Highway 15 starts the trip from Marion Lake to Lawrence, Kansas. US 15 ended for us at US 40 in Abilene. A couple of miles before 40 stands the Eisenhower Library. We have previously visited the George H. W. Bush library in College Station, the LBJ Library in Austin, and Clinton’s in Little Rock. We had to see the library of the first President we remember.
Presidential libraries are privately funded and the history is invariably friendly. Ike’s went heavy on WWII and light on his eight years in the White House. This library’s difference is the scope of the building and its contents. LBJ and Bill Clinton’s libraries are two or three times larger, and George the First’s is half again larger despite Poppy’s single term.
There’s a lot here. I learned that despite becoming one of those rare 5-star generals, he had no combat experience. His first combat command was this one: Commanding General, European Theatre of Operations, based in London. Nearly all of his long military career was spent as a staff officer. He worked for John Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, and some lesser names who were top peacetime generals.
We saw the Cadillac he used in Europe between 1940 and 1952. It was retired with 200,000 miles and was running on its third engine. Imagine a top general today keeping a car for even four years! The museum was heavy on D-Day, including a video on the floating harbor (mulberries) built in England and ferried across the Channel beginning on D-Day plus 1. Pictures are inadequate: they look like pontoon bridges, but the mulberries handled a volume of material that would have required a fully functioning port the size of Cherbourg. Construction of such a port normally required seven to ten years. The mulberries were up and running in ten days.
When Ike left office in 1960, the top income tax rate was 91% on taxable income over $200,000. He warned of the Military-Industrial Complex. And in 1953 not long after his first inauguration he gave his Cross of Iron speech to an audience of newspaper men. Here’s the highlights, a permanent fixture on the wall of his tomb:
“Every gun made, every warship launched is a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers and the genius of its scientists. The cost of one heavy bomber is a modern brick school in more than 30 cities… (or) two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000…. (or) fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life… it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
He was elected as a Republican. Today he sounds like a Democrat.