BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Steve Neal, "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Postwar World." Where did you get the idea for this book?
STEVE NEAL, AUTHOR, "HARRY & IKE: THE PARTNERSHIP THAT REMADE THE POSTWAR WORLD": Well, I have done several surveys over the last 20 years, of leading historians, ranking the presidents, sort of on the Arthur Schlesinger, Senior, model. And in each of these surveys -- we've done three over -- since 1981 -- Truman and Eisenhower ranked as the best presidents of the last half century.
I also noticed in -- when I was getting rid of some of my books, the Hopkins edition of Dwight D. Eisenhower's papers, I noticed a lot of letters between Harry Truman and the -- what most people think of Truman and Eisenhower is their feud, and they don't realize how closely they worked together. They probably worked together, I found from reading their letters, more closely than any two presidents of the 20th century, between 1950 -- '45, and 1952. And -- and so I found that there were all these wonderful letters, and I thought that there was a book there.
I first suggested my friend, Professor Robert Ferrell, that he might be interested, since Bob had edited Ike's diaries and done a fine Truman biography. And he said, "Why don't you do it?" And so he talked me into it.
LAMB: What's the origin of this picture on the cover?
NEAL: That picture was taken about 50 years ago, when Ike was going to NATO as supreme allied commander. President Truman had just named him, and I believe that picture was taken out at Andrews Air Force Base, of President Truman greeting him when he came back in January of 1951.
LAMB: Where did they first meet?
NEAL: They first met here in Washington, D.C., in June of 1945, just shortly after the Allied victory in Europe. President Truman declared virtually a federal holiday here, and Ike spoke before a joint session of Congress, paid tribute to President Truman there. Truman decorated him on the lawn of the White House. He whispered to him that he would rather -- he, Truman, would rather have the medal than the presidency. And then he had a dinner for him that night at the White House.
President Truman wrote his wife, Bess, that night that -- he said that "Ike seems like a heck of a follow." He said, "They're talking about him for president. I'd give him the job now, if I could." Truman was just getting into the job, and they both -- so they both were -- this was new for Ike, too, because he had been so close to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he hadn't quite known what to expect of this new president that he hadn't known much about.
LAMB: What was the difference in their age?
NEAL: Ike was born in 1890, and President Truman was born in 1984. So Truman was six years older than him. And they really come from not only the same generation, but the thing I found fascinating is that for 15 years, from 1945 until January of '61, our country was run by people who grew up in small towns 150 miles apart from each other in the heart of America.
LAMB: Where did Dwight Eisenhower come from specifically?
NEAL: Well, Ike was born in Texas, but he only lived there a brief time because his family -- he grew up in Abilene, Kansas, which was an old cattle town. And it is -- and it is so fascinating that when you cross the river to go into Kansas, even though Missouri and Kansas are both thought of as Midwestern, when you're in Abilene, you really feel like you're in the West. It is not that much of a drive to Colorado. You see all the -- the Western historic sites. You're near Fort Riley, which has the Cavalry Museum. And so even though geographically they're only 150 miles apart, it is -- Ike, in some ways, is as much Westerner as Midwesterner.
LAMB: Did you spend any time out there at the library?
NEAL: Oh, I spent -- made half a dozen trips to each -- to Independence and to Abilene, and spent a lot of time. I think that one of the great values of the presidential library system is to spend time in the cultures, in the communities where presidents grew up. You don't get the same feeling, I don't think, in the reading room of the Library of Congress that you do out in -- in Abilene or Independence or West Branch or Hyde Park or wherever one might be.
And it was so useful to spend time -- the Eisenhowers, for example, really were from the poor side of the tracks. And there are great homes and there are people with great fortunes in his home town of Abilene. The Trumans also were -- came from a very modest background. I mean, he grew up -- both Harry and Ike had -- grew up sort of on the edge of poverty. I mean, their fathers -- Truman's father went broke at one time. So did Eisenhower's.
They were -- they -- but at the same time, they had -- they both had self-confidence and were not -- did not have, like, say, someone like Richard Nixon or even Lyndon Johnson, have -- feel insecure about where they came from. They were very comfortable with where they came from. And Ike, in the famous speech, of course, after World War II, told -- in London, speaking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) "I come from the very heart of America."
LAMB: What were his parents like?
