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Eisenhower 1956

by David. A. Nichols

A gripping tale of international intrigue and betray-al, Eisenhower 1956 is the white-knuckle story of how President Dwight D. Eisenhower guided the United States through the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. The crisis climaxed in a tumultuous nine-day period fraught with peril just prior to the 1956 presidential election, with Great Britain, France, and Israel invading Egypt while the Soviet Union ruthlessly crushed rebellion in Hungary. David A. Nichols, a leading expert on Eisenhower's presidency, draws on hundreds of documents declassified in the last thirty years, enabling the reader to look over Ike's shoulder and follow him day by day, sometimes hour by hour as he grappled with the greatest international crisis of his presidency. The author uses formerly top secret minutes of National Security Council and Oval Office meetings to illuminate a crisis that threatened to escalate into global conflict. Nichols shows how two life-threatening illnesses--Eisenhower's heart attack in September 1955 and his abdominal surgery in June 1956--took the president out of action at critical moments and contributed to missteps by his administration. In 1956, more than two thirds of Western Europe's oil supplies transited the Suez Canal, which was run by a company controlled by the British and French, Egypt's former colonial masters. When the United States withdrew its offer to finance the Aswan Dam in July of that year, Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized the canal. Without Eisenhower's knowledge, Britain and France secretly plotted with Israel to invade Egypt and topple Nasser. On October 29--nine days before the U.S. presidential election--Israel invaded Egypt, setting the stage for a "perfect storm." British and French forces soon began bombing Egyptian ports and airfields and landing troops who quickly routed the Egyptian army. Eisenhower condemned the attacks and pressed for a cease-fire at the United Nations. Within days, in Hungary, Soviet troops and tanks were killing thousands to suppress that nation's bid for freedom. When Moscow openly threatened to intervene in the Middle East, Eisenhower placed American military forces--including some with nuclear weapons--on alert and sternly warned the Soviet Union against intervention. On November 6, Election Day, after voting at his home in Gettysburg, Ike rushed back to the White House to review disturbing intelligence from Moscow with his military advisors. That same day, he learned that the United Nations had negotiated a cease-fire in the Suez war--a result, in no small measure, of Eisenhower's steadfast opposition to the war and his refusal to aid the allies. In the aftermath of the Suez crisis, the United States effectively replaced Great Britain as the guarantor of stability in the Middle East. More than a half century later, that commitment remains the underlying premise for American policy in the region. Historians have long treated the Suez Crisis as a minor episode in the dissolution of colonial rule after World War II. As David Nichols makes clear in Eisenhower 1956, it was much more than that.

A Matter of Justice

by David. A. Nichols

Fifty years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a federal court order desegregating the city's Central High School, a leading authority on Eisenhower presents an original and engrossing narrative that places Ike and his civil rights policies in dramatically new light. Historians such as Stephen Ambrose and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., have portrayed Eisenhower as aloof, if not outwardly hostile, to the plight of African-Americans in the 1950s. It is still widely assumed that he opposed the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandating the desegregation of public schools, that he deeply regretted appointing Earl Warren as the Court's chief justice because of his role in molding Brown, that he was a bystander in Congress's passage of the civil rights acts of 1957 and 1960, and that he so mishandled the Little Rock crisis that he was forced to dispatch troops to rescue a failed policy. In this sweeping narrative, David A. Nichols demonstrates that these assumptions are wrong. Drawing on archival documents neglected by biographers and scholars, including thousands of pages newly available from the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Nichols takes us inside the Oval Office to look over Ike's shoulder as he worked behind the scenes, prior to Brown, to desegregate the District of Columbia and complete the desegregation of the armed forces. We watch as Eisenhower, assisted by his close collaborator, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., sifted through candidates for federal judgeships and appointed five pro-civil rights justices to the Supreme Court and progressive judges to lower courts. We witness Eisenhower crafting civil rights legislation, deftly building a congressional coalition that passed the first civil rights act in eighty-two years, and maneuvering to avoid a showdown with Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, over desegregation of Little Rock's Central High. Nichols demonstrates that Eisenhower, though he was a product of his time and its backward racial attitudes, was actually more progressive on civil rights in the 1950s than his predecessor, Harry Truman, and his successors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Eisenhower was more a man of deeds than of words and preferred quiet action over grandstanding. His cautious public rhetoric -- especially his legalistic response to Brown -- gave a misleading impression that he was not committed to the cause of civil rights. In fact, Eisenhower's actions laid the legal and political groundwork for the more familiar breakthroughs in civil rights achieved in the 1960s. Fair, judicious, and exhaustively researched, A Matter of Justice is the definitive book on Eisenhower's civil rights policies that every presidential historian and future biographer of Ike will have to contend with.

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