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Encore Presentation: Interview With John Eisenhower

Aired June 8, 2003 - 21:00   ET


DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we can have peace with honor, reasonable security with national sovereignty. I believe in the future of the United States of America.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, President Dwight Eisenhower's son tells us about the man behind the headlines, a unique, a personal perspective on the former president and World War II supreme commander, the man the world called Ike. Tonight, hear from the man who called him Dad. President Dwight Eisenhower's only surviving son, John Eisenhower, is next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.


KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to this edition of LARRY KING LIVE a man who carries the name that could be a burden, in a sense, one of the great names in the history of America, both militarily and politically. John Eisenhower is the surviving son of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower, a retired brigadier general in the Army reserve, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium. He's a best-selling author and military historian. And a new book is out that he's written called "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence."

Tell me the overall view of the book, "A Personal Reminiscence."

JOHN EISENHOWER, AUTHOR, "GENERAL IKE": Well, in other words, why I wrote it.

KING: Yes.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, I've read so many histories that seem so bare-bones, and the Ike they portrayed wasn't quite the Ike I knew. Of course, I have a certain prejudice. But I thought that it should be pointed out, for sake of whoever was to read it, how well these people got along. They're always pictured in the history books as being at each other's throats...


KING: Eisenhower and Patton and Montgomery and...

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, Montgomery. Yes. And actually, they were a very -- quite a band of brothers, really, at the height of the -- at the very...

KING: Would you say this book is setting the record straight?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, sort of. It's a contribution to that, a little different angle. For example, the relations between the United States and Britain, or the British officers and the America. After Dad -- after the war was over, I can think of at least three instances when my dad went to London and the prime minister threw a great big party for all his old British comrades. He was very fond of them. They were fond of him. It was a great reunion, better reunion than they had anywhere else. And since I knew some of these people -- I knew Patton pretty well, I think, and was exposed to others -- I just thought I would put...


KING: ... and we'll talk about a lot of them. You're the second son. The first son died?

J. EISENHOWER: The first son died at Camp Meade, Maryland, which is now Ft. Meade, scarlet fever, Christmas, 1920. It was a very, very crushing thing to my folks, and my dad carried it to his grave. He was -- they moved my brother's body from Denver to Abilene, where Dad's buried. He took it very hard.

KING: And then along came John. You were a brigadier general in World War II. Where did you serve?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, no! I was a lieutenant in World War II.

KING: Oh, a lieutenant in...


KING: Where -- did you see action?

J. EISENHOWER: No. No. I was in Europe. I've never been very proud of this, but all the generals were afraid to have me in their commands, so...

KING: It's a rather familiar name.

J. EISENHOWER: So when the 71st Division landed at Le Havre on February 6, 1945, next thing I knew, I was in General Bradley's office, being given another assignment of something that he was interested in. So I felt bad. I felt like a shirker...


KING: Did you ask for action?

J. EISENHOWER: No. If that was their policy, I wasn't going to fight them.

KING: Like a good military man.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, yes. Sure. I went where I was -- but you know, it wound up to my benefit, in many ways.

KING: Because?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, because I saw things. I was up on the Elbe River, where just the day after the Americans met up with the Russians...

KING: Wow.

J. EISENHOWER: ... I went through Buchenwald...


J. EISENHOWER: ... and had that terrible experience, and I think...

KING: Saw a concentration camp...

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.

KING: ... soon after it was...


KING: Geez.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, it was terrible.

KING: Now, let's get into some things. Your father was jumped over a lot of people to be made supreme commander, right?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.

KING: He was not No. 1 in line. Was it Marshall or Roosevelt or both?

J. EISENHOWER: No, Marshall. Absolutely Marshall.

KING: Now, what did he see in your dad?

J. EISENHOWER: He saw a sympatico soul. He saw somebody who would take responsibility for him. And they hit it off right away, as much as a four-star general and a brigadier general hit it off.

