A man who was affectionately known to the American public as “General Ike,” Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. He was one of 7 sons that were born to his parents, who were very religious. They were initially Mennonites, but would later go on to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eisenhower was born in 1890 and would always say that he was deeply religious, but also point out that he didn’t belong to any specific organizations or sects.
1. It Wasn’t an Arm
When Eisenhower was a kid, he managed to injure his leg just like most other kids injure themselves over the course of a year. This injury wasn’t like most other injuries, however, and an infection soon set in. The infection became so bad that his doctors were thinking about an amputation so that the infection wouldn’t keep spreading. He was able to eventually heal up, but the time away from school because of the injury would cause him to repeat his Freshman year of high school.
2. A Hall of Fame Connection
Eisenhower enrolled in West Point after high school because he was above the age requirements to get into the Naval Academy. He played baseball and football while there and it wound up being one of his biggest regrets in life. While playing in a football game, he wound up breaking his leg while trying to make a tackle. The broken leg never fully healed properly for him. The man that he tried to tackle? Eventual Hall of Famer Jim Thorpe.
3. He’s Not a Crook
Eisenhower had two sons with his wife, but their first son died in 1921 because of scarlet fever. In an interesting twist of fate, John would go on to marry Richard Nixon’s daughter, who was serving as General Ike’s Vice President. They would go on to give Nixon and Eisenhower four grandchildren. One of his grandson’s was named David and is actually the namesake of the Presidential retreat Camp David.
4. Just a Handful
When his parents decided to become Jehovah’s Witnesses, it meant that his family would become strict pacifists. That’s rather ironic considering that Eisenhower is one of only 5 men in the history of the United States to be given a 5th star as a general. He was elevated to this rank and given the title of Supreme Commander because of his role in directing the Allied attack on the Axis powers during World War II. Eisenhower personally oversaw the famous D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944.
5. I Like Ike
Both political parties wanted Eisenhower to run for President for them in 1948, but he turned them both down cold to stay in the military. At the same time, he also became president of Columbia University. When the 1952 election cycle rolled around, he decided to join the Republican party and won the election in a landslide. He faced the same opponent in 1956, Adlai Stevenson, and demolished him again. He’s the last President to serve who was born in the 19th century and was the only retired general of the 20th century to serve in office as POTUS.
6. A Lot of Notable Firsts
Eisenhower actually saw a lot of notable firsts happen during his Presidency. He was the first US President who was bald and was the first in office who got to appear before the nation in color television. When Alaska joined the union in 1959, he became the first President to serve over 50 states. For added kicks and giggles, he was also the first President who had an active pilot’s license. There’s also one notable second: he never held a political office before serving as President, the first man since Zachary Taylor to hold that distinction.
7. Struggles With His Health
Eisenhower didn’t have great approval ratings when he eventually left office, but some of that might have been because of his failing health. While he was serving as POTUS, he suffered from a stroke, a heart attack, and had a ventricular aneurysm. It was also known that he had some gallbladder problems and suffered from Crohn’s Disease. A tumor on his adrenal gland was also discovered after he passed away in 1969, succumbing to congestive heart failure.
8. Not a Day of Combat
Eisenhower served the United States in the military for 35 years. He initially served as a junior officer and was on track to never really make a name for himself until a general thought he had potential and helped him to begin moving up the ranks. For a man who would oversee some of the greatest accomplishments that the US military has ever had, the fact that he never saw a single day of active combat is a remarkable accomplishment. He accepted Germany’s official surrender and oversaw the armistice that separated the Korean peninsula into the north and the south.
9. An Aggressive Doctrine
The United States is still essentially operating under the Eisenhower doctrine. Ike had a desire to stop Communism wherever he threatened to spread and believed that the United States should take proactive measures to interfere so that it wouldn’t keep advancing. To this extent, he invested in nuclear armament build-ups and would eventually inadvertently contribute to the foundations of the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis because of his decisions. This doctrine also lead to U2 spy planes being sent over the Soviet Union, one of which was shot down and the pilot captured in 1960.
10. An Enforcer
When the Supreme Court ruled that schools should be desegregated, many school districts were refusing to comply with the order. After some tense negotiations that went nowhere, Eisenhower made the critical decision to send federal troops to America’s segregated schools to make sure that the ruling from SCOTUS was properly enforced.
At one point, General Ike won 83% of the electoral college. His accomplishments speak for themselves and although some of his philosophies can be judged harshly through the rose colored glasses of history, he is often remembered as an intelligent strategist who secured the US against its foreign enemies and brought an end to World War II.