Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Term of office January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
Preceded by Harry S. Truman
Succeeded by John F. Kennedy
Date of birth October 14, 1890
Place of birth Denison, Texas
Spouse Mamie Eisenhower
Political party Republican

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower (October 14, 1890March 28, 1969), American soldier and politician, was the 34th President of the United States (19531961) and Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, with the rank of General of the Army.


Early life and family

Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, the third of seven sons born to David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth Stover, and their only child born in Texas. He was named David Dwight, but quickly began to go by his middle name. The Eisenhower family is from German descent and came from Forbach, Alsace, but had lived in America since the 18th century. The family moved back to Abilene, Kansas, in 1892. Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School in 1909 and he worked at Belle Springs Creamery from 1909 to 1911.

Eisenhower married Mamie Geneva Doud (18961979), of Denver, Colorado on July 1, 1916. They had two children, Doud Dwight Eisenhower (19171921) whose tragic death in childhood haunted the couple forever, and John Sheldon David Doud Eisenhower (born 1922). John Eisenhower served in the United States Army, then became an author and served as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. John's son, David Eisenhower, after whom Camp David is named, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968.

Eisenhower's family originally belonged to the local River Brethren sect of the Mennonites. However, when Ike was five years old, his parents became followers of the WatchTower Society, whose members later took the name Jehovah's Witnesses. The Eisenhower home served as the local WatchTower meeting Hall from 1896 to 1915, when Eisenhower's father stopped regularly associating due to the WatchTower's failed prophesies that Armageddon would occur in October 1914 and 1915. Ike's father received a WatchTower funeral when he died in the 1940s. Ike's mother continued as an active Jehovah's Witness until her death. Ike and his brothers also stopped associating regularly after 1915. Ike enjoyed a close relationship with his mother throughout their lifetimes, and he even used a WatchTower printed Bible for his second Presidential Inaugeration. In later years, Eisenhower was baptized, confirmed, and became a communicant in the Presbyterian church in a single ceremony on February 1, 1953, just weeks after his first inauguration as president. In his retirement years, he was a member of the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. [1]

Military career

Eisenhower enrolled at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, in June, 1911 and graduated in 1915. He served with the infantry until 1918 at various camps in Texas and Georgia. During World War I, Eisenhower was active in the tank corps and rose to Lieutenant Colonel in the National Army. Upon the conclusion of hostilities, Eisenhower reverted to his regular rank of Captain (and was promoted to Major the next day) before assuming duties at Camp Meade, Maryland where he remained until 1922.

He was next assigned as executive officer to General Fox Conner in the Panama Canal Zone, where he served until 1924. In 1925 and 1926 he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and then served as a battalion commander, at Fort Benning, Georgia, until 1927.

Eisenhower with his wife Mamie on the steps of St. Louis College at San Antonio, Texas in 1916.
Eisenhower with his wife Mamie on the steps of St. Louis College at San Antonio, Texas in 1916.

During the late 1920s and early 1930s Eisenhower's career in the peacetime Army stagnated. He was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission, directed by General John J. Pershing, then to the Army War College, and then served as executive officer to General George V. Moseley, Assistant Secretary of War, from 1929 to 1933. He then served as chief military aide to General Douglas MacArthur, Army Chief of Staff, until 1935, when he accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines, where he served as assistant military advisor to the Philippine government. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1936 after sixteen years as a Major.

Eisenhower returned to the U.S. in 1939 and held a series of staff positions in Washington, D.C., California, and Texas. In June 1941 he was appointed Chief of Staff to General Walter Kreuger, Commander of the 3rd Army, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He was promoted to Brigadier-General in September 1941. Although his administrative abilities had been noticed, on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II he had never held an active command and was far from being considered as a potential commander of major operations.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was assigned to the General Staff in Washington, where he served until June 1942. He was appointed Deputy Chief in charge of Pacific Defenses under the Chief of War Plans Division, General Leonard Gerow, and then succeeded Gerow as Chief of the War Plans Division. Then he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff in charge of Operations Division under the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall. It was his close association with Marshall which finally brought Eisenhower to senior command positions. Marshall recognized his great organizational and administrative abilities.