KING: Your father was a brigadier general when...

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir.

KING: When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor...


KING: ... he was a brigadier general.

J. EISENHOWER: And he was down at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, San Antonio. But he was called to the War Department because he was an expert on the Philippine defense. He'd been out with General MacArthur for four years, building the Philippine army. So one week after Pearl Harbor, he was called to Washington. And he always wanted to be with troops. He was angling with Patton to see if he could get a command under Patton, but it didn't happen.

KING: Under Patton?

J. EISENHOWER: Under -- oh, sure. Patton was his, oh, six-year senior or something like that. They were good friends, very good friends in the 1920s, early 1920s. But when Pearl Harbor hit, you don't put your own interests first.

KING: They were sympatico, but Patton -- Marshall had to see something in your father that told him, I'm going to take this brigadier general and put him in charge of World War II.

J. EISENHOWER: It was amazing, really. You know, my dad was a lieutenant colonel at Ft. Lewis on the 3rd of March, 1941. Fifteen months later, he was commanding a theater of war.

KING: Yes. That's amazing.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, what happened is that after Marshall gave him his first oral test -- What do we do out in the Philippines? We can't give them MacArthur. Dad gave them this run-down, says, That's what I think. Now make it work. War Plans, that was his job, War Plans. And later on, Marshall upped the status of War Plans and called it Operations Division. That was -- that made it a command, so he could be promoted. And the old man took a lot of responsibility. He was -- matter of fact, he was always sort of pushing the envelope on his authority.

KING: Your father was ambitious?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. Yes, and he was also -- took things on himself. The one story that's sort of hair-raising was his decision to send the Queen Mary, the luxury liner which was converted to a troop ship -- send a whole division on the Queen Mary to Australia without telling Marshall. And then when he -- well, when he finally got around to telling Marshall, say, yes, I know you're busy, boss, but here's what I just did -- and Marshall thought that was great. Sort of a risk, I suppose. Marshall thought it was great, and so he finally figured, This is a guy that I can depend on.

KING: Trust.

Our guest is John Eisenhower, the son of Dwight Eisenhower. The book is "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence." We'll be right back.


D. EISENHOWER: But all these agree with me in the selection of a truly heroic figure in this war. He is G.I. Joe. He has braved the dangers of U-boat-infested seas. He has surmounted charges into desperately defended beaches. He has fought his tedious, patient way through the ultimate in fortified zones. His companion has been danger. Death has dogged his footsteps. He and his platoon commanders have given us an example of loyalty, devotion to duty and indomitable courage that will live in our hearts as long as we admire those qualities in men.



KING: This is a personal memoir, of course, and it's written by a son who loved his father. But he's also, John Eisenhower, a noted military historian.

So you had to be objective in many areas, did you not, because that's what good military historians do?

J. EISENHOWER: I think I've achieved that pretty well. Pretty well. Naturally, I am going to see things pretty much as my dad saw them. As a matter of fact, I think that was one of the purposes of the book. I think he saw things a little different than other people, and I sort of reflect that, to some extent.

KING: Was General Patton ticked when your father jumped way above him and everybody else?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. Yes. But not -- not terribly because they were -- you see, when they were at Camp Meade just after the war, the Army...

KING: World War I?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, yes, sir. The Army's tank corps was divided into one brigade of heavy tanks, one brigade of light tanks. Patton had the light tanks, Dad had the heavy tanks. So they were -- they were...

KING: Buddies.

J. EISENHOWER: They were buddies and co-workers. They...

KING: But your dad had to scold him?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, that's later.

KING: I know.

J. EISENHOWER: But at that time, Patton used to say, You're going to be the Lee in the next war, and I'm going to be your Stonewall Jackson. He was saying then that...

KING: Oh, really?

J. EISENHOWER: ... Dad would be his superior.

KING: So he knew.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, he had... KING: Your father's capability.

