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192 of 198 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and detailed, but also very entertaining - 5*
I have read Jean Smith's biographies of Presidents Grant and FDR and liked them a lot. I was therefore very anxious to read his Eisenhower biography, and I was not disappointed. The book is quite detailed but is also very enjoyable reading and not the least bit academic or dry. I recommend this book because it provides a comprehensive portrait of a man whose talents...
Published on December 24, 2011 by Metallurgist

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93 of 125 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gracefully written and a thorough pleasure
This is one of the most delightful biographies I've ever read. Fast paced, skillfully focusing on the (many) high points, and superbly composed, it tells the tale of an ordinary fellow from Kansas who rose to be one of the most prominent and powerful men in the world. At the time of his death, he was among the most admired Americans who had ever lived.

Today,...
Published on January 7, 2012 by J. C Clark


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192 of 198 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and detailed, but also very entertaining - 5*, December 24, 2011
This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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I have read Jean Smith's biographies of Presidents Grant and FDR and liked them a lot. I was therefore very anxious to read his Eisenhower biography, and I was not disappointed. The book is quite detailed but is also very enjoyable reading and not the least bit academic or dry. I recommend this book because it provides a comprehensive portrait of a man whose talents are often overlooked. Smith clearly shows that Eisenhower's rise to prominence was due to hard work, garnering superior fitness reports that carried him to jobs with ever increasing responsibilities and visibility. To be sure, Eisenhower had many mentors who protected him and arranged for his appointments to serve under a previous or a current army chief of staff (Generals Pershing, MacArthur, and Marshall). Working for these men was indispensable for Eisenhower's career, but even more importantly was their recognition of the superior work that he did for them. The best way to describe Smith's picture of Eisenhower is to repeat the opinion of a fellow general, cited in the book: Eisenhower was "affable, energetic, dynamic, zealous, original, loyal, capable, dependable, and outstanding."

Eisenhower has been the subject of numerous excellent biographies, so it is reasonable to ask if this one has any characteristics that make it stand out. In my opinion, it is very objective and treats Eisenhower's failings in detail as well as his successes. Smith discusses Eisenhower's marital problems that first surfaced with the death of his infant firstborn son, but which were ongoing. Smith also discusses, in considerable detail, Eisenhower's relationship with Kay Sommersby. Other biographers touch on this (for instance, Stephen Ambrose in his one volume condensation of his two volume "official" biography and Michael Korda, in his biography) but only in passing, whereas Smith sheds considerable light on this subject and provides a lot of support for the contention that their relationship was a deep and loving one. Smith is also somewhat critical of Eisenhower's military performance, particularly during the North African Campaign, which led to his being "kicked upstairs" to deal with political problems and inter-allied conflicts. Smith spends a lot of time explaining why Eisenhower's talents as a politician were important in holding a coalition of nations together, and why he and not General Marshall was chosen to become the Supreme Commander of the European theatre. This book also contains a lengthy chapter on Eisenhower's tenure as President of Columbia University, which is only covered in a handful of pages by Ambrose and Korda. This chapter contains a brief discussion of events surrounding Eisenhower's failure to run for President of the US in 1948.

The final third of this book is concerned with Eisenhower's election and tenure as president. In many ways, this is the most interesting part of the book because it discusses in considerable detail Eisenhower's impact on events that have sometimes been forgotten. Smith shows Eisenhower to be a president who exercised sound judgment and held fast to his convictions, and as president acted decisively to: (1) end the war in Korea through an armistice instead of seeking a victory that might have required the use of nuclear weapons, (2) demonstrate his political acumen by getting his appointments past hostile conservative Republicans, (3) used indirect support for those who opposed Senator Joe McCarthy, but used more direct support to oppose the Bricker Amendment, which would have made treaties subject to continuing congressional review, (4) refuse to aid the French at Dien Bien Phu when this might also have required the use of nuclear weapons, (5) support CIA-led coups in Iran and Guatemala, which have led to continuing problems for the US, (6) force the French and British to leave Suez, (7) send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce court-ordered desegregation of public schools.