Wartime commander

Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II
Eisenhower with Winston Churchill during World War II

In June 1942 Eisenhower was appointed Commanding General, European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) and was based in London. In November he was also appointed Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force of the North African Theater of Operations through the new operational Headquarters A(E)FHQ. The word Expeditionary was dropped soon after his appointment for security reasons. In February 1943 his authority was extended as commander of AFHQ across the Mediterranean Sea basin to include the British 8th Army, commanded by General Bernard Montgomery. The 8th Army had advanced across the Western Desert from the east and was ready for the start of the Tunisia Campaign. Eisenhower gained his fourth star and gave up command of ETOUSA to be commander of NATOUSA. After the capitulation of Axis forces in North Africa, Eisenhower remained in command of the renamed Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) keeping the operational title and continued in command of NATOUSA redesignated MTOUSA. In this position he oversaw the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of the Italian mainland.

In December 1943 it was announced that Eisenhower would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944 he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), serving in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. In these positions he was charged with planning and carrying out the Allied assault on the coast of Normandy in June 1944 under the code name Operation Overlord, the liberation of western Europe and the invasion of Germany. A month after the Normandy D-Day on June 6, 1944, the invasion of southern France took place, control for the forces which took part in the southern invasion passed from the AFHQ to the SHAEF. From then until the end of the War in Europe on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower through SHAEF had supreme command of all operational Allied forces2, and through his command of ETOUSA, administrative command of all U.S. forces, on the Western Front north of the Alps.

As recognition of his senior position in the Allied command, on December 20, 1944, he was promoted to General of the Army equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal in most European armies. In this and the previous high commands he held, Eisenhower showed his great talents for leadership and diplomacy. Although he had never seen action himself, he won the respect of front-line commanders such as Omar Bradley and George Patton. He dealt skillfully with difficult allies such as Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and General Charles de Gaulle. He had fundamental disagreements with Churchill and Montgomery over questions of strategy, but these rarely upset his relationships with them. He negotiated with Soviet Marshal Zhukov, and such was the confidence that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in him, he sometimes worked directly with Stalin.

Eisenhower was offered the Medal of Honor for his leadership in the European Theater but refused it, saying that it should be reserved for bravery and valour.

It was never a certainty that Overlord would succeed. The tenuousness surrounding the entire decision including the timing and the location of the Normandy invasion might be summarized by a short speech that Eisenhower himself wrote, in advance, in case he might need it. In it, he took full responsibility for catastrophic failure, should that be the final result. Long after the successful landings on D-Day and the BBC broadcast of Eisenhower's brief speech concerning them, the never-used second speech was found in a shirt pocket by an aide. It read:

"Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

Following the German unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, Eisenhower was appointed Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone, based in Frankfurt-am-Main. Germany was divided into four Occupation Zones, one each for the U.S., Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. He made the controversial decision to reclassify German prisoners of war or POWs in U.S. custody as Disarmed Enemy Forces or DEFs. As DEFs, they could be compelled to serve as unpaid conscript labor. An unknown number may have died in custody as a consequence of malnutrition, exposure to the elements, and lack of medical care (see Eisenhower and German POWs).

Eisenhower was named Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in November 1945, and in December 1950 was named Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and given operational command of NATO forces in Europe. Eisenhower retired from active service on May 31, 1952, upon entering politics. During this period Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University from 1948 until 1953, though he was on leave from the University while he served as NATO commander.

General of the Army Eisenhower in 1947
General of the Army Eisenhower in 1947

Dates of Rank

Awards and decorations

United States

International Awards

In addition, Eisenhower's name was given to a variety of streets, avenues, etc. in cities around the world, including Paris, France.

Eisenhower's Presidency

After his many wartime successes, General Eisenhower returned to the U.S. a great hero. It would not be long before many supporters were pressuring him to run for public office.

Eisenhower was generally considered a political moderate, and it was not immediately clear which party he would choose to join. Eventually he settled on the Republican Party, and in 1952 he was nominated as the party's star candidate in the 1952 U.S. presidential election. Eisenhower easily defeated Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and became the first war general since Ulysses S. Grant to be elected President. Although many presidents have served in the military, Eisenhower obtained the highest rank by far, and he would be the only general to serve as President in the 20th century.