NEAL: Ike's parents were hard-working people. His father was the foreman in the local creamery. His mother, Ida, was very well-read, disciplined, and she -- I think it was partly from her that he got his drive and ambition. She was -- she believed in education, hard work. And so his parents had a great influence. His father was a very humane, decent guy, but the mother had more of the drive. I would say that that was also the case in -- on President Truman's side. His mother had more spark, and his father, like Ike's, sort of struggled.
LAMB: How did Dwight Eisenhower get to the military academy?
NEAL: Well, this is really fascinating. Ike had been a terrific athlete in high school, as had his older brother. He had initially wanted to go -- probably go to a Big 10 school or something, as his brother, Arthur, went to Michigan. But one of his close friends went -- was going to the Naval Academy, and that's where Ike wanted to go, too. And he applied to go to Annapolis, but the opening was for West Point, and so he winds up going to West Point. And oddly enough, President Truman had wanted -- it was President Truman's ambition before Eisenhower to go to West Point, but because of his poor eyesight, he was ineligible. Of course, he serves in the reserves and National Guard, and the military plays a very important part in shaping President Truman.
LAMB: So he went -- was at West Point in what years, and how close to the World War I did he go there?
NEAL: Well, Ike is in West Point in the year of 1910-1911, and there -- in an number of -- there are a number of people who I -- come out of there of great prominence, such as General Bradley, for example. Ike is a football star there, and his picture is in "The New York Times" as one of the brightest running backs in the East. He plays against Jim Thorpe in one game. But his -- his sports career is cut short by injury.
Now, Ike was not an academic star at West Point, unlike someone like General McArthur, for example, who graduated with the highest grade average in the history of the academy. Ike was a so-so student, but he had -- he was very well-liked. He got a lot of demerits. He once said later in life he thought anyone who didn't go through West Point with a number of demerits wasn't worth their salt. He was a tough guy, a very strong person, which is often -- I think the public doesn't understand about him.
But he -- he -- it is one of his great regrets that he -- after getting out of West Point, he goes, among other places, to Fort Sam Houston, where he meets and marries Mamie Doud, who was from a wealthy family from Denver. And he -- as World War I -- when the U.S. enters World War I, Ike is anxious to serve overseas, and he is frustrated because he is given a job training soldiers here, including he runs a camp for training people in tanks -- in tank warfare, which is a relatively new technology. It was -- and among the challenges he had was they didn't even have tanks for him to teach this. But he was very good, very efficient. He had orders at one time to go over, but he was asked to stay in the States, which was a very bitter pill for him.
Finally, when he does get a chance to -- it looks like he's going overseas, the armistice is signed. And so he feels that the world has passed him by. You see other people like General McArthur, who's a little bit older than him, making names for themselves for -- but Ike Eisenhower felt that -- that prominence had passed him -- him by. And so the -- in the time after -- he is frustrated for a long time in the service, and at one time thinks about switching to become a newspaper correspondent. But that's later on.
LAMB: Harry Truman's original birthplace, again, was where?
NEAL: Truman was born in -- oh, I believe it was Lamar. He is -- but he grows up in Independence. And he grows up on a family farm, and he -- but as a -- while still in his -- in grammar school, he moves into the town of Independence. But he -- he is very rooted on the farm because he has grandparents who have a farm. And his -- and the farm stays in the Truman family for many years.
But he -- he loves -- the one thing he loves about Independence is -- Truman is a little guy. He's not athletic. He loves to read. He later said, later in life, that he read every book in the local library in Independence. I don't know if he did that or not. That seems like quite a bit. But he was very well-read. And one thing I found fascinating is that Truman and Ike read a number of the same things. They both liked military histories. They both admired -- Hannibal was someone that -- there were some biographies of Hannibal that came out around that time. And they both were interested in the Civil War.
And so -- but Truman is -- I think the chance to go into Independence and to go to the larger school really opened up horizons for him.
LAMB: Seven years difference.
LAMB: Harry Truman is seven years older.
LAMB: Six years older.
LAMB: What -- how much schooling did he have?
NEAL: Well, Harry Truman is the last president of the United States that did not have a college education. Now, there is no doubt that Truman could have -- if he could have gone to school, would have been a very good student. He was a very smart, learned man. But his family had financial setbacks, and his father expected him to work and help support his family, and Truman did that. He was a very loyal guy.
There was one point that I found very moving. He is in Kansas City, not long out of high school. He's worked at a number of jobs, but he has a job in a bank in Kansas City. He's doing pretty well, but the father asks him to come back and work on the family farm. Truman does this in a minute, never questions it. And he is -- thinks he's going to be -- could be stuck on the farm for, you know, a long time. But he also really cared for his mother and father, honored his family, and did that.