J. EISENHOWER: He had a sense of it, yes. Yes. So then, when Dad went to War Plans and Patton would drop in, he would see that this young fellow's influence was growing a little bit. And so he dropped all of his offers to bring him under him. And finally, when Dad went to Europe and wanted Patton (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he was still -- there was still a little psychology of the old Army seniority...

KING: Yes.

J. EISENHOWER: ... that he didn't want to ask for Patton as his subordinate. So he hinted all over the place until Marshall decided to send Patton. And Dad said, What a great choice.

KING: It has been said of -- the historians I've interviewed over the years have told me that one of the reasons Eisenhower was the perfect choice for that job is that he was a great conciliator. He could bring disparate groups together. True?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. I -- in my epilogue, where I'm evaluating my dad, I said that he had the power to make concessions. And you know...


J. EISENHOWER: It takes a lot of power to be able to make concessions. I put him in a category with Churchill, de Gaulle and dad could all make concessions. Almost nobody else could make concessions.

KING: We were lucky, were we not, in World War II to have so many great men alive at the same time?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. I don't see any reason why the -- basically they should be built any different than the people today, but they had different circumstances.

KING: That's right. We don't know what would happen today if there were a world-wide conflict, who would rise to the occasion. Where are the Eisenhowers today?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. Well, they would be there if they had the same circumstances.

KING: Did your dad get along with MacArthur?

J. EISENHOWER: That is a very long story, and that's one reason why I wrote this book. Now, people will say to me, Your dad and MacArthur hated each other. My dad had the greatest admiration for MacArthur when they were working together in Washington before the Philippines. And Dad used to talk with absolute awe about MacArthur's brain. He said to me one time, he says, You know, this fellow can take a sheet of paper and he can skid right down that sheet of paper, set it aside, and recite it to you word for word. He was amazed. He also was very conscious of MacArthur's symbol to the armies as a great soldier. And he got sore, and he said his piece when he got sore. He got sore when he thought MacArthur was making a little bit of a fool of himself and damaging MacArthur's image.

KING: Because MacArthur had an enormous ego.


KING: And your father had to deal with that ego.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, you had two egos there.

KING: Your father had one, too?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, God, yes! You have to have an ego to be that size a general.

KING: Is it also true that your father's first consideration was minimal loss of men?

J. EISENHOWER: Absolutely.

KING: I've read that many times.

J. EISENHOWER: I think that's one of the things that makes it almost different from most generals. I think he felt every death much harder than others did.


WALTER CRONKITE, CBS NEWS: One of the most famous pictures of D- Day was of you talking to the paratroopers in their camouflage. And one of the versions of that visit, I think, said that as you turned away, this reporter saw a tear in your eye.

D. EISENHOWER: Well, I don't know about that. It could have been possible. Because look, here's the kind of an operation you start. You know there are going to be losses along the line. They're going to be bad. Because we knew this -- there were mobile troops, German troops in that area, with all sorts of flak -- you know, the anti-aircraft stuff. And there could easily have been fighters coming into these helpless troop carriers. It's -- I would think, if a man didn't show a bit of emotion, it would show that he probably was a little bit inhuman.


J. EISENHOWER: Twenty years after D-Day, he made the television program with Walter Cronkite.

KING: Yes, I remember that. Walking the beach.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. And well, he would be -- and sitting there. That's quite a bit of philosophy about these boys that never grew up, and so forth. KING: He felt the pain of every boy he lost, right?

J. EISENHOWER: He did. He did, yes.

KING: Where were you on D-Day?

J. EISENHOWER: Believe it or not, I graduated from West Point that day.

KING: The 3rd of June? It would be a June...


KING: June 6, 1944.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, sir. Yes. And some wags said that Dad put off the invasion for a day that coincided with my graduation, which is, of course, foolishness.

KING: Did your dad ever fear losing World War II? Did he ever express doubts about how well we would stack up with...