Foreign affairs

Eisenhower nominated at the 1952 Republican National Convention.
Eisenhower nominated at the 1952 Republican National Convention.

Eisenhower's presidency was dominated by the Cold War, the prolonged confrontation with the Soviet Union which had begun during Truman's term of office.

During his campaign, Eisenhower had promised to end the stalemate Korean War, and indeed a cease-fire was signed in July 1953. He signed defense treaties with South Korea and the Republic of China, and formed an anti-Communist alliance with Asian and Pacific countries, SEATO, to halt the spread of Communism in Asia.

Eisenhower, while accepting the doctrine of containment originally developed by George Kennan, sought to fight the USSR through more active means as detailed in the State Department memorandum NSC-68. He, along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, developed the tactic of covert action, taking advantage of the newly created CIA to interfere with suspected Communist governments abroad. The first major use of covert action was against the parlimentarian and suspected pro-Soviet, Iranian prime minister Mossadeq in 1953. Eisenhower ejected him from power and replaced him with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, an authoritarian.

Covert action continued throughout Eisenhower's administration. In the newly independent but chaotic Republic of Congo, the Soviet Union and the KGB had intervened in favor of popularly elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Anti-Communism had become an issue and the U.S. and CIA gave weapons and covert support to pro-Western and Democratic CIA assets Joseph Kasavubu and his subordinate, Colonel Joseph Mobutu. The initial struggle came to a close in December 1960, after Kasavubu and Mobutu overthrew Lumumba and proceeded to turn the country (later known as Zaire) into an autocracy which was unstable long after the end of Eisenhower's term. Mobutu assassinated Lumumba shortly after his overthrow, and some allege that the CIA (Sidney Gottlieb), collaborated with Mobutu in the assassination.

In 1956, Eisenhower strongly disapproved of the actions of Britain and France in sending troops to Egypt in the dispute over control of the Suez Canal (see Suez crisis). He used the economic power of the U.S. to force his European allies to back down and withdraw from Egypt.

During his second term he became increasingly involved in Middle Eastern affairs, sending troops to Lebanon in 1957.

Under Eisenhower's presidency the U.S. became the world's first global nuclear power, and the world lived in fear of a Third World War which might involve nuclear weapons. American chagrin at the Soviets' 1957 surprise launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, led to many strategic initiatives, including the creation of NASA in 1958. Eisenhower hoped that after the death of Stalin in 1953, it would be possible to come to an agreement with subsequent Russian leaders to halt the nuclear arms race. Several attempts at such summit conference were made. The last attempt failed in 1960 when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew following the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union.

Domestic affairs

Like most Republican presidents, Eisenhower believed that a free enterprise economy should run itself, and he took little interest in domestic policy. Although his 1952 landslide gave the Republicans control of both houses of the Congress, Eisenhower believed that taxes could not be cut until the budget was balanced. "We cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income," he said, "until we have in sight a program of expenditure that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced." The Democrats regained control in the 1954 Senate and House elections, limiting his freedom of action on domestic policy. He forged a good relationship with Congressional leaders, particularly House Speaker Sam Rayburn.

Eisenhower in the Oval Office, February 29, 1956.
Eisenhower in the Oval Office, February 29, 1956.

Eisenhower appointed a Cabinet full of businessmen and gave them wide latitude in handling domestic affairs. He allowed them to take credit for domestic policy and allow him to concentrate on foreign affairs. With respect to the emerging civil rights movement, he has been criticized by liberals for being reluctant to exercise leadership unless forced to. In 1957, however, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas after Governor Orval Faubus attempted to defy a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the desegregation of all public schools.

Eisenhower was also criticized for not taking a public stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist campaigns. Privately he held McCarthy in contempt for the senator's attacks on his friend and World War II colleague, General George Marshall, Secretary of State under Truman. He stated "I just won't get down in the gutter with that man". This was little comfort to the many people whose reputations were ruined by McCarthy's allegations of Communist conspiracies. Later, it was revealed that Eisenhower worked behind the scenes to bring McCarthy down. Yet, in a speech delivered in Milwaukee on October 3, 1952, just after being chosen as the Republican nominee, Eisenhower opted not to make any statement defending Marshall. A full paragraph in the sixth draft of that speech was written for that purpose, but Eisenhower decided to drop the paragraph.