Smith shows that it was in the area of civil rights where Eisenhower's contributions have largely been forgotten. Contrary to what is generally believed, Smith shows that he did not consider his appointment of Earl Warren to be chief justice of the Supreme Court to be his greatest mistake, and he did not secretly oppose integration. Smith provides documentary evidence, which shows that quite to the contrary, Eisenhower: (1) enforced Truman's desegregation of the armed forces by actually eliminating the numerous segregated units, (2) desegregated the schools on military bases before the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, (3) desegregated veterans' facilities and other facilities operated by the government, (4) desegregated the southern navy yards, and (5) appointed federal judges who made the civil rights programs of Kennedy and Johnson possible.

Smith depicts Eisenhower as a man who used common sense to solve problems, as a man of principle who often seemed aloof, and as President, one who seemed not to be doing much more than playing golf, but in actuality was directing things so subtly that his actions were unappreciated. The book quotes historian Garry Wills - "Eisenhower was not a political sophisticate, he was a political genius." In addition, he was a military man who warned against the military industrial complex and was a warrior who hated war.

This is a book that is highly relevant to our times as it speaks to questions of balanced budgets, military appropriations, our relationship with Russia and China, and to the origin of our conflict with Iran. This is a fine book, one that I hardily recommend to anyone interested in history or in reading a well-written non-fiction book.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great step forward in Eisenhower scholarship, January 18, 2012
By 
chefdevergue (Spokane, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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I was mightily impressed by Smith's biography of John Marshall and have been looking forward to this biography's publication for quite some time. Conversely, I have always found the Ambrose biographies to be massively deficient in more ways than I can possibly count, so it was good to see a full-length biography which is not reliant on Ambrose's scholarship, so called. Is it definitive? I wouldn't go that far, but it represents a considerable improvement in the field and is definitely worth reading.

Smith takes something of a revisionist view in both the areas of Eisenhower's presidency and his role in World War II. Concerning the latter, Smith says as much in a footnote in Chapter 15, where he takes a shot at the Pogue school of thought (which "treated Eisenhower & Marshall as demigods"). Smith skillfully portrays a coalition which somehow, in spite of itself, managed to stumble towards victory with Eisenhower at the helm. Smith is unsparing in his portrayal of Eisenhower as a less than competent ground commander; the chapters dealing with North Africa & the month following the Normandy invasion are not exactly flattering. Eisenhower mismanaged the North African invasion almost from the very start, and prevailed over the Germans only by sheer force of numbers and materiel, rather than superior strategy. Similarly, Eisenhower's failure to press the advantage in France after D-Day resulted in the war in Europe being extended by nearly half a year, and his tactics allowed Germany enough time to regroup and launch its counteroffensive in the Ardennes (although once this was underway, Smith observes, Ike was one of the few command level officers to not to panic). Clearly, Eisenhower's strengths lay in the management of an unbelievably complex political and administrative situation. Even Eisenhower's critics admitted that nobody else could have done this job. However, Smith does not believe that this merits concealing Eisenhower's wartime warts.

After devoting a little less than 300 pages to Ike's 40 months during World War II, Smith devotes barely 200 pages to two full terms of the Eisenhower presidency. Really? Was this an editorial decision, or did Smith look at the work as it was unfolding and realize that if he wrote a truly detailed treatment of the Eisenhower presidency, it would require a second volume? Whatever the reasons, the chapters dealing with the presidency are far from comprehensive and instead focus on some of high points of the presidency. Smith seems to be saying, "I will provide a nice summary, and also point you in the direction of some other more comprehensive studies of Eisenhower as president," which is OK. It does, however, mean that you will need to look elsewhere for a truly thorough treatment. So don't be calling this a definitive biography, because it isn't.

This was a very enjoyable and very readable book. Even at almost 800 pages, it did not prove to be that daunting. So why only 4 stars? A small quibble would be Smith's failure to acknowledge that Churchill's insistence on a wartime strategy that would help preserve the Empire was a major reason that the Allied invasion of Europe was delayed as long as it was; Churchill and the high command consistently advocated a peripheral approach, whereas Marshall & FDR wanted to plunge into the heart of Europe at the earliest opportunity. Smith does argue that there was no way an invasion could have taken place in 1942, but I don't think anyone these days would disagree with that. 1943 is a whole different matter; there is plenty of debate on how prepared the Allies were for a 1943 invasion, but one would never know this from reading Smith.