J. EISENHOWER: No, I don't -- I think -- I don't think he ever had doubts. I think that's one thing that he admired about President Roosevelt. Dad used to say, He's never had a doubt in his mind.

KING: Optimism was Roosevelt's -- they got along, didn't they.

J. EISENHOWER: They had very little contact. General Marshall was the...

KING: In between.

J. EISENHOWER: ... intermediary. And he saved Dad's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think, possibly, once anyway.

KING: What happened?

J. EISENHOWER: You remember we invaded North Africa in 1942, November.

KING: Against Rommel.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. But North Africa was under the authority of the Vichy French government headed by Marshal Petain, collaborationist with Hitler.

KING: A traitor.


KING: Considered a traitor.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. Yes. And -- but the people -- the French army in North Africa obeyed his orders. So when they landed and the French resisted, it just so happened that his head of his armed forces -- Petain's -- was in Algiers. Dad made a deal with him: I'll let you be the head man in North Africa. Stop your men from fighting. It worked. The liberals -- and everybody else, I suppose -- in the United States and Britain just got terribly upset. So Dad wrote a letter explaining what he did. He says, Generals can be fired, politicians can't. But I did what I had to do. Marshall took to it Roosevelt. Roosevelt said -- gave him his blessing.

KING: We'll be right back with John Eisenhower. The book is "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence." Don't go away.


J. EISENHOWER: On D-Day, my own son graduated from West Point. And after his training with his division, he came over with the 71st Division. But that was some time after this event. But on the very day he was graduating, these men came here, British and our other allies and Americans, to storm these beaches for one purpose only. Not to gain anything for ourselves, not to fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest, but just to preserve freedom.



KING: We're back. We are told constantly, John, that Montgomery, the head of the British, was a bane in everyone's -- no one got along with him and he was an egocentric, and Patton hated him and Eisenhower didn't get along with him. What about your father and Montgomery?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, that's -- some of my friends say that's the favorite chapter in the book, Ike and Monty -- "Ike's Dynamic Headache," or something like that. And they really didn't work together until he got to Europe. North Africa, there was always Alexander in between them. I've never quite figured out Montgomery. We know he was a very capable general. He went out of his way to be just as impolite and insolent as he could be.

KING: Out of his way to be...

J. EISENHOWER: Out of his way -- oh, yes -- to be rude. Oh, yes. There was a policy, I think -- I don't know why he was that way. But Dad made most of the concessions on small stuff. No question about that.

KING: He could handle him, in other words.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, he didn't -- he didn't worry about little slights and whatnot. He would go to Montgomery's headquarters, instead of the other way around. And Montgomery, sometimes the meetings, wouldn't even go. He'd send his chief of staff, who was very popular. And they did work -- they worked well together. Pretty well.

KING: Is there anyone your father didn't work well with?

J. EISENHOWER: He got rid of them, if they didn't.

KING: So we don't know who...

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, there were some. There was a general in North Africa just after the Casserine (ph) Pass who got a boat ride home.

KING: Did he get along with Bradley?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, yes. Hand and glove.

KING: I knew Omar Bradley.


KING: Yes. I met him at the racetrack. Where else?

J. EISENHOWER: Is that so!

KING: And he loved horses.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, well, they -- they played football together at West Point. And yes, Brad was sort of a mainstay for Dad.

KING: Your father maintained a concept with Montgomery of giving Montgomery the little things.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, and then insisting on the big things. Now, Montgomery was always trying to get himself appointed overall ground commander. And I think Ike saw overall -- being supreme commander with an overall ground commander under is like being a constitutional monarch. So he said, Nothing doing. And so Monty didn't get that.

But I -- after Monty put out his memoirs, he came to visit the White House -- on his own invitation -- later on. They worked well and SHAPE (ph) together in NATO. But then, in 1958, Montgomery wrote a set of memoirs. It was a funny thing because he said the most lavish praise about Dad. He said, when he comes to Washington he goes to the Lincoln Memorial, and then he goes to see Dad and he gets the same inspiration from both of them. But he also said that, If he'd done what I'd told him to do, the war would have ended six months earlier. So that was the end of that communication.


