Dwight D. Eisenhower: 20 Remarkable Achievements
Just how important was Dwight D. Eisenhower in America’s history? What were some of his stellar military and political contributions to his country and the world? In the article below, worldhistoryedu.com brings to you 20 remarkable achievements of Dwight D. Eisenhower, World War II general and former U.S. president.
Fast Facts about Dwight D. Eisenhower
Birth Day and Place – October 14, 1890, Denison, Texas
Death Day and Place – March 28, 1969; Washington DC
Born – Dwight David Eisenhower
Parents – David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Stover
Siblings – 6 brothers
High school – Abilene High School, Kansas
Military education – U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York (graduated in 1915)
Spouse – Mamie Geneva Doud (married in 1916)
Children – Doud Dwight and John Dwight
Political Party – Republican Party
Most famous for – 34th President of the United States (1953 – 1961); President of Columbia University (1948- 1953); Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Western Europe during WWII; Hero of the Normandy Landings in 1944
Nickname – Ike
Most notable achievements – Defeated Nazi Germany; Secured the Korean Armistice of 1953; Founded NASA; Interstate Highway System; Civil Rights Bills of 1957 and 1960.
Top Achievements of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Led Operation Torch and the Invasion of North Africa
Eisenhower commanded forces during Operation Torch in November 1942. He and his men launched an invasion into French North Africa, taking down forces in the region. The Allied forces were suspicious of those forces aligning with the Axis powers.
The invasion was a three-pronged attack – an invasion of Casablanca to the West; invasion of Oran and Algiers in the center; and invasion of Tunis in Tunisia. Under Eisenhower’s command, the Allied forces’ invasion in the region was quite a success.
Commanded the Invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy
Shortly after Operation Torch in North Africa, Allied forces embarked on the invasion of Sicily in 1943. The operation in Sicily was codenamed Operation Husky, and it involved the Allied forces using a massive amphibious and airborne operation during the six-week campaign (i.e. from July 10 to August 17 1943). Eisenhower recorded immense wins and vanquished Fascist Italian leader Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler’s forces on the island. Shortly after that, Mussolini was removed from power in Italy. This enabled General Eisenhower and his men to proceed with an invasion of mainland Italy (3-17 September 1943) in an operation called Operation Avalanche. By June 1944, the Italian capital Rome had fallen to the Allied forces.
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Liberated France during the Normandy Landings
On December 20 1944, the Texas-born military strategist Dwight D. Eisenhower was promoted to the the rank of full general (i.e. a five-star general in the army). A year prior to that, he was appointed to head the Allied Expeditionary Force in Western Europe. The force was tasked to push Hitler’s forces out of France, thereby creating a western corridor for the invasion of Nazi Germany.
As supreme commander of the Allied forces, Eisenhower was heavily involved in the planning of the Invasion of Normandy in 1944. After close to two years of meticulous planning, Eisenhower gave the go ahead for the invasion to begin on June 6, 1944 (dubbed D-Day).
General Eisenhower, assisted by other astute military commanders from Britain and France, unleashed the might of over 150,000 Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, France.
Owing to the heroic efforts of his men, the Allied forces were able to liberate France by the end of August 1944. The gains made by Eisenhower on the beaches of Normandy proved very vital in bringing down Nazism and Fascism in continental Europe. In all of recorded history never has there been an amphibious operation as large as the one General Eisenhower supervised on D-Day. The D-Day operation is generally regarded as Eisenhower’s most remarkable feat of achievement.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff under President Harry S. Truman
After spending about six months as the military governor of the American Occupation Zone in Southern Germany, Eisenhower was called to Washington D.C. in November 1945 to serve as the 16th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.
Working in the Truman administration, Eisenhower was tasked with putting millions of soldiers back into civilian jobs in order to grow the U.S. economy. While in that position, he voiced his unflinching support for the newly formed United Nations. He believed that the global body could be a force of good in regulating countries that possessed nuclear weapons.
As Chief of Staff, he vehemently opposed America’s use of atomic bomb against the Empire of Japan. He reasoned that the Imperial Japanese Forces were ready to lay down their weapons, hence the use of such weapons was completely unnecessary. He stated that America’s use of those weapons of mass destruction would irreversibly taint its image in the global community.
President of Columbia University, New York City
After close to four decades of service in the U.S. Army, Eisenhower was appointed Columbia University’s president on June 7, 1948. He stayed in that position for about two years, only to be called back to active service in the military by President Harry S. Truman. In the winter of 1950, he was appointed supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe.
While president of the university, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, an academic society that is known for celebrating people that have attained tremendous feats in science, arts and governance. With that induction, Eisenhower’s name flies high with the likes of other U.S. presidents such as John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, etc. Other renowned Phi Beta inductees include U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.