And it -- during the same time, he is -- he is interested in courting Bess Wallace. She -- it's a long courtship, and one that they don't get married actually until after he returns from World War I.
LAMB: So go back to right -- World War I started what year?
NEAL: Well, the U.S. intervened in World War I in 1917. It's -- President Wilson's reelected with the slogan "He kept us out of war." We go in in 1917. And it is -- and Harry Truman is in the Missouri National Guard, and he is elected captain, ultimately, of his battery and serves in Europe, sees combat, and is -- emerges really as a leader. He has had -- he has great respect.
He and -- one case, one famous incident -- David McCullough wrote about it in his book, also. There's a confrontation with -- with a superior officer when a member of -- of Truman's battery is wounded. Truman has the soldier on a horse, and Truman's told, you know, "Get him off. He can't do that. Only officers." But Truman stood his ground. He was so -- they loved him. He felt this bond with his men for the rest of his life. In the Truman Library, you see this wonderful correspondence between him and the people he served with.
Also, his letters to Bess during this period are very moving. He didn't know why -- he had never seen a shot fired in anger. He did there. I think that one of the reasons why he was effective as a military leader, as president, was that he had had this experience of -- of serving in war.
LAMB: Which book is this for you?
NEAL: This is number seven.
LAMB: What were the kinds of subjects did you write about...
NEAL: Well, I...
LAMB: ... in the first six?
NEAL: ... am originally from Oregon, and so I did three books on Oregon-related topics. One I did a -- the autobiography [sic] of the late Oregon governor, Tom McCall, a great character called "Maverick," that came out about 24 years ago. I did a biography of Charlie McNary, who was the Republican leader in the Senate from the -- during the Roosevelt -- Franklin Roosevelt years. And I did a book on -- I went to McNary High School in Salem, Oregon -- one reason why I have had interest in him. But I did -- my favorite book before this -- oh, and I did a collection of Richard Neuberger of Oregon's writings. I had -- called "They Never Go Back to Pocatello," which was still a saying here in Washington. It was a -- and then I...
LAMB: He was the fellow whose wife became senator?
NEAL: Maureen Newberger became a senator, and she just died this year. She was a great lady. She was the third woman elected to the U.S. Senate, and a wonderful person. She wrote the foreword to that book. And I did a book on the man who chose Charlie McNary as his running mate, Wendell Wilkie. Before this book, would say that that was my favorite book. Wilkie is just a remarkable story, one of the great conventions in 1940.
One of my oldest friends is Spencer Tracy's biographer, Larry Swindell. Larry told me that -- when I was asking him if he thought Wilkie had possibilities as a book or a film, he said, "Well, Spencer Tracy already played him in the movies." That's in the Tracy-Hepburn movie "State of the Union," in which the character Grant Matthews is based on Wendell Wilkie.
LAMB: Why do you write books?
NEAL: I enjoy it. I enjoy -- I enjoy reading the -- or writing the kind of books I -- that I like to read. I enjoy political biographies and American history, and so much of the thing that strikes me when we go to our presidential libraries or the Library of Congress is there's so much rich primary source material that hasn't been tapped. And I have -- I usually have several ideas for every book I do. I've had some false starts. This one took about four years to do. They do take time because I do three columns a week for the "Chicago Sun-Times" covering politics, so that's a full-time job. And so it -- I -- it takes me time to do these. And I think you have to have a real passion for the subject.
I knew the late Theodore White and admired his work. He was one of the reasons I thought that writing political history and making it fresh and come alive is something that I thought was possible. And Teddy White's a real hero of mine, and I hope that some of my books meet the standard that he would have approved of.
LAMB: How long have you lived in Chicago?
NEAL: I've lived in -- I've been with Chicago papers for 22 years. I've been out there since I was -- since 1983. I was here in Washington for a time as the -- covering national politics and the White House for the "Chicago Tribune," which I worked for for eight years. I've been with the "Chicago Sun-Times" for about 15.
LAMB: Go back to -- we have Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower up to and past World War I. Again, six-year difference in their age. How old would Harry Truman have been right after World War I, 1917?
NEAL: Well, let's see. He would have been in his -- in his 30s. He was born 1884, so 33.
LAMB: Married yet?
NEAL: He marries Bess on his return, and he is -- he goes into business and opens the haberdashery with his friend, Eddie Jacobson. They -- for a brief time, they're successful. But then when the economic downturn hits, there's a recession, he goes broke. And he -- he's determined to pay off his creditors, and he does. It takes him a long time. It's not until he's a number of years into the Senate.