KING: People forget, Eisenhower was commander of NATO...


KING: ... SHAPE, president of Columbia University, president of the United States. Not a bad -- not a bad legacy. Tell me about Eisenhower and Churchill.

J. EISENHOWER: They were really a remarkable pair. It's a -- you've got a strange situation when you look at the organizational charts because here's a head of government, and he was the other head of government. They have a supreme commander under them. But in many cases, Dad and Churchill had to work hand in glove on an almost equal basis.

There is one example. Churchill wanted to watch the D-Day landings from a ship, a British ship. Dad said, No, no. You're too valuable to do that. You can't do that. Churchill says, Oh, I've got a right to do that. Dad says, You're putting too much of a burden on me to do that. Boy, Churchill really got angry then. Says, I'm your boss. Well, finally, Dad got the king to intervene and got his way. But the thing is...

KING: The king to...

J. EISENHOWER: The king. He had to commit the king, yes. But...

KING: Did he get -- he knew Churchill better than he knew Roosevelt, then.

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, much better.

KING: They spent more time together.

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, he hardly -- he saw Roosevelt maybe half a dozen times in his life. He was with Churchill twice a week or more. He just loved Churchill.

KING: About de Gaulle, Churchill said, "The greatest cross I bear is the cross of Lorraine."


KING: Your father got along with de Gaulle?

J. EISENHOWER: That's a great story. That's a great story because de Gaulle became my dad's greatest supporter in the presidency. When the U-2 went down and Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, Khrushchev was raising hell over there in Paris, de Gaulle came up behind him and says, I'm always with you. Touchy. But they started off as enemies because we had our own Frenchman we wanted to put in charge in North Africa and didn't think that de Gaulle's headquarters was trustworthy, so we didn't even tell them we were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) It started off badly.

But by the time of D-Day, my dad realized that the French would follow de Gaulle, the French resistance. So from that time on, even though they had disagreements, and fairly major ones, their mutual esteem was always -- they were always -- they -- their letters full of mutual esteem, as well as disagreements.

KING: We'll be right back with John Eisenhower. The book is "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence." He was the former United States ambassador to Belgium. Don't go away.


KING: He was the former United States ambasador to Belguim.



D. EISENHOWER: A landing was made this morning on the coast of France but troops of the allied expendationary force. This landing is but the opening phase of the campaign in Western Europe. Great battles lie ahead. I call upon all who love freedom of you to stand with us now. Keep your faith strong. Together we shall achieve victory.


KING: We're back and John wants to talk a little more about President De Gaulle.

J. EISENHOWER: What an amazing fellow. When France fell in 1940, De Gaulle was a temporary brigadier general. He was perminate brigadier general. He said enough things, he opposed surrender enough, Churchill took him out of France and took him to London. He proclaimed himself as the head of France. The next day. He had not a thing in the world but bluff and his own ego, his own will. And by god, by the time French, by the time the war was over, we had -- he just took over France the second we landed. He took over charge of it.

KING: Was he a good military man?

J. EISENHOWER: I think so, yes. I feel quite sentimental about De Gaulle. I think dad's favorite was Churchill. He loved Churchill.

KING: Your father also got along with Zhukov, the Russian general, did he not?


KING: He got along with everybody?

J. EISENHOWER: Not quite everybody.

KING: But Zhukov he got along with?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, but they were fellow soldiers. They both commanded big armies, they were both outgoing, fellows. I went on a trip with the two of them to Moscow, August of 1945 when the war was just over. Zhukov was the host. And they got up in front of the crowd in the soccer stadium, and put their arms around each other, by gosh the people went wild, the Russians did. That was just before the honeymoon ended.

KING: Did Eisenhower know Stalin?

J. EISENHOWER: I think, I'm probably the only living American who ever met Stalin.

KING: Really?

