In November 1952 Dwight David Eisenhower, Ike to many, the greatest American hero in the greatest war ever fought as Supreme Allied Commander for the allied invasion of Europe in 1944 through to VE Day in 1945, was elected as 34th president of the United States taking office in January 1953. In the Fall of 1952 while American?s voted the slaughter of the Korean War was ongoing and by which time Red China was in the fray providing supplies and soldiers. American?s saw thousands of US soldiers dying, embroiled in a bloody and seemingly interminable struggle in Korea which many thought a big mistake from the start. Eisenhower promised during his campaign to visit Korea and to do everything possible to end the war. However, many military men had already become impatient and seriously considered using atomic weapons. In fact, in some polls of the general public roughly half showed a willingness to drop the atomic bomb on Red China.
In the early 1950s nuclear weapons were considered by many to be useable and indeed tests were still going on in the atmosphere as the real implications from even fallout, radiation, weren’t fully understood. Atomic bombs would prove to be mere firecrackers compared to what was to come.
Just a few days before Eisenhower was elected on Nov. 1, 1952 at a Pacific atoll in the Marshall Islands US sailors watched a giant pillar of fire rise over 5 miles into the sky with a 4 mile wide fireball, an explosion 500 times more powerful than an atomic bomb – the island completely disappeared from the face of the earth – the hydrogen or H bomb was born!
Also in late 1952 American’s regarded the Soviet Union, whose spies had stolen nuclear secrets, as a imminent and existential threat. The US officials would also recall the Soviet’s proposed battle plan for 1945 after Germany’s surrender listing time frames, thrust lines for over 400 battle hardened, Red Army divisions to continue on into Italy, France, Denmark and so on. Many believe this plan was only shelved by Stalin once he realized the US possessed the atomic bomb. The Berlin Airlift in 1948- 49 and the Soviet’s detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949 were only a few years in the past and would add to America’s fear. It was also a time when there wasn’t the technology to know what was actually going on inside the USSR. The CIA was in it’s infancy and not very effective. Therefore much of the fear was based on speculation and imagination making Ike’s position even more difficult.
Ike had studied Clausewitz’s treatise “On War” and never forgot an often overlooked message, “Small wars can become big wars and a nation fighting for survival will stop at nothing.” In fact, these ideas were constantly in mind throughout his presidency. While at the same time he believed in “massive retaliation.” If you are going to fight then you fight to win. No half measures.
Eisenhower was also well aware that he was the first person in all of history to possess the means to completely wreck civilization built up painstakingly over thousands of years. A fact he would live with daily.
This book is not a biography but almost entirely devoted to his foreign policy and his overwhelming, single, fixed preoccupation – avoiding war. Ike had done as much as any man to win WWII. He devoted the rest of his public service to avoid, for America and the world, a WWIII.
This extremely interesting book will also give the reader insight into the 1950s and Eisenhower, the man. Completely different views from those which we, many born well after the 1950s, have come to accept.
The 1950’s were boringly peaceful (or are remembered that way) only because Eisenhower made them so. Eisenhower managed, governed by cleverness, indirection, subtlety and downright deviousness and by embracing the very weapon he could never use too safeguard his country and very possibly the rest of mankind from annihilation.
Not just because he preferred to, but also because he had to. His ability to save the world from nuclear Armageddon entirely depended on his ability to convince America’s enemies – and his own followers – that he was willing to use nuclear weapons. This was a bluff of epic proportions!
Reviewer Randall Lee Rose