EISENHOWER: Portrait of the Hero by Peter Lyon
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EISENHOWER: Portrait of the Hero

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There is less to this mammoth biography than meets the eye, but it is a valuable record and a great pleasure to read. Lyon has a British journalist's arch, iconoclastic style, along with a ready eye for Eisenhower's mistakes and evasions; nevertheless, for him Eisenhower is The Hero, and Lyon persuasively defends his record as Supreme Commander in Europe. True, there were mistakes about Anzio and Antwerp and the deals with fascists Darlan and Badoglio. But Eisenhower's ""flexibility and warmth"" made him a better man than Marshall to command, and Montgomery gets much the worst of it. Lyon shows, not always on purpose, how Eisenhower's military and human instincts -- in favor of an early second front, against atomic weapons -- persistently were turned around by political pressures; and by the time of his Presidency, he was firmly at the disposal of the ""men of wealth and temporal power"" who shared his ""fundamentally right of center"" views but not his ""fundamentally decent"" character. The latter faded -- Lyon points to the sad Eisenhower record on McCarthyism, the Guatemalan and Cuban interventions, the bombing of North Korean dams -- but the book becomes shallow on such matters as the U-2 incident and the basic refusal of Eisenhower (who, Lyon stresses, gave Dulles orders, not vice versa) to negotiate with the Soviets. Indeed, the author comes out at the end admiring Ike's ""proud and prudent record in the conduct of foreign affairs,"" and for all Lyon's play on the distinction between the public Eisenhower's ingenuousness and the private Eisenhower's canny manipulations, the national monument emerges in large and lovable shape.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1974
Publisher: Little, Brown