J. EISENHOWER: I think so. Now.

KING: Where was the occasion?

J. EISENHOWER: The Kremlin on that trip.

KING: You went with your father?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. I was his suitcase carrier.

KING: He was a small man wasn't he?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, rotund. Looked rather sleepy than at point. But that's when his great murdering days were over I guess.

KING: Can you discuss at all the stories of your father and that woman?

J. EISENHOWER: No. No, I don't put anybody's personal affairs. But she was not important.

KING: She was not? He always loved your mom?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. If you're alone three years, you're likely to make a companion out of your aide. She was the companion. But people think there was some great romance. Nothing like that.

KING: What was it like when you went into the concentration camp having never heard of this, I presume or had you heard rumors?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, I found out about it from my dad. The night of August of April 13th, he was at 1st Army and I found myself sent for -- I was busy. Went back to 1st Army because somebody told me to and Dad said, what the hell are you doing here? I said, You sent for me. Well, somebody had got eager. But that night he told me about going to Audorf, that is right next to the city of Gota, on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) east-west across Germany. And he told about it. He was there when it had just been taken. He said George Patton was with him, got sick.

KING: I heard that, threw up.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. Then dad made sure that people knew about it. Boy, he sent back invitations to Congressmen and the press and everything like that.

KING: What was it like when you saw it?

J. EISENHOWER: He told me about it. So when I heard about Buchenwald, I went to that. The stench wasn't there, but the bodies were piled up. And the hate was still there. There was three healthy looking bodies lying, a stack of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) corpses. And these prisoners were standing there kicking it. Kicking these bodies. Somebody yelled out, American officer, and here comes Lieutenant John with the camera. They all parted company, so they wanted me to take pictures. When I had finished taking pictures, they said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We had a lot of Belgians in that camp. So, they went back to kicking the corpses again. One little -- I spoke a little French, this one little Belgian showed me all about it. And I couldn't really look a German in the face for some months after that.

KING: The decision in Europe for unconditional surrender was that Roosevelt's, Churchill's, your dad's, everyone?

J. EISENHOWER: Roosevelt's.

KING: Gave them no conditions?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. He took a page out of Ulysses S. Grant's book from Fort Donaldson. And he claimed afterward that just popped into his head, the Casablanca conference where they met the press. And Churchill had no particular options so he went along. Everybody came along. And of course, that's been criticized. But I don't see it. I don't see a negotiated surrender with Germany.

KING: Was your dad shocked over the atom bomb, or did he know about it?

J. EISENHOWER: Dad found out about the atom bomb on approximately the 13th of July, '45, something like that

KING: A month before?

J. EISENHOWER: I was with him. Yes, before it was dropped.

KING: He knew it was coming?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes. He was at a conference, I was with him, but I wasn't in on conference of course. And Secretary of War Henry Stimson (ph) said he had just spent $2 billion of unauthorized money for this thing and told about the characteristics of it.

KING: A secret?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, a big secret. And so when he told him about the capabilities, we sat up there in my dad's bedroom. Had his little .32 pistol by his bed. He sat there, shook his head, he said, two of those would have wiped out my Normandy bridgehead. That was all he could think of. That was our limited imagination at that time.

KING: My guess is John Eisenhower. The book "General Ike, A Personal Reminiscence."

We'll talk about Ike after the war after this.


D. EISENHOWER: In January 1943, the late President Roosevelt and Premier Churchill met in Casablanca. There, they pronounced the formula of unconditional surrender for the Axis powers. In Europe, that formula has now been fulfilled. This unconditional surrender has been achieved by teamwork. To every subordinate that has been in this command of almost five million allies, I owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.




D. EISENHOWER: Comrades in arms and my friends, the uniform services of the United States are far too deeply embedded in my heart for me ever to say a final goodbye. I hope you allow me to say, until we meet again.


KING: The war ends. Did Ike want to leave service?


KING: He was ready to...

