Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World

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Overview

Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, consecutive presidents of the United States, were midwesterners alike in many ways—except that they also sharply differed. Born within six years of each other (Truman in 1884, Eisenhower in 1890), they came from small towns in the Missouri-Mississippi River Valley—in the midst of cows and wheat, pigs and corn, and grain elevators. Both were grandsons of farmers and sons of forceful mothers, and of fathers who knew failure; both were lower middle class, received public school ...

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Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World

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Overview

Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, consecutive presidents of the United States, were midwesterners alike in many ways—except that they also sharply differed. Born within six years of each other (Truman in 1884, Eisenhower in 1890), they came from small towns in the Missouri-Mississippi River Valley—in the midst of cows and wheat, pigs and corn, and grain elevators. Both were grandsons of farmers and sons of forceful mothers, and of fathers who knew failure; both were lower middle class, received public school educations, and were brought up in low-church Protestant denominations.
William Lee Miller interweaves Truman's and Eisenhower's life stories, which then also becomes the story of their nation as it rose to great power. They had contrasting experiences in the Great War—Truman, the haberdasher to be, led men in battle; Eisenhower, the supreme commander to be, did not. Between the wars, Truman was the quintessential politician, and Eisenhower the thoroughgoing anti-politician. Truman knew both the successes and woes of the public life, while Eisenhower was sequestered in the peacetime army. Then in the wartime 1940s, these two men were abruptly lifted above dozens of others to become leaders of the great national efforts.

Miller describes the hostile maneuvering and bickering at the moment in 1952–1953 when power was to be handed from one to the other and somebody had to decide which hat to wear and who greeted whom. As president, each coped with McCarthyism, the tormenting problems of race, and the great issues of the emerging Cold War. They brought the United States into a new pattern of world responsibility while being the first Americans to hold in their hands the awesome power of weapons capable of destroying civilization.

Listening to their story is a reminder of the modern American story, of ordinary men dealing with extraordinary power.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Absorbing . . . a historical double-decker. . . . Miller develops [Truman and Eisenhower’s] often uncomfortable, but unavoidable relationship with rich context and resonance.”
The Star-Ledger 

“Deft. . . . Insightful. . . . This is a book for those who enjoy history and cherish its ironies. . . . William Lee Miller is a scholar with a light-handed style as anecdotal as it is academic. He keeps his subjects off pedestals and firmly grounded as he relates the momentous events that confronted them and how each rose in stature to respond, for they were two surprisingly ordinary men. . . . Miller delights in telling stories. . . . Stories told affectionately with insight and sensitivity, messages ringing with relevance for us today.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“Intriguing. . . . Miller is keen analyzing both politics and policy; he frequently turns a deft phrase. . . . Two Americans admirably succeeds in conveying [Truman and Eisenhower’s] probity and patriotism.”
—Cleveland.com

“An enthralling book.”
—History Book Club

“A rewarding study. . . . Miller aptly and in clear prose describes the rise of both men and outlines their policies as president."
Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains

“Miller offers lively, well-presented parallel biographies. . . . The author is primarily interested in comparing the experiences of these two men as they rose through the ranks of their chosen professions, and their approaches to government as exemplified by several specific issues. . . . Entertaining reading for presidential-history buffs.”
Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A comparison of the origins and careers of two presidents from the middle of the 20th century. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower were both past 50 when each was catapulted to fame and power after decades of diligent but largely unnoticed public service. They came from conservative small-town roots--Truman from Missouri forebears with strong Confederate sympathies, Eisenhower from pacifist Mennonite ancestry. Truman, however, was a lifelong partisan Democrat; Eisenhower had been trained as part of the officer class to look down on politicians and had no affiliation with a political party until shortly before running for president. Truman relished the president's role as a partisan political leader, while Eisenhower emphasized that of an apparently apolitical head of state. Regrettably, the 1952 campaign poisoned the earlier cooperative relationship between the two men, as exemplified by Eisenhower's childish snubs on the day of his inauguration. They came to power when the United States was adjusting to the breakup of the alliance that won World War II and formulating the Cold War policy of containment. The development of the hydrogen bomb by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union led to a balance of terror that avoided another all-out war at the price of keeping the world on the edge of nuclear annihilation. Distinguished historian Miller (President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, 2008, etc.) offers lively, well-presented parallel biographies, though the book is superficial in comparison with recent exhaustive works on each man. The author is primarily interested in comparing the experiences of these two men as they rose through the ranks of their chosen professions, and their approaches to government as exemplified by several specific issues: McCarthyism, in which neither president distinguished himself; civil rights, in which Miller finds Eisenhower severely wanting despite his use of troops in Little Rock; and their attitudes toward the possible use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. Nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining reading for presidential-history buffs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452607634
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/30/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author


William Lee Miller, Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, is the author of Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography.

Reader of over four hundred audiobooks, Dick Hill has won three coveted Audie Awards and been nominated numerous times. He is also the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. AudioFile includes Dick on their prestigious list of Golden Voices.

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Table of Contents

1 Boy's Life 3

2 Two Warriors, First War 22

3 Between the Wars 55

4 Two Warriors, Second War 85

5 Normandy, Nomination, Nagasaki: Endings and Beginnings 125

6 Containment 158

7 Choosing a President 197

8 The Once Forgotten War 218

9 Two Moralities 240

10 Reciprocating Animosities 261

11 Judging Presidents 279

12 The Miasma of McCarthy 290

13 Ike and Harry on Race 315

14 Bombs 356

Farewell 376

The Story of This Book 381

Some Sources for This Book 383

Index 387

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 21, 2012

    An excellent source of information.

    As an avid reader of historical non-fiction, I find there are two key ingredients in a successful book of this type: thorough research and knowledge of the subject, and the ability to take the facts and figures and make them enjoyable to read. Mr. Miller succeeds admirably with the former, but comes up considerably short on the latter. The book contains a wealth of information on Truman and Eisenhower, their families, their context in various periods of history, and the relationships that brought them together, tore them apart, and brought them together again; virtually everything you could want to now about the two men and their impact on this country and the world. When writing in his own words, using his own opinions and reaching his own conclusions, Mr. Miller does fine with the prose. However these parts of the book are far too few and far between, sandwiched among interminable lengthy quotes and segments of other writer's work, interviews, opinions and conclusions. I may not be qualified to criticize, never having written enjoyable historical non-fiction myself, but to use one of too many quotes employed by Mr. Miller himself, "I know it when I see it".

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2014

    Well written juxtaposition of the two great leaders during an ex

    Well written juxtaposition of the two great leaders during an extremely difficult period of the Unites States post war and cold war periods. Much insight to the elections of both.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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