But -- but what -- when he -- when his business fails, Truman has such a network of friends from his World War I service that one of the people that he got to know in the service was a member of the Pendergast family, and the Pendergasts ran the Kansas City Democratic machine. Truman gets slated for -- the job is called judge of Jackson County. It actually is more like a county commissioner. And he gets elected and is a very productive member of the Jackson County court, or in most of America, it would be the county board of commissioners.
But in one of the Republican landslides in the '20s, he gets defeated. And some people would have dropped out of politics. Truman sort of enjoyed it. And he comes back and is elected as chief judge of Jackson County, which is like being the head of the -- of county government in one of the great metropolitan areas in this country. He makes a terrific record. He builds a number of roads. He builds new courthouses.
He is admired for his honesty and for -- he works -- though he is among our more partisan presidents, one of the things about Truman I think is not understood is how well he worked with Republican people across the aisle and how well he worked with the business establishment, as well as -- as well as organized labor. And so he -- he makes a terrific record there.
LAMB: You got a little mention in your book about Dwight Eisenhower's brother and Harry Truman.
NEAL: This is fascinating to me, that Arthur Eisenhower, one of Ike's older brothers, also worked for a bank in Kansas City the same time Harry Truman did. They live in the same boarding house, and Truman says later he taught Ike -- showed Arthur Eisenhower how to turn on a gas jet, that -- and during World War II, when Ike is being urged to think about running for elective office, then-Senator Harry Truman gives Arthur Eisenhower some advice on how his brother can avoid this, if he wants to. So he -- Truman always had great affection for Arthur Eisenhower.
LAMB: So he -- one of our earlier books here suggested that they were roommates together. So they were just rooming-housemates.
NEAL: No, they were not roommates. They were in the same boarding house. And they would share meals. They would share common meals. He knew him, but no, they were not roommates.
LAMB: What about the brothers and sisters of both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower?
NEAL: Well, President Truman had a sister who lived for quite a while. He also had a brother. I had -- know less about the Trumans than I do about the Eisenhowers because one book I didn't mention to you, Brian, was I did a book on the Eisenhower family that Doubleday published in 1978. And they are all -- all brothers, and they come from this small town. And yet they all have lives of real distinction. Milton becomes the president -- becomes a college president. He has a distinguished career in government, beginning in the 1920s with the Department of Agriculture and serving in administrations from Coolidge through FDR, when he becomes president of, successively, Kansas State, Penn State and finally Johns Hopkins, but a very distinguished educator and -- and public servant.
Brother Roy was a pharmacist. He died young. Arthur Eisenhower was quite an accomplished lawyer. After getting out of the University of Michigan, he goes to Tacoma, Washington, practices law there. He's the most conservative member of the family. Milton's probably the most liberal.
And then there was Earl Eisenhower, who is a -- was involved in publishing. He was very engaging but not quite as much of a hard-charger as some of the other brothers. He is elected to the Illinois legislature when there is an at-large election for the legislature in the mid-1960s, and a very likable guy. He died young, also.
And so the -- but the Eisenhower brothers were very close. You see pictures of them fishing together. They -- they had a very close-knit family, and it -- it again, is just this great American story.
Truman was very close and connected to his family, too. You see these wonderful letters to his sister, to his mother. And people just don't write those kind of letters anymore. We have email and long-distance phones. And yet we're so fortunate to have these written records of both the Trumans and the Eisenhowers because I think it tells you a lot about what made them tick.
LAMB: You say that you talked to both Dwight Eisenhower's son, John, who was a general also, and Clifton Truman Daniel.
NEAL: Yes. Clifton is President Truman's oldest grandson. He was very helpful. He has done a book himself about growing up with his grandfather that is excellent. And so I gained a number of insights from him.
LAMB: How old a man is he?
NEAL: Clifton was born in 1957.
LAMB: And what -- you say he's associated with Harry Truman College?
NEAL: He is the -- he is the spokesman for -- director of public affairs for Harry S Truman College in the city of Chicago. It's part of his -- it's a community college. And he came out as a commencement speaker a few years ago, and Clifton had been involved in journalism in North Carolina and was invited to join their faculty and has done a terrific job. He is -- he is just -- he's also a very gifted writer. His late father, Clifton Daniel, was a great newsman for "The New York Times." And his mother, Margaret, is a very successful and accomplished writer who's done excellent books on both of her parents.