As president of the university, he worked tirelessly to instill democratic ideals and values in the students. He stayed on as president of the university until January 19, 1953 when he was elected president of the United States.
Commander of NATO
The NATO’s primary objective was to halt the spread of communist ideologies from the burgeoning Soviet Union. The organization was constantly at loggerheads with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
Eisenhower worked very hard in that position by enticing countries across the world to abandon communist ideologies in favor of a liberal economy. He was responsible of structuring NATO into the organization that we see today.
Eisenhower’s Accomplishments as President of the United States
In the early parts of the 1950s, President Truman’s (who was a Democrat) approval rating took a bit of a dive owing to the Korean War (1950 – 1953). Hence, the Republicans set out to look for a suitable successor for Truman. And there was no one better than Eisenhower to fill the White House job.
General Eisenhower entered the 1952 US presidential race and faced off with Democratic Party candidate Senator Adlai Stevenson. Prior to that, he had defeated Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio to clinch the Republican Party ticket for the 1952 U.S. presidential election.
During the election of 1952, the general ran under the slogan “I Like Ike”, a reference to his nickname from his childhood. Assisted by his running mate Richard M. Nixon (later 36th president of the United States), Eisenhower defeated Senator Stevenson and clinched the White House seat. He was sworn into office as the 34th president of the United States on January 20, 1953.
Four years later, in the 1956 presidential election, Eisenhower retained his White House seat by blowing Senator Stevenson out of the water in a huge landslide win.
Eisenhower’s Legislative Achievements
Six out of the eight years of President Eisenhower’s administration, the Democratic Party had majority in Congress. Regardless of that, Eisenhower expertly got a host of laudable bills passed in Congress. For example, he signed the Refugee Relief Act of 1953, which admitted over 200,000 immigrants into the country. Those immigrants predominantly came from European countries, especially Eastern Europe.
In 1958, he also signed the National Defense Education Act of 1958. The act encouraged and promoted the study of science and technology in American schools.
Progressive Social and economic programs
Eisenhower merged the ideals of FDR’s New Deal and Truman’s Fair Deal in order to promote socio-economic progress in the country. Take the case of the social security program that he insisted be maintained. The program covered an additional 10 million people during Eisenhower’s presidency. Then, there were also increases in minimum wage.
Additionally, President Eisenhower is credited with the establishment of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (known today as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education).
He built about 41,000 miles of roads in the country
In 1956, Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act. The act enabled the construction of about 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of roads across the country. The colossal project, which became America’s National Highway System, had never been seen in the United States. As a matter of fact, it was the single largest infrastructure development in America’s history. The legislative act that enabled the construction of those roads can be considered Eisenhower’s most crowning legislative work.
It has been estimated that the president allocated a whopping $30 billion to America’s interstate highway system. Stretching over a decade, the National Highway System designed by Eisenhower helped reduce the cost of travelling and shipping. It also brought immense benefits in areas such as sub-urbanization, low-income housing, tourism, and disaster management efforts.
Enforced U.S. Supreme Court verdict on school desegregation
In 1954 the US Supreme Court passed a verdict on the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case. The verdict made it unconstitutional for racial segregation in schools across America. Eisenhower may have shied away from publicly supporting the verdict; however, he did not shy away from enforcing the Supreme Court’s ruling. He even sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas in September, 1957 to enforce the Supreme Court’s desegregation ruling in schools.
Furthermore, President Dwight Eisenhower gave out directives for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces. He was able to accomplish that task in just under two years. As part of his racial desegregation policies, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division was established.
Passed the first civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era
During his two terms in office, he signed two very important civil rights bills – the Civil Rights Legislation in 1957 and 1960. Those bills offered further protection to African Americans, allowing them to peacefully exercise their civil rights and vote. This achievement of Eisenhower was very important.
To put things into perspective how important those bills were, one would have to go way back to the Reconstruction Era (1865 – 1877) for the last civil legislation of that nature. Congress did however insert a host of amendments that sort off weakened the bills’ effectiveness and reach.
Made U.S. Military Very Powerful
Eisenhower’s economic policy oozed out moderate Republican ideas. He even described himself as a “dynamic conservative” or a “progressive moderate”.
As POTUS, he held his ground and refused cutting taxes. At the same time he spent heavily and increased America’s defense spending. This culminated in making America’s military might bigger and powerful, perhaps only comparable to Soviet Union at the time. Regardless of those military expenditures, Eisenhower was still able to reduce the overall government spending by over $10 billion from the Truman’s administration.
The Eisenhower administration also adopted the New Look Policy– a national security policy that properly balanced military commitments and nation’s financial resources. The policy pushed for greater reliance on strategic nuclear weapons that could serve as a deterrent to the enemy. In the case of an attack from the Soviets, Eisenhower gave out instructions for the U.S. Army to roll out a “Massive Retaliation” policy.