Eisenhower endorsed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the United States' Interstate Highways. It was the largest public works program in U.S. history, providing a 41,000-mile highway system. Eisenhower had been impressed during the war with the German Autobahn system, and also recalled his own involvement in a military convoy in 1919 that took 62 days to cross the U.S. Another achievement was a 20% increase in family income during his presidency, of which he was very proud. He added a tenth cabinet position, creating the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and achieved a balanced budget in three of the years that he was President.

Eisenhower and President-elect John F. Kennedy, December, 1960.
Eisenhower and President-elect John F. Kennedy, December, 1960.

Eisenhower retained his popularity throughout his presidency. In 1956 he was re-elected by an even wider margin than in 1952, where he employed John Arthur Garber, Sr.'s advertising portfolio for his re-election, again defeating Stevenson, and carrying such traditional Democratic states as Texas and Tennessee.

However, there were three recessions during Eisenhower's administration — July 1953 through May 1954, August 1957 through April 1958, and April 1960 through February 1961. Real GDP growth averaged just 2.5 percent over those eight years.

Eisenhower had mixed feelings about his Vice President, Richard Nixon, and only reluctantly endorsed him as the Republican candidate at the 1960 Presidential election. Nixon campaigned against Kennedy on the great experience he had acquired in eight years as Vice President, but when Eisenhower was asked to name a decision Nixon had been responsible for in that time, he replied (intending a joke): "Give me a week and I might think of something." This was a severe blow to Nixon, and he blamed Eisenhower for his narrow loss to Kennedy.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953–1961
Vice President Richard M. Nixon 1953–1961
State John Foster Dulles 1953–1959
  Christian A. Herter 1959–1961
Treasury George M. Humphrey 1953–1957
  Robert B. Anderson 1957–1961
Defense Charles E. Wilson 1953–1957
  Neil H. McElroy 1957–1959
  Thomas S. Gates, Jr. 1959–1961
Justice Herbert Brownell, Jr. 1953–1957
  William P. Rogers 1957–1961
Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield 1953–1961
Interior Douglas McKay 1953–1956
  Fred A. Seaton 1956–1961
Agriculture Ezra T. Benson 1953–1961
Commerce Sinclair Weeks 1953–1958
  Lewis L. Strauss 1958–1959
  Frederick H. Mueller 1959–1961
Labor Martin P. Durkin 1953
  James P. Mitchell 1953–1961
HEW Oveta Culp Hobby 1953–1955
  Marion B. Folsom 1955–1958
  Arthur S. Flemming 1958–1961

Supreme Court Appointments

Eisenhower appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

States Admitted to the Union

White House Staff and Advisors

Retirement, death, and legacy

Eisenhower with President Kennedy on retreat in 1962.
Eisenhower with President Kennedy on retreat in 1962.

On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised speech from the Oval Office. In his farewell speech to the nation, Eisenhower raised the issue of the Cold War and role of the U.S. armed forces. He described the Cold War saying: "We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method...A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction."

Earlier in his remarks he had warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military-industrial complex... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

Three days later, when he handed over the presidency to John F. Kennedy, the youngest elected president at 43, he was the oldest president to serve at 70 years and 98 days – a record since broken by Ronald Reagan. Eisenhower was the first president affected by the 22nd Amendment, limiting presidential terms, and the first Republican president to be elected to two full terms since William McKinley, who did not live to serve them both.

Once Eisenhower left office his reputation declined, and he was seen as having been a "do-nothing" President. This was partly because of the contrast between Eisenhower and his young, activist successor, John F. Kennedy, but also due to his reluctance to support the civil rights movement or to stop McCarthyism. Such omissions were held against him during the liberal climate of the 1960s and 1970s. Eisenhower's reputation has risen since that time, largely due to an increased appreciation of how difficult it is today to maintain a prolonged peace. In recent surveys of historians, Eisenhower is often ranked in the top ten among all U.S. Presidents.