J. EISENHOWER: He considered the high point of his life the death of Hitler and the surrender of Admiral Friedberg and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and whatnot on the 8th of May. V-E was the highpoint of his life.

KING: Before they had the break, Truman And Eisenhower, when Eisenhower ran, they didn't talk to each other on the day your father became president? They sat in the car and didn't speak?

J. EISENHOWER: No, that's not quite true.

KING: I've read that there was a lot of acrimony.

J. EISENHOWER: There was acrimony. yes. Acrimony didn't start, though, until the political campaign.

KING: Yes.

J. EISENHOWER: But after all -- now...


KING: Before that, they were friendly.

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, yes, and dad supported him against the Republicans in...

KING: '48? When Truman...

J. EISENHOWER: no, when they organized NATO and sent all these divisions to Europe.

KING: And the Marshall plan?


KING: Yes.

J. EISENHOWER: But dad was -- he was a great supporter of Truman's against the Republicans at that time. Of course, he didn't have a party at that time either.

But during the campaign, dad had to run against an incumbent administration, and that was Truman.

KING: Steve Hansen was running but he had to run against Truman.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, he couldn't run against Stevenson. So there's acrimony there.

KING: Did they ever resolve it?

J. EISENHOWER: They -- at the Kennedy funeral, they had a nice visit.

KING: Oh really?

J. EISENHOWER: The two of them sitting over the Blair House.

KING: That's a nice...

J. EISENHOWER: ...and then I visited President Truman just before he died in '72. But...

KING: Did your father like politics?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, he claimed he didn't. Oh, no -- but I think it beat retirement.

KING: He had the most winning smile. The "We like Ike" campaign was one of the, I mean, great -- those buttons are historic.




KING: But did he like -- I bet like asking for money.

J. EISENHOWER: He was above that. He didn't have to do that. No, it was very quick. He came home in June, and the election was -- it was only a month before the nomination, when he came home from Paris.

KING: The whole country didn't know if he was a Republican or Democrat. There were rumors Truman was trying to get him to run on the Democratic ticket.

J. EISENHOWER: He was. He was. He was. I have a copy of a letter Truman wrote just a few months earlier saying, What are your plans? They may affect my plans.

KING: What was it like to have a father as president?

J. EISENHOWER: Inconvenient.

It didn't bother me too much, really, at the time, because I was a major of infantry when dad went into the White House. I didn't grow up there.

KING: I remember reading about you.

J. EISENHOWER: Well, that day, that Inauguration Day, dad asked President Truman, when he was in the car, he says, "Who ordered my son home from Korea?" Truman said, "Tell him that crotchety old man in the White House did."

KING: That was a nice gesture on Truman's part.

J. EISENHOWER: Very nice. Very nice. And so that was -- that was about all they said of a friendly nature.

KING: Was having that name a plus for you?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, it's given me some advantages. It got me my first -- I'm sure that my first book would not have been picked up or published if it hadn't been for dad's name and the Battle of the Bulge.

But I think the problem presidential children have is that we tend to take responsibility on ourselves for every mistake your fathers made. I think that's almost universal.

KING: Really?

J. EISENHOWER: I think so. I feel very bad about some of dad's mistakes.

KING: There were some, but not many.

J. EISENHOWER: No, not many, but there were some.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with John Eisenhower. The book is "General Ike: A personal reminiscence."

Don't go away.


D. EISENHOWER: History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. We must acquire proficiency in defense and display stamina in purpose. We must be willing, individually and as a nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.



KING: We're back with our remaining moments with John Eisenhower, the surviving son of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower.

How about your mom? What was she like? Mamie?

J. EISENHOWER: Well, I think essentially, she marched to her own drummer. She was a very complicated person, not in good health at all. She always had a bad heart. And despite of that, she lived to 83. She didn't really care much what people thought, as long as she did what she wanted to do.

KING: Had a mind of her own?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, she did. Rather amazing that way.