LAMB: What about John Eisenhower, the son of Dwight?
NEAL: Well, John Eisenhower's an old friend. He was not too enthused about me doing this book. He was very helpful in my earlier book on his family. One of the reasons is, I think, that he likes to be thought of as something other than an expert on the Eisenhower years, since he's quite a distinguished writer in his own right. I think he was also concerned that this would make them -- the conflict -- they both might look bad. But in fact, their collaboration, I think, is -- is a story that -- that they both look pretty good. And the conflict was unfortunate.
John's take on what happened was that his father should probably have been more attentive to Truman's ego at times and that -- and that Truman should have been less personal in some of his attacks on his father during the 1952 campaign. But John, at this stage of his life, really doesn't want to be thought of as a commentator on the Eisenhower years, and so you didn't see him when the -- when the History Channel recently did a special on Nixon and Eisenhower. John was not -- did not participate in that. And he still continues to turn out good works of military history.
LAMB: What's the difference between the Eisenhower Library in Abilene and the Truman Library in Independence?
NEAL: This is sort of fascinating, Brian. I find that each library sort of takes on the personality of the president. And in Abilene, it's a little more formal, as you might expect from something that -- from a guy who served in the military and is a little more aloof than Truman. So it's -- they're very helpful, very nice, but it is more -- you get the feeling more like it could be at a war college or something, whereas Independence is very -- is just a much more relaxed, low-key, informal, like President Truman.
I personally became pretty close to a number of the people at the Truman Library. The book is dedicated to Elizabeth Saffley (ph), this wonderful lady who is the reference librarian there and who is so helpful to all of us and makes it so pleasant for all of us who do research there. She was working at the library -- she grew up in Independence, and she was a -- just out of school when President Truman was still there and still a presence at the library. So is she among the few remaining people there who has a tie to President Truman.
But their whole archive -- there's another archivist named Dennis Bilger (ph), who is mentioned in all the books on Truman. He's legendary in the archival system. And when you come to the Truman Library, they will have a truck of files waiting for you so that you can maximize the use of your time. And I've never -- all the libraries are great. I've worked at about six of the presidential libraries. None of them are any better than Harry Truman. That library sets the standard.
LAMB: You tell us that you got a grant from the Harry S Truman Library Institute. How does that work? And did that -- does it prejudice your position any?
NEAL: Not really, no. I have great -- it helped pay for a couple trips down there, but I -- the Eisenhower Library has been very generous over the years. I gave a speech, was the main speaker at the 25th anniversary of the Eisenhower Library in 1987, and they have been -- no, I have great -- I also did the first cover story on Ike that appeared in "American Heritage," saying why we were right to like Ike. It appeared in 1985. So I have -- I think both of these are -- are great American figures. But they have differences, and differences in temperament, styles and, obviously, their backgrounds.
LAMB: What year did Dwight Eisenhower become a general? And what year did Harry Truman become a senator?
NEAL: Well, Harry Truman was elected to the Senate in 1934, and so he -- and he's -- he's 50. And Ike gets his first star right before the U.S. goes into World War II. He gets his first star -- Ike is so frustrated in thinking during the 1920s and '30s that because there were so few promotions -- the Army was really down-sized after World War I -- that he almost became the military correspondent for a national newspaper chain. And he is frustrated working under General Douglas McArthur, both his Army chief of staff, later in the Philippines.
And so -- but when it becomes apparent that the U.S. is going to enter World War II, he is very anxious to serve this because he'd missed out in World War I. And he returns home, and he becomes a star in what was known as the Louisiana maneuver. It's the largest peacetime maneuvers in history. Ike is a -- is a terrific strategist and tactician. His star really rises. He also has caught the attention of General George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff. And it is General Marshall who -- and President Roosevelt, who promote Ike and recognize his potential.
And Ike during all this time -- and really -- keeps a diary and -- and -- which is wonderful for giving his insights into his feelings not only about the war but different individuals. And so it is possible really sort of to chart Ike's -- Ike's evolution as a thinker. And also, it's easy to see why some of his disdain toward different figures, such as General McArthur, who he suffered under -- I think he had admiration for him in some ways, but you really learn a lot from reading his diary. I don't think he anticipated it would be -- that the general public would be reading it.
LAMB: Jumping ahead -- we'll go back to a picture we showed earlier. This is the Rose Garden in June of 1945, their first meeting. They didn't ever know each other until that time.
