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Eisenhower, Volumes 1 & 2: Soldier, General…

Eisenhower, Volumes 1 & 2: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect… (1990)

by Stephen E. Ambrose

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One of my favorite biographies by one of my favorite authors. Excellent coverage of his time as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and how he handled the egos of the Generals working for him. Equally impressive is the details of his presidency. Very readable. ( )
  jpb355 | Nov 2, 2015 |
Dwight Eisenhower was not exactly born into poverty, but the family's circumstances were at least austere. He was one of seven children; his father, a railway worker. But the family was strong and unified, the youngsters energetic and ambitious.

Ike made it to West Point, where he excelled in sports. He was a natural leader. But it was at Leavenworth years later, as a student at the war college, that his intellectual talent showed itself. He graduated... ( )
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  Tutter | Feb 20, 2015 |
Very readable biography of Dwight Eisenhower and the history of US events/politics during the 1940s,1950s, and 1960s. I liked the length and readability, but for some of the key players surrounding Eisenhower (e.g. John Foster Dulles) it would have been nice to get a bit more background. OVerall very enjoyable and accessible. ( )
  JosephKing6602 | Jul 3, 2014 |
I was looking for a well-written one-volume history of Eisenhower and this was perfect. Fair, accurate, and very well-researched. ( )
  NellieMc | Jun 27, 2013 |
Stephen Ambrose is a favorite writer of mine--one of the most readable and insightful of the contemporary historians I've read. He's written extensively on World War II at all levels from the generals to the ordinary soldier serving on the battlefront, as well as writing a respected biography of Richard Nixon. I can't think of anyone more qualified to tackle questions of political and military leadership, this particular era, and Eisenhower as "soldier and president."

I didn't always agree with Ambrose's conclusions. The first sentence in this biography states: Dwight David Eisenhower was a great and good man. He calls Eisenhower one of the "truly great" American presidents. In both his Forward and his Epilogue Ambrose claimed that, "Eisenhower gave the nation eight years of peace and prosperity. No other President in the twentieth century could make that claim." Please understand, I believe that within the limits of his time, Eisenhower was a decent man, and by any measure as Supreme Commander important to the victory of the allies in World War II and a good president--I just can't quite rate him as highly as Ambrose does. Partly that's because we use different measuring sticks. Some things Ambrose claims as accomplishments or great aspirations I can't agree with. (For one, I'm not as much an enthusiast for robust internationalism as Ambrose or Eisenhower, who supported a "United States of Europe.") Ambrose himself writes that any "attempt to assess Eisenhower's eight years as President inevitably reveals more about the person doing the assessing than it does about Eisenhower" and to declare him right or wrong on an issue "tends to be little more than a declaration of the current politics and prejudices of the author." And I might add, reader or reviewer. Nevertheless, only a couple of weeks ago, I read Flexner's biography of George Washington, where the author also claimed his subject was a "great and good man," and having read about the accomplishments and qualities of that "soldier and president," I can't see putting Eisenhower on the same pedestal.

However, Ambrose doesn't just present Eisenhower's accomplishments and admirable qualities but his mistakes and flaws as well. They seem to be connected. Eisenhower was, as Ambrose constantly notes, very "middle of the road" and pragmatic in politics. He drove hard for compromise and consensus and during the war he was legendary in demanding complete cooperation and respect between Americans and the British. He could even be described as eager to please--and hated controversy. So much so, that Ambrose named as his greatest mistake of the war that he went too far to "appease" Montgomery, the British general. You can see that same quality in Eisenhower's presidency. Yes, he stood up to the members of the National Security Advisers and Joint Chiefs of Staff that virtually unanimously pushed him to use nuclear weapons--five times in 1954 alone. He ended the conflict in Korea and refused to get involved in Vietnam. On the other hand, it was frustrating to read of how Eisenhower appeased Senator McCarthy (whom Eisenhower did despise) and his weak support of the Civil Rights Movement (about which he felt deeply ambivalent.) On that score Ambrose admits Eisenhower's "unwillingness to grapple with long-term problems and his inability to see clearly moral questions were to cost the nation, his party, and his reputation beyond measure."

At times I did think Ambrose bent over backward in Eisenhower's defense. I agree with one reviewer that said he should have just admitted Eisenhower had a wartime adulterous affair with Kay Summersby and moved on, instead of going through so many contortions trying to deny it. But this is a great biography because Ambrose does provide all the information you need to decide for yourself what you think of Eisenhower and his presidency. His account is based upon extensive research and interviews, some conducted by Ambrose himself. Eisenhower's presidency occurred before I was born, so I can't measure this depiction against my personal experiences. I can say though that within these 576 pages I gained a new appreciation of Eisenhower and the challenges he faced, learned a lot about this time in history, and was never bored, often entertained, and sometimes moved. I can't imagine anyone else writing a more definitive, more insightful and comprehensive biography of Eisenhower than Ambrose in my lifetime. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 8, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671747584, Paperback)

Stephen E. Ambrose draws upon extensive sources, an unprecedented degree of scholarship, and numerous interviews with Eisenhower himself to offer the fullest, richest, most objective rendering yet of the soldier who became president. He gives us a masterly account of the European war theater and Eisenhower's magnificent leadership as Allied Supreme Commander. Ambrose's recounting of Eisenhower's presidency, the first of the Cold War, brings to life a man and a country struggling with issues as diverse as civil rights, atomic weapons, communism, and a new global role.

Along the way, Ambrose follows the 34th President's relations with the people closest to him, most of all Mamie, his son John, and Kay Summersby, as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Harry Truman, Nixon, Dulles, Khrushchev, Joe McCarthy, and indeed, all the American and world leaders of his time. This superb interpretation of Eisenhower's life confirms Stephen Ambrose's position as one of our finest historians.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:34 -0400)

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