Wednesday, August 14, 2013


A review of Stephen Ambrose’s Eisenhower: Solider and President (1990)

(Rating 4 of 5)

Stephen Ambrose has written a few books of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  This book is a condensed one-volume biography on the nation’s thirty-fourth president.  As the book’s title suggests there are two main focuses in the work, Eisenhower the solider and Eisenhower the President. 

The early part of his life is glossed over.  The important moments are there, the time he almost lost his leg as a kid, his rebellious West Point years, courtship and marriage, his disappointment with his lack of involvement in World War I, the death of his first-born son, and his time in the Philippines.  This is stuff is only briefly touched upon but it is there.

Ambrose portrays Eisenhower as brilliant general who was not only a talented tactician, but also a great leader who could identify talent and put in the best place to be successful.  Eisenhower could take conflicting personalities and make them work together and successfully.  He hated war but he hated Hitler more, and that stronger hatred drove him though Europe. 

As president however, Ambrose portrays a different picture.  Contrary his later defense in the closing chapter, Ambrose does present him as a ‘Whig President’ who acts more a chairman of the board and not a chief executive.  Unlike most presidents, Eisenhower did not need the presidency he didn’t worry about his ‘legacy’ he already had one.  Ambrose presents a president who would refuse to take bold stands at home or abroad.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing with the tensions with the Soviet Unions being what they were refusing to draw lines in the sand was probably a good thing.  He enforced Supreme Court decisions on segregation, despite that he wanted the Court to wait to the next president was in office.  It is easy to see why John F. Kennedy’s claim that ‘we need to get the county moving again’ caught on to a lot of people.  Eisenhower just wanted to cruise through the fifties.

I enjoy Ambrose take on Eisenhower’s retirement.  In some ways Eisenhower was more prepared then many of his predecessors to become the president, having been a world figure for over a decade before taking the office.  Eisenhower in the same respect was more unprepared for the challenges of retirement.  The scene where Ambrose describes Eisenhower’s attempt to use a phone is hilarious. Although I may have preferred Michael Kordra’s Ike this is a good one-stop book to learn about one of America’s most important leaders in history.

{Video is one of the earliest color broadcast}

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment on any article at anytime, regardless how long ago I posted it. I will most likely respond.