Of his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, Eisenhower is purported to have said that his September 1953 appointment of California Governor Earl Warren to Chief Justice of the United States was "the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made". Some sources place this act on Eisenhower's own list of "My Top Five Lifetime Mistakes". Eisenhower disagreed vigorously with several of the Chief Justice's decisions. Warren's appointment was perhaps in appreciation of his swinging his California delegates to support "Ike" at a crucial point of the 1952 Republican National Convention.

Eisenhower retired to the place where he and Mamie had spent much of their post-war time, a working farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Gettysburg farm is a National Historic Site [2]. In retirement, he did not completely retreat from political life; he spoke at the 1964 Republican convention, and also appeared with Barry Goldwater in a Republican campaign commercial from Gettysburg.[3]

Eisenhower leaving the White House after a visit with President Johnson in 1967.
Eisenhower leaving the White House after a visit with President Johnson in 1967.

Due to the legality of holding a military rank while in a civilian office, Eisenhower resigned his permanent commission as General of the Army before entering the office of President of the United States. Upon completion of his Presidential term, his commission was reactivated and Eisenhower was again commissioned a five star general in the United States Army. With the exception of George Washington, who was appointed a Lieutenant General after serving as President, Eisenhower is the only United States President with military service to reenter the United States armed forces after leaving the office of President.

"Ike" Eisenhower died at 12:25 PM on March 28, 1969, at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C., after a long illness at the age of 78. He was honored with a state funeral at Washington National Cathedral and a full military funeral in Abilene, Kansas [4]. He lies alongside his wife and their first child, who died in childhood, in a small chapel called the Place of Meditation, at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, located in Abilene.

Eisenhower's portrait was on the dollar coin from 1971 to 1978. Nearly 700 million of the copper-nickel clad coins were minted for general circulation, and far smaller numbers of uncirculated and proof issues (in both copper-nickel and 40% silver varities) were produced for collectors. Ike reappeared on a commemorative silver dollar issued in 1990, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth.

President Eisenhower is the only American awarded the British Order of Merit, as well as one of but a few Americans made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, both memberships being honorary, due to his American citizenship.

Eisenhower has been portrayed by several actors, including Tom Selleck in the 2004 television program "Ike: Countdown to D-Day" which depicts the 90 days leading up to the D-Day Invasion. On June 6, of that year, Eisenhower's grandson, David, along with Roosevelt's grandson, David, and Arabella Churchill, granddaughter of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, appeared on MSNBC during the network's coverage of the 60th anniversary of D-Day and talked about the roles their respective grandfathers played during the allied invasion.3


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
-- Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1953

I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address January 17, 1961 (source: Fortune program)

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower in a letter to his brother Edgar, November 8, 1954, Snopes page


  • Note 1: All of the Eisenhower boys left the Jehovah's Witness religion when they reached adulthood and openly opposed major aspects of Watchtower teaching, although some of the values they learned from their Bible studies probably influenced them throughout their lives. Some Watchtower values may even have been reflected in Eisenhower's statements against war made in his latter life. Nonetheless, the Eisenhowers endeavored to hide the full extent of their mother's and family's Watchtower involvement although they did at times admit their affiliation with them.
  • Note 2: As V-E Day came, Allied forces in Western Europe [not including Italy] consisted of 4.5 million men, including 9 armies (5 of them American—one of which, the Fifteenth, saw action only at the last), 23 corps, 91 divisions (61 of them American), 6 tactical air commands (4 American), and 2 strategic air forces (1 American). The Allies had 28,000 combat aircraft, of which 14,845 were American, and they had brought into Western Europe more than 970,000 vehicles and 18 million tons of supplies. At the same time they were achieving final victory in Italy with 18 divisions (7 of them American). [5]


Eisenhower video montage (info)
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See also

External links

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Preceded by:
Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany
Succeeded by:
Gen. Joseph T. McNarney
Preceded by:
Gen. George C. Marshall
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by:
Gen. Omar N. Bradley
Preceded by:
Frank D. Fackenthal
President of Columbia University
Succeeded by:
Grayson L. Kirk
Preceded by:
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by:
Matthew B. Ridgway
Preceded by:
Thomas Dewey
Republican Party presidential candidate
1952 (won), 1956 (won)
Succeeded by:
Richard Nixon
Preceded by:
Harry S. Truman
President of the United States
January 20, 1953January 20, 1961
Succeeded by:
John F. Kennedy
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