Of greater concern is how Smith portrays Eisenhower's foreign and civil rights policies. Smith argues that because Eisenhower had better knowledge of Asia (due to his time in The Philippines), his foreign policy concerning mainland China & French Indochina was more prescient than when he was dealing with Central America or the Middle East, where he relied on the flawed advice of John Foster Dulles and company. Seriously? Everyone who knew Dulles understood that he would , if possible, cast any situation in the world into a struggle against Communism. It was his go-to move. Eisenhower blew off the advice of Dulles in Southeast Asia, but for some reason accepted his advice on Guatemala & Iran. So it isn't really Ike's fault, it's Dulles'? Come on already. For a variety of reasons, Smith is more persuasive when dealing with how Eisenhower handled Egypt & the Suez Crisis, but I felt like he was almost making excuses for Eisenhower otherwise.

Smith also goes a bit overboard in portraying Eisenhower as a fearless advocate for civil rights, highlighting Little Rock. Well yes --- if you focus on Little Rock, Ike looks pretty heroic, but there was a whole lot of tepid support for Brown which came before that. Anyone who has read David A. Nichols' A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution knows that the Eisenhower legacy on civil rights is a good deal more complex. While Ike wasn't an obstructionist, he was hardly enlightened in the area of race relations, and definitely wasn't leading any charges in the war for racial equality.

Having said that, the footnote where Smith absolutely DESTROYS Ambrose for basically making up stuff about Eisenhower's views on segregation, and then goes on to lay waste to Ambrose's "pernicious" distortions was one of the most enjoyable things I have read in a long time. I should give the book an extra star just for that.

All in all, a very worthwhile book, which definitely should be on the reading list of anyone seeking a better understanding of Eisenhower.
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44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Biography of Eisenhower, January 4, 2012
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This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 -- 1969) served as the 34th President of the United States (1953 -- 1961) following his career as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during WW II. His presidency and his generalship have been the subject of varied assessments over the years. I was a child in the 1950s and my first memories of a president are of Eisenhower. To many younger Americans, he may remain an obscure historical figure. Jean Edward Smith's new large biography, "Eisenhower in War and Peace" (2012) is an extraordinarily detailed study of Ike's public and private life. Smith is senior scholar in the history department at Columbia University, where Eisenhower served briefly as president. He has written extensively on American history, including biographies of FDR, Ulysses Grant, and John Marshall.

Although the book consists of over 760 pages of text and an additional 150 pages of notes and bibliography, the
narrative flow of the story is absorbing. Smith recounts complex military and political history in a way that is both understandable and entertaining. His writing style, unbiased presentation, and detailed documentation made me inclined to trust his judgment. Throughout the study, Smith draws useful parallels between Eisenhower and other American military and political leaders. In particular, Smith often compares and contrasts Eisenhower with Ulysees Grant in terms of decisiveness, relationship to subordinates, and military accomplishments. The most telling parallel lies in writing and in ability to communicate. Although not having the gift for words that Grant displayed in his Memoirs, Eisenhower was an excellent, clear writer, especially of his own war memoirs, and, when he wished to be, a skilled eloquent speaker.

Smith presents Eisenhower's strengths as a leader and as a person as well as his flaws. The overall impression of Eisenhower that emerges is of a strong, capable, politically masterful individual, as both general and president, who was "a man of principle, decency, and common sesne, whom the country could count on to do what was right. In both war and peace he gave the world confidence in American leadership." Eisenhower's accomplishments are inspiring in an America which frequently seems to be floundering for a sense of purpose and balance. Smith aptly describes Eisenhower as a "progressive conservative" who believed that "traditional American values encompassed change and progress." Eisenhower's moderation, high sense of responsibility, and heroism will appeal to many readers.

The book begins with a perceptive treatment of Eisenhower's early life with its humble beginnings in Texas and Kansas. A military career and attendance at West Point were something of a surprise choice for Eisenhower as they had been for Grant. The first third of Smith's book describes Eisenhower's early life and the many seemingly interminable assignments Eisenhower held as a major in the peacetime army. Eisenhower showed a talent for hard work and for impressing his superiors. He developed an ability to advance himself subtly and to use his contacts with those who would help him. When the United States entered WW II, Eisenhower's rise was meteoric; but it had been prepared over a long course of time.

Smith shows Eisenhower as a political leader in WW II who had the daunting task of coordinating the allied effort against Germany and working with highly driven and egotistical leaders in the United States, France, and Britain. Eisenhower's tact and self-confidence were rare and essential qualities indeed. As a military stategist, Eisenhower had mixed results, but he made critical decisions regarding the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. Smith shows that Eisenhower richly deserved the accolades he received at the end of the war.

