

Douglas Dillon, Undersecretary of State: So the advice of the State Department and of the CIA was that this should be blamed on the Central Intelligence Agency acting on its own, and Allen Dulles was very strongly of that opinion.

McCullough: [voice-over] As the administration debated how to respond, the press camped out at the Gettysburg Hotel and waited. And waited. Eisenhower tried to avoid a sense of crisis, but he did remain in touch. Jim Hagerty stalled a furious press. It was 13 hours and 16 holes before the U.S. finally responded.

Presidential Spokesman: It has been established that insofar as the authorities in Washington are concerned, there was no authorization for any such flights as described by Mr. Khrushchev. Nevertheless, it appears that, endeavoring to obtain information now concealed behind the Iron Curtain, a flight over Soviet territory was probably undertaken by a unarmed civilian U-2 plane.

McCullough: [voice-over] To admit to espionage unauthorized by Washington further fed the sense of an administration in disarray. Press Secretary Hagerty urged Eisenhower to admit he authorized the flight. If he took Khrushchev's lead and blamed the Pentagon or CIA, he might save the summit but go down in history as a president who did not control his government. To Eisenhower, the choice was simpler. He felt his integrity was his most important asset. Before D-Day, he had scribbled, ''If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.'' So, too, these flights would be his alone.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: And he just said, ''We've been caught, we're responsible, I'm responsible and I'm the one that's going to have to take the beating for the next few weeks on this.'' And it was absolutely clearcut.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: No one wants another Pearl Harbor. This means that we must have knowledge of military forces and preparations around the world, especially those capable of massive surprise attack.

McCullough: [voice-over] Khrushchev had tried to spare Eisenhower. Now he canceled the invitation to the Soviet Union. Over the U-2 wreckage displayed in Gorky Park, he said, ''So how can I now ask our people to welcome the dear guest who is coming to us? They will say, 'What kind of dear guest allows a plane to fly over us to spy?'''

The downed U-2 took a toll on both leaders. When Khrushchev arrived in Paris, his defense minister, Marshal Malinovksy, was constantly at his side. ''From the time Gary Powers was shot down,'' Khrushchev later admitted, ''I was never in full control.'' Columnist James Reston wrote, ''Eisenhower wanted to reduce international tension and he has increased it. He glorified teamwork and morality and got lies and administrative chaos. Everything he was noted for -- caution, patience, leadership, military skill, even good luck -- suddenly eluded him precisely at the moment he needed them most.''

Amb. Vernon A. Walters, Interpreter: And at the meeting, of course, Khrushchev said, ''I was overflown.'' De Gaulle interrupted him and said, ''So was I.'' And Khrushchev said, ''By your American allies,'' and de Gaulle said, ''No, by one of your satellites which you launched after you left Moscow after the U-2 was shot down.'' He said, ''How do I know you didn't have cameras on that? It crossed the sky of France 18 times yesterday.'' And Khrushchev raised his hands to heaven like this and he said, ''Bog minya vidit','' -- ''God sees me. My hands are clean. You don't think I'd do a thing like that?''

McCullough: [voice-over] Khrushchev droned on about the overflight and threatened to leave unless Eisenhower apologized. Eisenhower had already told de Gaulle, ''I hope no one is under the illusion that I'm going to crawl on my knees to Khrushchev.'' He refused to apologize and Khrushchev stalked out of the summit.

Amb. Vernon A. Walters, Interpreter: And everybody looked at one another, rather startled, and finally as we started out of the room, de Gaulle took Eisenhower by the elbow and he took me by the elbow and we moved off to a corner, and he said, ''I don't know what he's going to do, but whatever he does or whatever happens, remember we are with you to the end.''

McCullough: [voice-over] What Khrushchev did was to call a press conference and call Eisenhower a ''dirty capitalist thief,'' whom he caught red-handed.

Chalmers Roberts, Washington Post: The summit went down in flames, and I think Eisenhower felt this was a terrible way to end his presidency. He had hoped for more. He had struggled to find a living-- live-and-let-live relationship with the Russians. He had achieved that to a considerable degree. He had broken the ice of the Cold War, and it was a terrible thing to see it look like it was about to refreeze.

McCullough: [voice-over] Had the U-2 flight been a success, Eisenhower might have returned from Paris with peace talks under way, secure in the knowledge that there was no missile gap. The ill-fated flight would have revealed only four Soviet ICBM's and only at Psetsk. The U.S. had six.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: My good friends and fellow citizens, after a trip of this kind, you can well understand what it means to me to have this kind of a welcome. I am deeply appreciative of the trouble that each of you took to come out to this spot. It truly means a lot to me.

McCullough: [voice-over] Eisenhower felt the mission of his presidency was over. He had wanted to end the arms race, to prevent an age of terror and thought he had failed. The European alliance he had strengthened would contain Communism for three more decades, yet he left office a disappointed man.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower: As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war, as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years, I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

McCullough: [voice-over] As he left office, historians ranked Eisenhower in the bottom third of presidents, below Chester Arthur. To some reporters, he was ''Old Bubblehead,'' his White House the ''Tomb of the Well-Known Soldier.'' But Eisenhower still enjoyed the confidence of a majority of Americans. John Kennedy's election was Eisenhower biggest political disappointment. ''All I've been trying to do for eight years has gone down the drain,'' he told his son. ''I might just as have been having fun.''

Pres. John F. Kennedy: [Inaugural Address, 1961] Let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

McCullough: [voice-over] Historians in later years would judge Eisenhower more kindly. For eight dangerous years, he avoided war and fostered prosperity. It was a rare presidential achievement. Ike and Mamie retired to their farm in Gettysburg. After 20 years of the burdens of highest office, he was now a private citizen.

David Eisenhower, Grandson: We were working on the farm, and my sister Susan was saddling up a horse by the barn, and the horse broke loose and headed for the putting green down below the sunporch. And darn if that horse didn't just chew that putting green up, which they'd just restored, you know, at the cost of thousands of dollars. And everybody's sitting around, and I'm sure that going through everybody's mind is, ''What is the General going to say?'' And he watched this horse gallivanting around on the putting green, and he leaned back and he says, ''Isn't that the most beautiful sight you've ever seen?''

McCullough: [voice-over] In March 1969, at age 78, Eisenhower suffered a seventh heart attack. His son was with him at the end.

John Eisenhower, Son/Military Historian: He knew the time had come and his way of dealing with it-- he stayed in command. Dr. Hall-- I think it was William Hall and I were by his bedside, and he ordered, ''Pull down the shades.'' The shades got pulled down. And he said to the two of us, he says, ''Pull me up from the bed,'' so we did. And he looked at us sort of disgustedly. He says, ''Two big men, you can do better than that.'' And we pulled him up and he leaned back and he says, ''I'm ready to go. God, take me.''

McCullough: [voice-over] The leaders of 75 nations came to Washington to pay tribute.

William B. Ewald, Jr., Presidential Aide: He was an incredible, incredible human being, and I think the American people felt that, you know. And when he died, he'd had a long love affair with the American people, and they just worshipped the ground he walked on.

McCullough: [voice-over] At the end of the war, Eisenhower told Londoners, ''I come from the very heart of America.'' It had been 58 years since a poor boy left Abilene to get a free education at West Point. Now he was returning to the very heart of America.

Additional funding for Eisenhower provided by

  • funder icon