During the 1952 campaign, Dwight Eisenhower boldly announced that if he won the presidency, “I shall go to Korea.” He believed he could broker peace in the Korean conflict, which had reached a stalemate under Harry Truman. About two months before he took office, Ike flew to Korea on a visit that would set the stage for the end of the Korean War six months into his presidency.
President Truman was outraged that a president-elect would step into foreign policy in such a direct way. It was an audacious break with protocol. But the public was behind Ike, and, more important, the North Koreans and their Chinese allies took him seriously. In their eyes, he was not the inexperienced president-elect but the revered general who meant business. He had credibility with them that Truman lacked. When I was researching and writing my new book, Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission, I was intrigued by this story. I thought it demonstrated how a nonpolitician could shake things up.
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