KING: What was your father's life like after the presidency?


KING: He lived 11 years -- nine years?

J. EISENHOWER: Eight or something. A letdown.

But he had one -- since the Republicans had lost the 1960 election, he was still considered the grand old man of the party. So they kept him busy the party.

And I went to Gettysburg and served as managing editor on his White House memoirs, which was a great experience. Got me started writing.

KING: I remember a famous picture of him and Kennedy taking a walk at Camp David.

J. EISENHOWER: I was there for that.

KING: He called him for advice, right?

J. EISENHOWER: After he got in trouble. Not before.

KING: Was golf his favorite activity?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, God, yes, I should say so. That practice green outside...

KING: Putting green on the lawn.

J. EISENHOWER: He'd go out there and practice sand traps for an hour in the evening, 5:00, 6:00, he'd go out, practice sand traps or putting, 6:00 to 7:00 he'd be talking with his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, then go home for dinner.

KING: How old was he at death?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh he was 78.

KING: Were you with him?

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, I was right there at the corner of the bed.

KING: Where'd he die, at home?

J. EISENHOWER: At Walter Reed. David was there too.

KING: What was that like?

J. EISENHOWER: Well it's never fun. But he had such an awful time, he wanted to go.

KING: Oh yes?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, yes. He had congestive heart failure, he was drowning. I told him the night before that he was improving and he just winced. He was in command. He was telling us, pull me up, pull the shades up, pull the shades down. Then he said, I want to go, God, take me. By God they gave him a shot and that was it.

KING: Was he a good father?

J. EISENHOWER: For an Army father, I think so. He was a pretty reasonable guy. We worked together very well. We were not the kind that goes fishing together every Saturday, that sort of thing.

KING: Did you know you were loved?

J. EISENHOWER: He didn't make it very obvious most of the time.

KING: You sure respected him though, right?

J. EISENHOWER: Oh, yes, God, yes. And he seemed to think I was all right because he took most of my recommendations when we worked together. It was a good relationship...

KING: In the scope of things the Grants and the Pattons and the MacArthurs, do you rank him one of the great, great generals of all time? They study him in military history?

J. EISENHOWER: Look, he gets a directive from the combined chiefs of staff, you land on the continent of Europe and in conjunction with other nations, bring about the destruction of the enemy's armed forces or whatever it was. Months later he says, mission accomplished. Five million people under him. How can he be anything else but one of the great soldiers?

KING: And a great post-soldier. The setting up of post-war Europe. Tremendous.

J. EISENHOWER: Yes, he -- when we went to Germany, I wondered why the Germans were so enthusiastic about him. They were. And he brought them back into the respectability of nations by making them part of NATO and whatnot. The Germans were lucky the Cold War came along and saved them.

KING: You see his name in lots of places. Don't you? Eisenhower Highway. You see your name in Chicago. J. EISENHOWER: Yes. One day a friend said a taxi driver said, Eisenhower is in terrible shape and this friend said, Oh, my Good. Talking about the highway.

KING: John, this has been an honor.

J. EISENHOWER: It's been wonderful for me. Thank you.

KING: John Eisenhower, surviving son of Dwight and Mamie, retired brigadier general, former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, best selling author, acclaimed historian. The new book is "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence." And above all, as we might say in my tribe, a good son. John Eisenhower, thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.


D. EISENHOWER: My own son has been very fortunate. He has had a very full life since then. He is a father of four lovely children. Very, very precious to my wife and me.

But these young boys, so many of them, over whose graves we have been treading, looking at, wondering, contemplating about their sacrifices. They were cut off in their prime. They have families that grieve for them.

But they never knew the weighty experiences of going through life like my son. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and joy. I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I think and hope, pray, that the humanity will learn more than we have up until that time.




KING: Thanks for joining us for this fabulous hour with John Eisenhower on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. The book is "General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence." Stay tuned for news around the clock on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

Good night.


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