Following WW II, Eisenhower served as president of Columbia and as the commander of NATO before, with a show of reluctance, accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 1952. With the end of Eisenhower's presidency in 1961, many historians were critical; but Eisenhower's stature as president has grown with time. Smith finds Eisenhower the most successful 20th century president with the exception of FDR. Eisenhower kept the United States out of war, balanced the budget, and displayed firm, subtle leadership that was not always apparent to the public. He acted with care and prudence in Vietnam against the hawkish advice of his staff and he dealt effectively with crises in Berlin, China and elsewhere. (Some of his foreign policy ventures in Iran and Central America were ill-advised and unsuccessful.) In a non-divisive, non-confrontational way Eisenhower helped lead to the discrediting of the red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy. He built the national highway system and the St. Laurence Seaway. In 1956, following a heart attack and in the middle of a reelection campaign, Eisenhower showed courage in resolving the most controversial foreign policy issue in his presidency -- the Suez Canal crisis which pitted the United States against its allies, Britain, France, and Israel. In an understanded, politic way, Eisenhower also did more to advance civil rights than is commonly acknowledged. His Justice Department argued before the Supreme Court in favor of school desegregation in the Brown cases. In 1958, Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a desegration decree against the recalcitrant state governor.

Eisenhower's personal life and feelings remained enigmatical even to those close to him. Smith's book concentrates on Eisenhower's long marriage to Mamie Doud and the difficulties the couple endured over the years. Smith also describes the long relationship Eisenhower had during WW II with a young British woman, Kay Summersby. It appears that at the end of WW II, Eisenhower wrote to George Marshall about his intention to divorce Mamie and marry Kay. Marshall disuaded him from this course in no uncertain terms, and Eisenhower ended the relationship in a callous, peremptory way.

This study of Eisenhower and of what was valuable and decent in him can bring hope and wisdom to a difficult time. Smith's study deserves and surely will receive a wide readership and will stimulate much discussion. I am pleased that it was offered to interested lay readers for an advance review through the Vine program.

Robin Friedman
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real epic - but might be tough for amateurs, January 8, 2012
This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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I came to this book with a reasonable background in history, and a variety of preconceived notions about the Eisenhower years. This book did a good job in expanding on blanks, and complementing what I thought I already knew.

It is not for beginners. This is an epic, at times dry, and academic biography that covers a vast scope. It is not easy reading - but for those interested in close-up, detailed and documented history this is a book for you. And really, it's for anyone who wants to know more about a distant time, as long as you're prepared to work for the knowledge.

The pre-WWII section is probably the driest and least interesting, and that's likely because Smith had the fewest sources to work with. There are allusions to Eisenhower's social attitudes; I doubt he was anti-Semitic or racist in any forceful way, but I saw no evidence that he was a step ahead of the culture of the times.

However, in the 1950s, as President, he was much more forceful toward integration than I had known. I had known the quote about integrating Little Rock, that it was "the hardest thing I had to do since D-Day," and I took that as a negative, as in he wrestled with the decision to integrate the schools. I don't think that anymore. Rather, I think he was concerned about the impact on the country to deploy federal troops, but I don't think he had any doubt that integration had to happen, and was the right thing to do.

For those who want to compare the 1950s - and Joe McCarthy, and racism, etc. - to today, it's worth noting that Eisenhower used a recess appointment to name Chief Justice Earl Warren to the Supreme Court. A recess appointment! Imagine that today! But of course, most people don't know their history. I certainly didn't know this.

I could understand why generals like Patton, Bradley and MacArthur were jealous of Eisenhower. He does seem to have a knack for good connections at the right time, and a political sense that clearly eluded Patton, who was a superior tactical officer.

Reading about his bipartisan relationships with Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson (ironically, his relations with fellow Republicans were often not as good) makes me nostalgic for a time I didn't know. Under his administration, he oversaw the construction of the Interstate Highway System - a triumph of infrastructure that I don't think the USA would currently be capable of today, not for a lack of ingenuity, but no ability to cooperate for a common good.

