ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Newly discovered documents from a cabin owned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speechwriter are shedding more light on the evolution of the former general’s historic farewell address nearly 50 years ago, and his fears that America’s burgeoning military prowess was driving its foreign policy.

The documents, portions of which appeared on the Eisenhower Presidential Library’s research website before their public unveiling Friday, are expected to shed more light on the origins of the term “military-industrial complex” — phrasing used by Eisenhower in the speech to warn against unbridled military development. The phrase began as “war-based” industrial complex before becoming “military” in later drafts.

Grant Moos, son of Eisenhower aide Malcolm Moos, discovered the papers — covered with pinecones, dirt and other debris — in a cabin in Minnesota.

“We are just so fortunate that these papers were discovered,” said Karl Weissenbach, director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene. “We were finally able to fill in the gaps of the address. For a number of years it was apparent that there were gaps.”

The papers show how Eisenhower and his staff spent two years preparing for his goodbye to the nation and why he decided to include his concern about how America’s military building had come to dictate foreign policy in the speech. One document features a typewritten note from Eisenhower lamenting that when he joined the military in 1911, there were 84,000 Army soldiers — a number that ballooned roughly ten-fold by 1960.

“The direct result of this continued high level of defense expenditures has been to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions, where none had existed before,” he wrote in the passage, a variation of which reached the delivered speech on Jan. 17, 1961.

Eisenhower biographer David Nichols noted that while the speech is known for the phrase “military-industrial complex,” the president had warned about military growth and the Cold War threats throughout his presidency.

“He was always talking about the Cold War and the threat to American values and the danger that America would become a garrison state,” Nichols said. “The military wanted a lot more than he was willing to give them. It frustrated the Army. He thought about it all the time.”

Born in 1890, Eisenhower grew up in Kansas and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy. During World War II, he commanded the Allied Forces in Europe, including the D-Day invasion of France. After the war he became president of Columbia University and the first commander of NATO before running for president 1952, a campaign that featured the slogan “I like Ike.” He died in 1969.

Nichols, who is working on a book about Eisenhower and the Suez Canal Crisis, said historians often overlook the president because of his weak skills as an orator and outward persona. But Nichols said Eisenhower was heavily involved in his speeches, often rewriting them himself up until moments before delivery.

The presidents’ brother, Milton Eisenhower, and Moos’ staff helped him develop his farewell speech.

Milton Eisenhower’s notations are found throughout the rough drafts, including wholesale changes on one prepared just 10 days before the president spoke on television. Weissenbach said Milton Eisenhower was part of the president’s inner circle, along with the president’s son John.

“That to me illustrates how Milton had a take-charge moment where he wasn’t pleased with the direction it was taking and made an overhaul. Obviously he wouldn’t have done it without the blessing of his brother,” Weissenbach said.

Nichols said Milton Eisenhower had a special relationship with his brother throughout his presidency. However, he said, little exists in the public record of his involvement, outside a few memos in the archives.

“Eisenhower kept marvelous records on what he did, in the Oval Office, the hospital, but his conversations with Milton were off the record,” Nichols said. “I only wish and pray that we could uncover some notes.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (10)
  1. mark from mntaxwaste.com says:

    Eisenhower was like no other, the Generals we have today can’t even come close to him. They are held back by rules of engagement and political correctness. Eisenhower went into war to win, and he did mark@mntaxwaste.com

  2. Wayne Johnson says:

    I have to agree Mark, we need more leaders like him today.


  3. Greg Laden says:

    This is outrageous! An article about a cabin in Minnesota that fails to mention the name of the lake! OMG, now I’m going to have to track down the author and find out. Jeesh. I suppose the editor must have been on vacation …

  4. vince says:

    Maybe, just maybe the cabin was in the woods, not near a lake.

  5. Jake says:

    I recently had the opportunity to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. It was phenomenal. I was almost completely unfamiliar with Pres. Eisenhower other than seeing “I Like Ike” buttons from his campaigns.

    From very humble roots (his tiny family home is on the site), he became an effective and compassionate military leader, including insisting that he witness the Holocaust atrocities himself to prevent doubters from refuting the horrific events. This article drives home the point that he was no jingoist or military sycophant. He sounded the alarm in relation to the very enterprise to which he devoted most of his life and career. (If former military officers are this prescient and capable in taking on such matters, maybe more should be considered for civilian office!)

    Perhaps President Eisenhower benefited from pre-dating the media age explosion. Nonetheless, it is disappointing we know so little about a successful, two-term president who appears to have done a very good job. Maybe we’d hear more about him if he had been assassinated, got us mired in Vietnam, resigned, was knocked out after a term, made an arms deal with a terrorist state, had a fling with an intern, stole an election, etc. . . .

  6. Tom says:

    Ten Mile Lake, north of Hackensack, was the Moos’ lake home.

  7. Steve says:

    Greg, I was told recently by a WCCO reporter that they don’t proof read news stories submitted to the web…bad decision IMO

  8. Fascism says:

    Marten Luther King Jr, and Roy Wilkins Praised Eisenhower on “Meet the Press” for passing the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Eisenhower passed two Civil Rights Acts and no one seems to give him credit for his Civil right accomplishments.

    Eisenhower resisted the Vietnam War, and it shows in his Farwell address. But our biased Education System glosses over it.

    President Eisenhower is my Favorite modern President.

  9. Fascism says:

    JFK is on record voting “no” for the 1957 Civil Rights act. A law protecting black people from violence when they vote.

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