Essential Books on Dwight Eisenhower
There are numerous books on Dwight Eisenhower, and it comes with good reason, aside from being elected America’s thirty-fourth President (1953-1961), he was the commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during World War II, obtained a truce in Korea, and worked incessantly during his two terms to ease the tensions of the Cold War.
“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid,” he remarked.
In order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of America’s most consequential figures to the height of political power, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best books on Dwight Eisenhower.
The Age of Eisenhower by William I. Hitchcock
Drawing on newly declassified documents and thousands of pages of unpublished material, The Age of Eisenhower tells the story of a masterful president guiding the nation through the great crises of the 1950s, from McCarthyism and the Korean War through civil rights turmoil and Cold War conflicts. This is a portrait of a skilled leader who, despite his conservative inclinations, found a middle path through the bitter partisanship of his era.
At home, Eisenhower affirmed the central elements of the New Deal, such as Social Security; fought the demagoguery of Senator Joseph McCarthy; and advanced the agenda of civil rights for African-Americans. Abroad, he ended the Korean War and avoided a new quagmire in Vietnam. Yet he also charted a significant expansion of America’s missile technology and deployed a vast array of covert operations around the world to confront the challenge of communism. As he left office, he cautioned Americans to remain alert to the dangers of a powerful military-industrial complex that could threaten their liberties.
Five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower was arguably the single most important military figure of World War II. For many historians, his memoirs of this eventful period of U.S. history have become the single most important record of the war. Crusade in Europe tells the complete story of the war as Eisenhower planned and lived it. Through his eyes, the enormous scope and drama of the war – strategy, battles, moments of fateful decision – become fully illuminated in all their fateful glory.
This is also a warm and richly human account. Ike recalls the long months of waiting, planning, and working toward victory in Europe. His personal record of the tense first hours after he had issued the order to attack – and there was no turning back – leaves no doubt of Eisenhower’s travail and reveals this great man in ways that no biographer has ever surpassed.
Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
Here is Eisenhower the young dreamer, charting a course from Abilene, Kansas, to West Point and beyond. Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary sources, Smith provides new insight into Ike’s maddening apprenticeship under Douglas MacArthur. Then the whole panorama of World War II unfolds, with Eisenhower’s superlative generalship forging the Allied path to victory. Smith also gives us an intriguing examination of Ike’s finances, details his wartime affair with Kay Summersby, and reveals the inside story of the 1952 Republican convention that catapulted him to the White House.
Smith’s chronicle of Eisenhower’s presidential years is as compelling as it is comprehensive. Derided by his detractors as a somnambulant caretaker, Eisenhower emerges in Smith’s perceptive retelling as both a canny politician and a skillful, decisive leader. He managed not only to keep the peace, but also to enhance America’s prestige in the Middle East and throughout the world.
Eisenhower: Soldier and President by Stephen E. Ambrose
Ambrose gives us a masterly account of the European war theater and Eisenhower’s magnificent leadership as Allied Supreme Commander. His 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.
One of the few books by Dwight Eisenhower, here the President tells a number of stories for the simple pleasure of telling them. In warm and personal terms, he writes about his life, his acquaintances both celebrated and little known, and the history that unfolded before his eyes.
In anecdote after anecdote, we learn about life at West Point, in turn-of-the-century Kansas, in an “ordinary” but remarkable family. His storytelling outlines what it was like to grow up and go to school at a time when the wild west had just become the rural west. It awakened the dreams of adventure in a boy’s imagination and carried him from the wrong side of the tracks in Abilene to the leadership of a great alliance and military expedition, a great university, and a great nation.
At Ease is written for fun as he remembers his tour of duty in the Canal Zone, life with his young wife Mamie, and how he was educated in Clausewitz, Tacitus, and Plato by his mentor, General Fox Conner. He recalls his first encounter with a spirited colonel, George Patton, and his appointment, later, as aide to the already controversial general, Douglas MacArthur. The men, events, and institutions that have become household words are touched upon here and illuminated, as are the lesser-known people and places in a peaceful man’s peacetime existence.
The Supreme Commander by Stephen E. Ambrose
Ambrose brings Eisenhower’s experience of the Second World War to life, showing in vivid detail how the general’s expertise as a diplomat and a military strategist contributed to Allied successes in North Africa and in Europe, and established him as one of the greatest military leaders in the world. Ambrose, then the Associate Editor of the General’s official papers, analyzes Eisenhower’s difficult military decisions and his often complicated relationships with powerful personalities like Churchill, de Gaulle, Roosevelt, and Patton. This necessary installment to the ever-growing index of books on Dwight Eisenhower is the definitive account of the man’s evolution as a military leader – from its dramatic beginnings through his time at the top post of Allied command.
