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Eisenhower: portrait of the hero Hardcover – 1974
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"The book "is the major biography, the only complete ^ completely objective life story ~ private & public ~ of the man who as a soldier & politician dominated the American & world scene for 2 decades."
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But I recently picked it up because, as a high school history teacher, I'm covering Ike's administration next week in school. I started in the middle during Ike's presidency and was immediately impressed. This book is NOT a hero-worshiping whitewash job at all. Lyon criticizes Ike when it seems warranted (not standing up to Joe McCarthy, dealing with North Korea when the Republican platform derided Truman for the same thing, our anti-democratic coop in Iran, etc.) But Lyon gives Ike plenty of credit for accomplishments that usually rank him in the Top Ten of presidents.
The book is very well-written and tough to put down. I came on Amazon today to look to see what else Peter Lyon has written. For dedicated readers like myself, there's never enough top-quality authors out there who strike the right balance with politics and yet are well-written. This reminds me of Robert Caro's books on Lyndon Johnson or Edmund Ross' series on Teddy Roosevelt for its scope and perception. You just wish it was multi-volume in scope!
This book gives insights into the events and personalities Ike encountered during his time on the world stage. Ike's belief that the Chief of Staff should not become involved in something as vulgar as a riot contrasted with Chief of Staff Gen. Douglas MacArthur's high profile involvement in the rout of the Bonus Army. Ike's transfer to the War Department immediately after Pearl Harbor injected him into issues such as those dealing with priority between Europe and the Pacific, choices of America's first combat theatre and military equipment procurement needs, such as the development of LSTs. Ike's command of Operation Torch, the North African invasion and Overlord and its follow-up operations in Europe.
After V-E Day many lined up to encourage Ike to run for President in 1948, including President Truman and Jimmy Roosevelt. Ultimately it became apparent that Ike's views on domestic issues placed him firmly in the Republican camp.
An interesting interlude in Ike's career was his term as President of Columbia University. Although the appointment of prominent figures to presidential offices was a collegiate trend at the time, Ike was a poor fit and the relationship was awkward from both sides.
When the narrative reaches 1952 it focuses on Ike's entry into and practice of politics. Without being overtly critical, Lyon presentation of Ike's presidency is generally unflattering. He gives the impression that Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles created problems and lost opportunities as a result of their preoccupation with Communism in the practice of Foreign Relations. After giving Ike credit for ending the Korean War, Lyon faults him and Dulles for fomenting revolt against hostile governments in Iran and Guatemala with the allegations that the governments were pro-Communist, the alienation of Arab sentiment and the abandonment of the Hungarian insurgents after lending encouragement to their uprising. Dulles' world view is portrayed as having misconstrued nationalistic uprising into theatres of Communist aggression. The failure to provide air support to the French at Dien Bien Phu is portrayed as a failure of resolve, without espousing a clear position, on Lyon's part, as to whether intervention would have made a positive impact. In relations with the Soviets, Eisenhower and Dulles are portrayed as being out of touch with the Soviets and out of sync with wiser allies. Lyon defines Ike's domestic challenges as Sen. McCarthy and Civil Rights and finds him lacking in each instance. In the choice of a successor, Ike is portrayed as indecisive and, ultimately, rejected.
This book was written in 1974, before Ike's reputation revived. While it does report the events of Ike's public life, I believe that superior biographies are available.