Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose

My book for March is Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen Ambrose. This is part of my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. I recently found a New York Times list of recommended books for each president. When I saw the Ambrose book about Eisenhower on the list, I was intrigued.

While I have read a number of books about World War II, the view of the war from Eisenhower's life story is interesting. After struggles as a commander in North Africa and Italy, he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander. Eisenhower was responsible for D-Day and the ensuing war on the continent. The problems he had keeping all of the generals in line are fascinating, particularly British General Montgomery. General Patton was a loose cannon. [Note to self], I need to read a biography on Patton at some point.

The book also presents a great overview of the 1950s. Eisenhower was president from 1952 to 1960. This period includes the Korean War, Brown versus the Board of Education, the French War in Vietnam, Sputnik, the U2 getting shot down over Russian, the Chinese shelling the Taiwanese islands, the Hungarian Revolution, Stalin's death and Castro coming to power.

It is amazing that another nuclear weapon was not used in the 1950s. In the book, it seems like everyone around Eisenhower wanted to use nuclear at one time or another. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the Joint Chiefs advocated using nuclear weapons against North Korean, the Chinese and even North Vietnam at one point or another. I was shocked at one point when they talked about testing that include an atomic bomb fired by a two man bazooka crew...

I really enjoyed the book. I liked Ambrose's writing style. Even importantly, it feels like Ambrose does a good job of painting a balanced picture of Eisenhower's strengths and weaknesses as well as his successes and failures. As president, Eisenhower's leadership on segregation was abysmal.

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