Eisenhower and the American Crusades

By Herbert S. Parmet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Abilene, June 4, 1952

O NCE WEST OF Topeka the trees gradually disappear, and motorists along Interstate 70 can see rolling plains as far as the horizon on all sides. Even the distant farmhouses become fewer, the fields drier and somewhat flatter, and the great road across Kansas simulates an orbital track carrying speeding cars through space. About one-third of the way across the state, some forty-five miles past the university town of Manhattan, white grain elevators and the towering old Sunflower Hotel, visible for many miles around, mark the village of Abilene; and, seconds later, large and very modern neon motel signs appear alongside the road. Abilene, the oasis on the plains that was once the Chisholm Trail's northern terminus, now gets a steady flow of visitors seeking nostalgia about its most famous name, Dwight D. Eisenhower. On their way across the empty stretches of the Midwest, between the Mississippi and the Rockies, the boyhood home, gravesite, museum and library become to them more than a convenient pause from monotony. The hour or two spent with the memory of Eisenhower provides the regeneration to sustain their image of America.

After the White House years, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower had also crossed the nation many times. Usually, because of Mamie's adverse reaction to heights, they traveled by train. Viewing the countryside, they could see evidence that the General's optimism and ideas of progress were not shared by many Americans. Great billboards, particularly numerous in the South and Midwest, carried a simple slogan: "Impeach Earl Warren!" Such symbols of protest recalled the domestic part of his containment policies; and by the time he died on March 28, 1969, millions who had had complete faith in his patriotism and honor were

-3-

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