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Eisenhower in War and Peace
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Eisenhower in War and Peace

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,229 ratings  ·  173 reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Christian Science Monitor • St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Magisterial.”—The New York Times


In this extraordinary volume, Jean Edward Smith presents a portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower that is as full, rich, and revealing as anything ever written about America’s thirty-fourth president. Here is Eisenhower the young dreamer, charting a...more
ebook, 976 pages
Published February 21st 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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John  Bellamy
Few reputations are more mutable than those of former U. S. presidents. I’m ancient enough to recall the contrasting images of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy that prevailed for several decades after they had passed from the scene: Eisenhower, likeable and grandfatherly but dim, disengaged and increasingly enfeebled; Kennedy, young, dynamic and ever open to fresh ideas and ways of doing things. Not coincidentally, Kennedy’s Camelot halo began dimming just about the time the scholarly r...more
Harold
I didn't know much about Eisenhower, who was president when I was a baby. The 50s always seemed like this backward, but idyllic time; but Eisenhower gets little credit, and is hardly noted. If Jean Smith's book is to be believed (and I have no reason to doubt it), he was a good general, more political than strategic, and a phenomenal president. Where is he today? Here was a president who could accomplish great things and who had great vision without having to announce it to the world. And he had...more
Daniel
Usually when it comes to popular biographies of major historical figures, there's a question of why exactly another biography is necessary after umpteen thousand volumes have been written on the subject. And there are certainly no lack of books on Dwight D. Eisenhower, as a general or as President, but in this case the 'why' is clear. The most influential Eisenhower biographer is Stephen Ambrose, whose writings on DDE included eye-popping revelations like Eisenhower's private doubts about integr...more
Wanda
This is a very detailed but superbly written biography of Dwight Eisenhower. I love histories and biographies the bring their subjects to life, and Smith certainly does that. Bravo to the writing and research. I only have a few minor quibbles with his details. Later.
Smith is even in his treatment of Eisenhower. He admires the man and his contribution to the U.S. and to the war in Europe, but he is also a bit criticial of his also somewhat critical of his military performance, during the North Af...more
Hadrian
Eisenhower is one of the few presidents of the 20th century who is liked by both sides of the increasingly divided political spectrum. The Interstate Highway System, Desegregation, a Budget Surplus, won WWII and ended Korea, put a stop to 'gunboat diplomacy' by the European powers at Suez, and one of the longest consecutive periods of economic growth. His approval rating stayed above 60% for most of his term - astonishing by today's standards.

Such is the nature of presidential administrations in...more
Steve
Smith has a nice flowing style, but at 765 pages, I'll probably pass. The reason can be found in the early warning footnotes. The level of unnecessary detail can be stunning. I'm diligent about reading footnotes, so when I read a footnotes telling me about the six wheel concept behind the York Pullman ( an automobile the young Eisenhower drove), the seemingly complete history of Abilene, and disputes about the origins of the term "Buffalo soldier," I figure I would of been in for a very long and...more
Caroline
I always pick up a Jean Edward Smith book with a sense of anticipation. I wish there was an on-demand service where he could write a biography for all of my favourite historical figures. This one on Eisenhower, like his others on Grant and FDR, is superb. He somehow manages to balance scholarly analysis, balanced appraisal and deep research with an engaging narrative style and a touch of humour, and it makes his books an utter pleasure to read. I wish he'd take on Lincoln or Sherman or RFK.

Eisen...more
Brian Eshleman
This book offers almost 1000 pages on Eisenhower, and I did not feel like I knew him. Good biographies offer such an intimate portrait of the subject's psyche that the reader knows how he or she would react in a different situation, OR they provide such a detailed, textual portrayal of the subject's times that the reader feels like he or she was present in them. Great biographies offer both. This one falls short on both counts.