Balanced the U.S. Budget on three occasions
Being progressive conservative, he set up sound fiscal policies that translated into stellar economic growth throughout the 1950s. For example, his tenure saw the extension of unemployment insurance to close to 4 million more people in America. Then, there were also better postal, federal and military pay structures. As part of his effort to make small businesses the engine of America’s growth, Eisenhower established the Small Business Administration.
The Eisenhower administration also helped boost the yield of farmers by offering them support using the soil banks and other financial aids. The president also secured gains in home building and the reduction of inflation.
The most remarkable economic achievement of Eisenhower came when he balanced the U.S. budget on three occasions. For example, America witnessed a budget surplus of about $1.7 billion during his first term in office.
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Warned against the “military-industrial complex”
Before he left office, Eisenhower gave a speech that cautioned Americans to be vigilant of the problems of the “military-industrial complex”. That term described a situation where the nation’s security and military needs get overly intertwined with big businesses and corporations. He was concerned about the huge influence those business executives could exert on the U.S. government and defense. He also helped cast a lot of public attention to how those excessive U.S. military expenditures could come back to hurt the nation.
Signed the Korean Armistice
Upon entering office, President Eisenhower worked assiduously to find a peaceful resolution to the three-year war that raged on in the Korean peninsula. He encouraged global players such as the Soviet Union and China to come to the negotiation table and sign an armistice. He expertly communicated the severe consequences that the world faced should the Korean conflict remain unresolved.
Just a few months after his inauguration in January 1952, Eisenhower signed the Korean Armistice in July 1953, bringing an end to the bloody Korean War.
Although the two Koreas technically remain at war (to this day), the efforts put in by Eisenhower to halt the bloodshed cannot be overlooked. Eisenhower was right to call the Korean Armistice his greatest achievements as president of the United States.
Read more about the Korean War in the article: When and How did the Korean War begin?
Pursued a path of peace on the foreign front
With the exclusion of Lebanon, no American soldier was sent to any country in the world. The Eisenhower’s administration was one of the most pacifists of any U.S. president.
All throughout his presidency, Eisenhower had to deal with major crises on a global level. Regardless, he always sought a peaceful resolution to those problems. In addition to the threat of communism and the Soviet Union aggression, the president had to contend with other global issues such as the Korean War, the Suez Canal crisis, Berlin, and the downing of U.S. U-2 plane by the Russians.
Many politicians on both sides of the aisle called on him to unleash America’s full military might. However, Eisenhower restrained himself, choosing to deal with those issues in a diplomatic manner.
History will forever remember him for opting not to escalate those problems any further. For example, Eisenhower whole-heartedly believed that the splitting of the atom (i.e. the nuclear science) was a force of good when used for peaceful purposes. He did everything in his power to make sure that those technologies did not end up in the hands of rogue nations. The program he set up was called the “Atoms for Peace Plan”.
Dwight D. Eisenhower did everything in his power to hold back the communist tide. He even tasked the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to carry out covert operations against communists structures across the world. For example, the United States had a hand in the overthrow of governments in Iran (in 1953) and Guatemala (in 1954).
Eisenhower did however restrain himself from carrying out an air strike in Indochina in support of French forces in the region. He also supported anti-communist government in South Vietnam. In retrospect, Eisenhower’s support of South Vietnam is what ultimately culminated in one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century – the Vietnam War.
As president, he promoted policies and programs that properly equipped NATO to fully halt the spread of communist aggression in Europe. He also created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to tackle communists’ influence in Southeast Asia.
Lent a friendly hand to the Soviet Union
Regardless of how stern Eisenhower was on communism, the president still wanted to have an open conversation with the Soviet Union. In mid-summer of 1955, he met leaders from Britain, France and the Soviet Union at a Geneva conference. He hoped that the differences between the two superpowers at the time could be resolved.
He went on to champion his “open skies” policy. The policy was aimed at allowing both the U.S. and the Soviets to observe each other’s military programs and establishments. The policy was shot down by the Soviets. However, that did not stop Eisenhower from holding constructive talks with Soviet Union Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959.
In order to keep the peace in Europe, he signed the Austrian Peace Treaty on May 15, 1955. The treaty allowed Austria to become independent and neutral from either America’s or the Soviet’s influence.
Other worth-mentioning achievements of President Eisenhower
The following are some honorable mentions of the things that Eisenhower achieved during his lifetime:
- In 1958, Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act. The Act created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The organization was created in response to the Soviet Union’s advances in space technology.
- Under his leadership, the United States witnessed the admission of Alaska and Hawaii into the Union. He signed the Alaska Statehood Act of 1958 and the Hawaii Admission Act of 1959. By so doing he made Alaska and Hawaii the 49th and 50th states respectively.
- On September 11, 1956, he established the People to People International (PTPI), an organization that promotes better understanding amongst people from different nations using science, education and cultural exchanges.