All in all, an excellent biography. Artfully written, even if dry at times. For a motivated reader of history, this will fill in a lot of blanks about a surprisingly active era.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the Pre-Presidency Only, June 9, 2013
By 
David (Washington, DC, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
This book has two parts that have two different styles. The first part is a detailed description of Eisenhower's life until he became President. It is thorough and balanced with both praise and criticism. This part is worth 5 stars. *****
As soon as he becomes President, the book undergoes a dramatic change. No more thoroughness, not more criticism. It skips from one highlight of the presidency to another with only unadulterated praise. Written in a style that would be worthy of Eisenhower's press secretary, this part barely earns 2 stars. **
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Like Ike and this Book Too, October 18, 2012
By 
J. Green (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
SUMMARY: Great book about an even greater person. Eisenhower's life from birth to death and everything in between to include warts and halos. Ike was smart, a good writer, and well spoken which explains his rise from Lieutenant Colonel to Five Star General in a little over five years. All of this from a man who lacked combat experience in World War I. The other factor in his life was his mentors including Fox, Pershing, MacArthur, and Marshall, big hitters in their own right. The book covers high points such Ike's conduct during the Battle of the Bulge and low points such as Ike's lost of this first born child at age 3. "First in war, first in peace..." could also be said of Eisenhower as well as George Washington.

BEST ABOUT THE BOOK: At first I thought the purpose of Jean Edward Smith's book was endless praise for Eisenhower, but I soon learned the book was filled with criticism and praise in well deserved portions. One of many examples was Eisenhower's love relationship with his English driver, Summersby, during WWII and how Ike did a poor job of ending the relationship. "Patton would have said a warmer good-bye to his horse," Smith wrote. On the other hand as President, Eisenhower could stare down high ranking generals and admirals which probably prevented nuclear war. Ike feared the day when the President lacked military experience and HAD TO RELY on his military advisers. Lastly, the footnotes in the book were well done. When a 1940 dollar amount was listed, Smith included the amount in 2012 dollars in his footnotes which was helpful.

WORSE ABOUT THE BOOK: Smith said Eisenhower wanted a broad frontal assault against Nazi forces whereas British General Montgomery wanted a single point of concentration. When Montgomery finally got a chance for such an attack, with Eisenhower's approval, the operation ended in failure. The battle of Arnhem (MARKET GARDEN) was not explained in Smith's book, but was dismissed in one sentence. Just try to find this important battle in the book index! Also, the Bay of Pigs was on Kennedy's watch, but I understand Eisenhower started the ball rolling. This too was absent from the book. The photos and maps in the book were minimal.

OVERALL: Anyone interested in military and politics of the early 20th century will find this book filled with interest stories, analysis, and viewpoints. The flow of the words and stories in the book is outstanding and enjoyable to read. Why was Camp David so named and why did Khrushchev fear Camp David when invited there by Ike? How did Ike's personal diary differ from his later writings in regards to the Bonus Marchers? Why did General Eisenhower order an airborne attack on Rome and why was it aborted at the last moment which probably saved his career? In the official victory photo at the end of the war who, standing next to Eisenhower, was air brushed out of the photo? This five star general deserves a five star book review and a sixth star if Amazon would allow me.
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93 of 125 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gracefully written and a thorough pleasure, January 7, 2012
By 
J. C Clark "eanna" (Overland Park, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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This is one of the most delightful biographies I've ever read. Fast paced, skillfully focusing on the (many) high points, and superbly composed, it tells the tale of an ordinary fellow from Kansas who rose to be one of the most prominent and powerful men in the world. At the time of his death, he was among the most admired Americans who had ever lived.

Today, if thought of at all, he is ridiculed and smeared as a stodgy do-nothing who presided over the dreaded "Leave It To Beaver" years, another in the trail of Republican bores, his pale years between the New Deal glories and the Camelot adventure.

Of course neither fantasy is accurate. And Smith does a great job showing why. The crises of Eisenhower's life, far greater than those faced by most men, did much to save, yes, save, both America and the West. And during his lifetime, his allies and friends knew that. This book chronicles those events with deftness and beauty. I learned more from this book than I have from most.

And yet....That "yet" was as obvious as a distant freight train on the prairie, and just as powerful. For while this book chronicles a good man who worked hard to do his duty to his country, it also portrays a petty and grubby man who used his friends to get what he wanted and avoid that which he did not, a man who maintained a many year affair while happily lying to his wife, and a man who allowed his love of peace and his utter certainty in his own judgement to force him to choose moderation in places where moderation was not the proper course. And, as Smith reminds us repeatedly, a man who was incredibly lucky. Hitler's megalomania and poor generalship certainly helped Eisenhower become a hero rather than a McClellan.

