EISENHOWER AND SPUTNIK by Robert A. Divine

EISENHOWER AND SPUTNIK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A lucid analysis of how Russia's unpredicted space-race breakthrough affected, and was handled by, the nation's 34th President. Divine (History/University of Texas at Austin) is also the author of Eisenhower and the Cold War (1981), etc. Cautious, thrifty, and well-versed in politics, bureaucracy, and military matters, Eisenhower nonetheless found himself riding the storm when Sputnik appeared in the skies on October 4, 1957, and was soon followed by larger satellites containing first a dog, then a man. Hysteria was imminent as Americans extrapolated from satellite to missile performance; from education to fallout shelters, US culture, Divine says, was changed forever. The author shows Congress and the media hounding Eisenhower, his popularity dropping 20 points in half a year--and he explains how Ike, despite the pressure, rallied the nation's resources to respond to the Soviet challenge without creating the sort of pork-barrelling national debt that marked the end of the cold war. The author tells his story with exceptional clarity, keeping track of the endless maze of agencies, experts, politicos, and generals that figure in it. Competition and duplication of effort among the military services (which had near-identical weapons in development) and a rampaging Congress were, Divine explains, ongoing problems for Eisenhower. Meanwhile, the President, who correctly foresaw the decades of cold war ahead, insisted on fiscal responsibility, believing that a sound economy as much as technical advantage would decide the race with the Russians. A fine depiction of a homespun chief executive who maintained control and a levelheaded wisdom in the face of powerful and diverging political and economic forces.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-505008-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993




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