Eisenhower is so magisterial and fascinating that whatever fraction o...more
Marks54
This is a well done and long biography that sets out to make a point - that contrary to popular opinion, even among those who read history, Eisenhower was the second most effective US president in the 20th century - after FDR. The author is clear in making his interpretive points, even while providing a carefully documented and reasonable account. The key to the argument is Smith's view that Eisenhower's top management skills, his moderation, and his ability to forge consensus were the key eleme...more
Elgin
Having read extensively about WWII, I have always admired Eisenhower for his amazing leadership associated with the D-Day landings in France. When I heard this book reviewed on NPR I knew that I had to read it, though it took a year to get my hands on it. DDE lived an amazing life, from his humble beginnings in Abilene, Kansas, through his rise in the military, through his years as President. Like all of us, DDE made some mistakes and in the position he was in these mistakes cost lives. But he t...more
Harry Lane
Eisenhower is a well-known public figure, and the broad outline of his life is well known. There have been earlier biographies as well, so one should not expect any startling revelations from this new biography, and indeed there are none. That said, this is by far the best and most complete narrative of Eisenhower's life and times. Smith provides a number of details about Ike's early career that have been glossed over, such as his use of Army mentors to obtain favorable assignments. Smith's acco...more
H Wesselius
An excellent and thorough biography of man who stood in the center of modern American history. The author critically outlines his less than stellar military career where the proximity of friends and mentors to the trappings of power helped propel Eisenhower to the top despite errors in judgement. From his success in Europe, the author then moves to his more stellar political career. Its here where Eisenhower's pragmatic and calm personality shaped by the military is put to good use. From the aut...more
Nikki
I don’t read very many biographies, and those I do read tend most often to have a great deal of history in them. I also prefer to read biographies written after the dust has settled and some historical perspective has been achieved. Jean Edward Smith’s book on Eisenhower fits the bill – disconcerting though it was to think of my childhood as history. But that comes later.

Smith’s portrait of Eisenhower’s childhood contains elements that seem to be common to a number of presidents – a weak, unsucc...more
Mike
A fantastic read about one of the great Americans in history. I had read very little about Eisenhower before this book, and I now realize how much I have been missing out on the knowledge of a great figure.

This book covers all of Ike's life with the first third focused on his career and rise to power, the second third on his time during World War II, and the third third on his Presidency. Ike's rise through the Army was not terribly interesting, but reading about a peace time army is not exciti...more
Ed
I read much of this book on the 8 hour flight across the Atlantic. It is long but very readable and now in the run up to the 2012 election is a very good time to read it. I like military history and thought his account of Ike's military career excellent and well balanced, often seeing his failures as well as his successes. But it is the Presidential years that are most relevant today. I think Eisenhower was probably the second great President of the 20th century, after Franklin Roosevelt and way...more
Jack
Great book. My eyes glaze over with regards to military maneuvers, but I loved the life story of this great and lucky man.
Two interesting things: 1) he made more mistakes as a military leader than I had previously realized; 2) he was a sneakier politician than I previously realized; and 3) he had a better, albeit imperfect, moral compass on race matters than I had previously realized.
A fair book, a pleasure to read. The US seems to have been largely lucky to have this guy in important leadershi...more
Chris
Most recent in the "Awesome Presidents" series that JES seems fixated on. Shockingly readable prose meets hugely long series of world events where Ike does mostly the right thing but occasionally screws up. I came away impressed with Ike's political skills, relative lack of military intuition, and subtly "progressive" political bias. The coverage of his presidency was particularly engrossing, especially his crisis management skills (first rate) and the political backdrop (eerily reminiscent of t...more
John
I've read a lot about Ike. I spent two summers as a seasonal National Park Ranger at his farm near Gettysburg in the mid-80's, and back then there seemed to be two treatments of him: hagiographies, or works that praised the soldier and criticized the aloof President. Smith paints Ike as less than a perfect soldier (although a talented consensus builder), but a much better President than many believed. He revisits many of Ike's challenges, recognizes the benefits Ike received from senior mentors,...more
Tom
My gratitude for this book exceeds whatever I might say: Smith is, of course, a remarkable biographer and writer (though his "acknowledgements" credit a host of folks who have contributed to this book's success). There were times I found my heart racing as Smith recounted the days before D-Day, and the fateful days when President Eisenhower was making decisions regarding Indochina, Iran, Guatemala and Suez. The chapter on Little Rock was riveting.

