President Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation
Eisenhower's farewell address, aka the "military-industrial complex" speech
Dwight D. Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation did not get much attention in its time - it was overshadowed by the excitement of his successor John F. Kennedy's arrival to the office of the presidency - however history has shown it to be incredibly prescient and relevant to the present day situation of the United States.
Described as the "indispensable man" of his time, a term initially used to characterize the almost unanimous support that the American people gave to George Washington, the man who led them to gain independence against the British in the Revolutionary War, and would become the first president of the United States, Eisenhower lived a similarly heroic trajectory.
A descendant of German immigrants who americanized the name Eisenhauer (meaning iron worker) to Eisenhower, he came from a humble background in Kansas and desired a career in the military at a young age. He was admitted to West Point Class of 1915 and then rose through the ranks of the Army to eventually become a five-star general. In the midst of World War II he was chosen to be the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, leading a "united nation" of troops through a strategy of naval, land and air assaults known as "Operation Overlord".
Having been surprised and defeated by the German and Axis forces in the early days of the war, the Allies needed to tip the scale back in their favor but debated the timing of their effort.
England's Churchill favored a more cautious approach, remembering the staggering defeat he faced at Gallipoli in the First World War.
With German troops already deep into the Russian heartland, Stalin was impatient for confrontation.
Initially surprised by the German invasion, and fearful that Europe would fall entirely under Nazi rule, the United States under President Roosevelt mobilized national resources to produce ships, aircraft and military weaponry including the Atomic Bomb, on an unprecedented scale in the history of humanity.
By 1944, the Allies finally had a strong enough force to launch their massive campaign against Hitler. Hundred of thousands of American troops crossed the Atlantic Ocean, to play their part in the great tipping point of the war, today known as D-Day.
It was the largest military invasion ever to take place, covering 50 miles of beaches on the shores of Normandy, France. Thousands of soldiers hurled themselves through the sea and scrambled onto the beach braving a curtain of bullets to retake the Western front.
The crushing force of the Allied military momentum continued, and a year later in 1945, the war was won.
When Eisenhower ran on the Republican ticket in 1951 he was elected to the presidency by a large majority of Americans, and served two terms in office. He was very well positioned to understand the huge economic transition the nation went through in the aftermath of rising to the imperative of winning the Second World War.
In fact, he warned of the after-effects of such industrial and military mobilization on society and on the lives of every day Americans as he was leaving office. He coined the term "military-industrial complex" and warned of peril if the academic study of science was co-opted by the emerging "scientific-technological elite".
Today these warnings translate into realities we see daily, in gun culture, the industrial production of food, military intervention in sovereign nations and the chemical industry, to name a few. All borne out of the dire necessity to prevent the spread of fascism and all the evil it brings upon humanity.
Dwight D. Eisenhower saw and understood this change in American culture happening right before his eyes as he gave his farewell address on January 17th, 1961.