How Ike Led by Susan Eisenhower
Few people have made decisions as momentous as Eisenhower, nor has one person had to make such a varied range of them. From D-Day to Little Rock, from the Korean War to Cold War crises, from the Red Scare to the Missile Gap controversies, Ike was able to give our country eight years of peace and prosperity by relying on a core set of principles. These were informed by his heritage and upbringing, as well as his strong character and his personal discipline, but he also avoided making himself the center of things. He was a man of judgment, and steadying force. He sought national unity, by pursuing a course he called the “Middle Way” that tried to make winners on both sides of any issue.
Ike was a strategic, not an operational leader, who relied on a rigorous pursuit of the facts for decision-making. His talent for envisioning a whole, especially in the context of the long game, and his ability to see causes and various consequences, explains his success as Allied Commander and as President. After making a decision, he made himself accountable for it, recognizing that personal responsibility is the bedrock of sound principles.
The Soul of an American President by Alan Sears
While there have been many biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower that focus on his military career or the time of his presidency, none clearly explore the important role faith played both in his personal life and in his public policy. This despite the fact that he is the only US president to be baptized as a Christian while in office.
The Soul of an American President is the untold story of a man whose growing faith sustained him through the loss of a young son, marital difficulties, depression, career disappointments, and being witness to some of the worst atrocities humankind has devised. A man whose faith was based in his own sincere personal conviction, not out of a sense of political expediency or social obligation.
Eisenhower: The White House Years by Jim Newton
America’s thirty-fourth president was belittled by his critics as the babysitter-in-chief. This new look reveals how wrong they were. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed the atomic bomb and refused to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, “McCarthywasm.” He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, turned an $8 billion deficit in 1953 into a $500 million surplus in 1960 (Ike was the last President until Bill Clinton to leave his country in the black).
The President Eisenhower of popular imagination is a benign figure, armed with a putter, a winning smile, and little else. The Eisenhower of veteran journalist Jim Newton’s rendering is shrewd, sentimental, and tempestuous. He mourned the death of his first son and doted on his grandchildren but could, one aide recalled, “peel the varnish off a desk” with his temper. Mocked as shallow and inarticulate, he was in fact a meticulous manager.
Admired as a general, he was a champion of peace. In Korea and Vietnam, in Quemoy and Berlin, his generals urged him to wage nuclear war. Time and again he considered the idea and rejected it. And it was Eisenhower who appointed the liberal justices Earl Warren and William Brennan and who then called in the military to enforce desegregation in the schools.
Ike’s Bluff by Evan Thomas
Upon assuming the presidency in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower set about to make good on his campaign promise to end the Korean War. Yet while Eisenhower was quickly viewed by many as a doddering lightweight, behind the bland smile and simple speech was a master tactician. To end the hostilities, Eisenhower would take a colossal risk by bluffing that he might use nuclear weapons against the communist Chinese, while at the same time restraining his generals and advisors who favored the strikes. Ike’s gamble was of such magnitude that there could be but two outcomes: thousands of lives saved, or millions of lives lost.
Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life by Carlo D’Este
In the weeks leading up to D-Day, Dwight D. Eisenhower seethed with nervous energy. He had not expected his military career to bring him to this moment. The son of pacifists, Ike graduated from high school more likely to teach history than to make it. Casting new light on this profound evolution, Eisenhower chronicles the unlikely, dramatic rise of the supreme Allied commander.
Beginning with the lasting effect of Eisenhower’s impoverished youth, bestselling biographer Carlo D’Este follows his subject through West Point and a sometimes troubled marriage; toil under MacArthur in the Philippines during the 1930s; the inner sanctums of the War Department; the general’s painful North African apprenticeship; and, finally, the dramatic events leading to the Allied victory in May 1945.
Exposing for the first time numerous myths that have surrounded the war hero and his family (such as his romance with his wartime driver, Kay Summersby), D’Este also probes Eisenhower’s famous clashes with his American peers and the British chiefs of staff, as well as his relations with legendary figures, including Winston Churchill and George S. Patton.
Eisenhower at War by David Eisenhower
This gem among books on Dwight Eisenhower focuses on his conduct during the war and provides an extensively documented analysis of the political ramifications of the course of the war and Eisenhower’s decisions. The work, a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history, is based on the meticulous reading of voluminous primary sources and amplified by the author’s personal knowledge of his grandfather’s conduct during the war.
David Eisenhower’s riveting account of the hinge of modern history is itself a major event in that history. By showing the decisive impact of Soviet strength not only on the outcome of the war but on the strategic thinking of the Western leaders, this book profoundly recast our perceptions of World War II and its consequences.
The author is the son of John Eisenhower, soldier-diplomat and military historian; and grandson of the soldier-President; and also the son-in-law of Richard Nixon. The book’s more than 1,000 pages cover approximately 18 months: from the opening of the first meeting between Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at Tehran, on Nov. 29, 1943, to the Guildhall address in London, on June 12, 1945, in which Eisenhower defined his posture as a statesman as well as a victorious general.
If you enjoyed this guide to essential books on Dwight Eisenhower, be sure to check out our list of The 10 Best Books on President Franklin D. Roosevelt!