For me, his Indochina and Suez decisions were rig...more
judy
Seriously impressed by the biographer--although no one could make Ike exciting. That was really the point, however. Eisenhower had some unusual gifts that allowed him to be a superior leader--when he saw the need to be. His military training taught him to delegate and he did that easily without hovering. When a decision had to be made, however, he made it himself without consulting anyone and took full responsibility. Like any great leader, his understanding of and response to people was virtual...more
Arden
An excellent book - it gave a insightful biography of the man and also greatly increased my understanding of how the military operates. Was amazed to learn that twice during his presidency military leaders were calling for use of the atomic bomb and he would not allow this to happen.

Favorite quote from him is "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 not clothed. This wo...more
Brian
I have read a lot of biographies in my time, this is one of the best I have read along with David McCullough's John Adams. Dwight Eisenhower was a complex person. Even his wife admitted she probably never knew him. The book takes you through his whole life, his rise through the army ranks, his time in World War II, President of Columbia University, the head of NATO, and President of the United States. The book really made me understand how complex of a leader Ike really was and made me wish for...more
Laurie
Ike is now my favorite president. And I'm not a republican!
Anne-Marie
This is an excellent biography. Eisenhower was a lot more complex than I gave him credit. And while Smith is clearly an admirer, his admiration is for deeds that display Eisenhower's courage and character, even in the face of pervasive opinion to the contrary: resisting Joe McCarthy's coarse perniciousness, quickly passing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, as a recession threatened to set progress back by a decade; reducing the federal debt over the course of his 8 years in office; and facili...more
Chris
Before reading this book, most of what I knew about Ike was from WWII history books and my own synthesis of various bits of information I collected from hearing my relatives talk about their impressions of him. I also knew that Ike signed some important environmental legislation (not mentioned in this book); and I had read about his often-criticized lack of ardor on getting the civil rights legislation up and running. Here is what I think of Ike now: While he was, in his genes, a true conservati...more
Josh Liller
A small history discussion group I belong to chose Dwight Eisenhower as our next topic. Having previously read and enjoyed Jean Edward Smith's Grant I chose to read his biography of Ike.

Smith certainly seems qualified to write about Eisenhower, having written previous biographies of his contemporaries Franklin Roosevelt and Lucius Clay, plus the aforementioned of Ulysses Grant biography. Eisenhower, Grant, and Washington are the only three generals turned two-term presidents in US history.

This h...more
Regina
First I think we'd have a much saner political dialogue if we knew a little more history, myself included. Before reading this, I didn't know much about Eisenhower, other than the main points: WWII general, president, started the highway system, and somewhat involved with desegregation. Some things that stood out for me:

-He hated the atomic/nuclear bomb, and refused to use it three times when advised to do so by the Joint Chiefs: in Vietnam, in China/Taiwan, and in Korea. By doing this, he set a...more
Jeff
I have been reading this book on and off for six months, I had the book on my shelf for a year before I ever got to it. It seems that even on my reading list Dwight David Eisenhower gets no respect. This book gains a five star rating from me not only because Smith is a very strong biographer, he is, but because the amount of information presented is what one should expect from a tome of this size and depth. In the last decade or so historians have been reviewing and rethinking the Presidency of...more
Joe
For those familiar with this author’s previous books on John Marshall, U.S. Grant and FDR, you know Smith’s biographies are thorough detailed narratives, filled with anecdotes and first-hand accounts, analyses of the historical record, some personal opinion, a little wit and – yes – lengthy. The books are also very readable and engaging. Eisenhower In War And Peace is no exception and a very worthy addition to this author’s legacy and - I won’t be the only one to note this – timely – particularl...more
J.
Eisenhower not only commanded the Allied forces that won WWII in Europe, he was "the only president in the twentieth century to preside over eight years of peace and prosperity." (pg 550) He got America out of the Korean conflict and mostly managed to steer a course that kept Cold War tensions with the USSR from exploding at a time when his advisors regularly advocated using atomic weapons against enemies. At home he balanced the budget and desegregated the nation's schools, and retained a very...more
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191016
Currently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto after having served as professor of political economy there for thirty-five years. Smith also currently serves as professor of history and government at Ashland University.

A graduate of McKinley High School in Washington, D.C., Smith received an A.B. from Prin...more
More about Jean Edward Smith...
Grant FDR John Marshall: Definer of a Nation Lucius D. Clay: An American Life George Bush's War

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