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.”
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