Smith is repeatedly forced to say, "Eisenhower's behavior here is inexplicable..." or to justify atrocious actions with a "Everyone was doing it." I know a biographer wants his subject to be worthy of years of study, and Ike certainly is, but Smith's inability to excoriate him when necessary chops a star from this book. His wartime romance with Kay Summersby, where he deceived his wife for years, embarrassed his subordinates, moved heaven and earth to get his girlfriend nearby, and seems to have spent many playful hours enjoying bridge and cocktails in the midst of the war's most dreadful days, is impossible for me to accept. I know the facts are in dispute. But Smith makes a good case for a relationship. And though he is willing to condone it, it appals me; yeah, I'm kind of an old-fashioned prig. But when a guy writes gushing love letters to his wife of many years while savoring the pleasures of another woman, well, he is a liar. No other word suffices.

The other star goes in Smith's celebration of the general liberal/progressive agenda. Examples (among many):

1) Smith admires the Warren/Brennan court and dismisses Hoover, for example, as the dull-witted non-entity who did nothing about the Depression. Well, not everyone admires the world Earl Warren brought to us, and Hoover tried many, many things to ameliorate the crisis he faced. Revisionist history has to establish that all such efforts began in 1933, but not only is it not true, it's not even close.

2) The federal intervention in education has proven to be a disaster. Sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but while spending has exploded, the quality has gone down, down, down. Cause and effect is tricky here, but the average 1910 high school grad from Abilene knew much more and wrote far better than most college graduates today.

3) His frequent off-handed dismissal of Coolidge as the bogeyman of conservatism irritated me. It may take another hundred years, but Silent Cal will someday be seen as among our more impressive Presidents.

One other tiny thing that annoyed me was Smith's regular reference to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Smith knows more about any month of the Twentieth Century than I know about all of history, but that repeated clunker just hurt. It is not the Congressional Medal.

So, worth reading. Very much so. But his bias hurt, to me, his ability to tell the whole story. And his willingness to see all the good outcomes as Ike's work and the poor ones as caused by his subordinates or advisors made for a less than stellar final exposition.

In the end, an excellent book that I disagree with, in full awareness that Jean Edward Smith understands more about these events than I do.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 5* for content, 1* for Kindle edition, May 8, 2013
By 
D. Earls (Kingsville, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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This is thge second Jean Edward Smith presidential biography I've read, having completed the Ulysses S. Grant biography several years ago. I should also state that I was unable to wade through the two-volume Stephen Ambrose set on Ike.

Smith finds a great middle ground between meaningless detail (do we really care about the name of the corporal who drove Ike around in a Jeep in 1927?) and too glossy a story. Smith is, I think, fair in his coverage of Ike's highs as Supreme Commander and President and the lows of the same two periods. The writing is entertaining and the book moves along nicely.

The Kindle edition, however, is a problem. The text is full of misspelled words, and half way through the chapter titled Suez, all the text becomes italicized. There are graceful, readable italic fonts, and there are ungraceful, poorly kerned italic renderings. This version is exceptionally poor in both regards.

When the publisher sets an above-market price for an electronic version of a title, the buyer has every right to expect something error-free. Random House fails badly here. This is a shame because it detracts from an otherwise terrific book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A phenominal biography, one of the best I have read in a long, long time, January 15, 2012
This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
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I've wanted to read a bio of Eisenhower for quite some time. I knew he was the Supreme Commander and that he was a President of the United States, but that was it. I knew there had to be more to this important man, and Jean Smith certainly showed me the man the Ike was.

Eisenhower's early career is one of performing and knowing the right people at the right time. His early military career was one of pulling favors when he knew that he was not going in the direction that his career could excel and improve. This led him to interacting with some very important men, men who we know in the history books as accomplished generals. Pershing, MacArthur and Marshall all acknowledged and respected Ike as he worked under them. Patton and Bradley were his peers. As he leaped over many senior officers from lieutenant colonel to major general he came in contact with the likes of Roosevelt and Churchill, who not only knew him but respected and liked him as well. Worked with Montgomery and Alexander. In a time of great men Eisenhower somehow seemed to shine brighter than them all, even when he was the inexperienced general who had never led men in combat. After WWII he was instrumental in creating NATO, diffusing Cold War aggression for a time, made England, France and Israel stand down against Egypt using economic sanctions. He desegregated government facilities before it was mandated by law and enforced the law to the letter. I have much respect for Eisenhower and firmly believe he is one of the better Presidents that the US has ever had.

Smith did an absolutely fantastic job in not only conveying the facts but supplying the narrative that tied everything together. I couldn't help but find myself so engrossed that I hadn't even noticed how much time had passed. Smith's grasp on not only history but of the politics of the time leave the reader with a much more rich and full experience as you delve in to Eisenhower's life. I particularly like how Smith didn't gloss over Ike's faults. He told us when Ike was great, and he told us when he fell short. Warts and all, which is how a biography should be written. I come away with a very good understanding of Eisenhower and much respect for perhaps one of the few men who could have led the US through the troubled times during WWII and the years after. Smith conveys this and shows the resolute man with the will power to stick to his guns on not only domestic issues but foreign as well. A definite recommend for not only the book but the author. I look forward to reading some of Smith's other books.

5 stars.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eisenhower - A great learning instrument for a civics class, March 6, 2012
By 
Digital Rights (Newtown/Fairfield CT) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eisenhower in War and Peace (Hardcover)
Dwight Eisenhower lead not only an interesting life full of great importance to America and the world but he most likely was the right person at the right time in more critical times than one can rightly expect and was successful more often than not. Jean Edward Smith's new biography is an engaging and thorough portrait.

How fortunate to have a President with earned credibilty overseas and an equal appreciation about what Americans wanted domestically; a sound economy, the rule of law, equality, social security and peace. He took away from the war and military experiences that largely served him well as a President. Smith's biography is a real treat. He highlights Eisenhower's strengths and exposes his weaknesses; ably discussing his transgressions and because of files that were only released in 2010 he provides interesting commentary that was not available before.

Amongst the ongoing historical events where the US government is only slowly releasing information are the events surrounding the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran and US CIA complicity. It appears the coup entirely because the British were angered at having oil fields nationalized. Eisenhower is clearly sympathetic but it's left vague as to whether or not he was duped by the Dulles brothers as they manipulated events and triggered protests and instability that then forced Moussedeigh into arrest, prison and ultimately permanent house arrest with the US playing the lead role in the restoration of the Shah as dictator. Given we are still dealing with the repercussions it's worthwhile to have this history lesson. Eisenhower equally supported the United Fruit Company in Guatemala in perhaps an even more egregious overstep of government reach.

There are far more positives to Eisenhower's goals and accomplishments. On no less than 4 occasions the Joint Chiefs recommended nuclear missile attacks which he immediately rejected. His conduct during the Suez Canal crisis and when Chiang Kai-Shek moved provactively against China both showed the best of his leadership qualities. The Suez Canal is a pinnacle moment of the US using soft power which Eisenhower was master at appreciating and utilizing. His Supreme Court appointments show him to be an idealist rather than an ideologue and reflect well on him. His actions to integrate the military and to protect the first black students in Little Rock are equally exemplary and not fully revealed before. Nor were his efforts to bring down McCarthy.

While he's been credited the D Day Invasion in WWII and with launching the national highway system, the how's and whys are still very interesting to me. His relationships with de Gaulle, Churchill, Zhukhov, Khrushchev, Montgomery and other European leaders reflect well on him as he maintains these contacts over many years. His relationship with Truman is perhaps tainted by the politics of a presidential election but it is disappointing that Eisenhower did not better understand Truman.

Eisenhower's personal life are more illuminated here than in previous biographies including long periods of estrangement with his wife Mamie during the war years and his (intimate?) relationship with Kay Summersby. They are additive points that bring him more to life.

There is much here to wrestle with and consider. No doubt Smith is subtly comparing Eisenhower to more modern Presidents which are never mentioned or referred to but are clearly the elephant in the room. Eisenhower had no time for small wars. He respected the need to go full in only in times of conflict. He had the unique duality of seeing the military as purely defensive if at all possible and yet he was professionally one of most international presidents.

I have come to appreciate through Smith's books about leadership and the difference between how an elected official leads compared to a military commander. That Eisenhower turned the trick so well is rare indeed and puts him in the camp with Washington. Perhaps history will put Grant in the same camp someday. In addition to the body of the book the footnotes are amongst the most interesting I have read. He uses the notes to tie up loose ends, show contradictions or weaknesses in previous biographies and he places himself on site on several occasions which I quite appreciated.
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Eisenhower in War and Peace
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith (Hardcover - February 21, 2012)
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