NEAL: No, they had -- Eisenhower had heard, you know, vaguely about the senator from Missouri, who had been elected. I found -- in some of Arthur Eisenhower's correspondence with Ike, there's a reference that he had this conversation with Senator Truman, giving him advice about how to avoid going into politics if he didn't want to. But they -- they didn't -- Truman had great admiration for Eisenhower as a soldier, but had -- in fact, in his dairy, in Truman's diary, he puts Ike on this pedestal with General Marshall and -- and Robert E. Lee and -- and then he disdains the brass-hat type, the McArthurs, Pattons and George Armstrong Custer.
LAMB: Where's this picture from right here?
NEAL: That picture below with General Patton in the center was taken in occupied Berlin and the -- the flag is flying up over the U.S.-occupied zone. And it was on that day that President Truman stunned General Eisenhower -- General Bradley is also in the car when he looks at him, he says, "General, there's nothing that I wouldn't do for you, and that specifically includes the presidency in 1948." Well, Ike is stunned. You have the president of the United States, in effect, offering to support him for the presidency.
Ike laughs -- laughs and says, "Mr. President, I don't know who your opponent will be in 1948, but it will not be I." But Truman brings Ike home later to succeed -- I should mention, Brian, with General Patton in there -- General Patton gave Ike headaches as military governor because he -- of Bavaria right after the war because he -- he wouldn't follow administration policy in -- and challenged, publicly questioned it. Ike had to relieve him, which was very painful. And then of course, Patton is killed shortly after that -- not long after that picture is taken.
But Ike returns late that year as named by President Truman as General Marshall's successor as Army chief of staff and then serves Truman -- this is sort of a job that Ike finds distasteful because after leading history's greatest invasion, he presides over the dismantling of the -- of the Army. And it's very frustrating. He's under pressure. Some families want them to come home sooner. Ike doesn't want to leave the nation vulnerable with the -- because there's a question of Soviet expansionism at that time.
And Truman at one point persists with his idea of approaching Eisenhower about running as the Democratic nominee for president in 1948. Truman, despite the image we see of him holding up the "Chicago Tribune" and looking like -- with the swagger and the confidence, was a very modest man, in many ways. He -- when he first became president, he -- he didn't know that -- if he was up to the job. He said "There must have been a thousand people more qualified than me."
He also knew that the Democrats, particularly after the 1946 election, when they lost both houses of Congress, could have a hard time in 1948. He saw Eisenhower as one person who could preserve the New Deal coalition. At one point, through the secretary of the Army, he sends word that he would be willing to run as vice president if Ike would head the Democratic ticket.
Ike is consistent, though, in saying that he does not have an interest, although in a conversation with Walter Lippman, he once wonders if there's a possibility that both parties might draft him in 1948. But he steps down as chief of staff in 1948, writes a letter to a New Hampshire publisher saying he didn't believe that -- that people in the military should go into politics.
And President Truman is so grateful that he gives Ike a tax break on his book, "Crusade in Europe," which is a terrific book, one of the great memoirs written -- I think it ranks with General Grant's memoirs as one of the great books written by an American soldier. This makes Ike a wealthy man and...
LAMB: Before you leave that...
LAMB: ... tell us how that happened, the tax break.
NEAL: Well, the -- Ike had great lawyers. One of them was Joe Davies (ph), who was the famous ambassador to Moscow and very well-connected poker-playing friend of President Truman's. But President Truman called the IRS commissioner and talked to the secretary of the treasury and said, "I want you to do this for Ike." I found a document confirming that in the Truman Library. And so Ike gets this huge advance, which would be comparable to the -- up in the -- up in the millions now. It was in the hundreds of thousands then.
But -- and that was a time when you had an 85 percent tax bracket. But instead of doing this, Truman ruled that Ike wasn't a professional writer, this was property he was selling, so he could declare a capital gain on it. So Ike becomes a fairly wealthy man by the standards of the time. And Harry Truman made that possible.
Now, Truman sort of resented that years later, when he is struggling, he has to sell off part of the family farm to make ends meet because there is no presidential pension at the time when he leaves office. And he almost loses money on his memoirs, although he's paid a -- he's paid a six-figure advance, serialized in "Life" magazine. He does not make money on it because he didn't get the special break that Ike did.
Now, after Truman gave Ike that tax break, Congress passed something known as the Eisenhower tax law which closed that loophole and -- but Truman thought Ike earned it for his service to the country and one -- and so he never flinched at doing that for Eisenhower.
LAMB: Come back and talk about some of the other things they got along during the years about. But jump to where -- where was the first falling out?
NEAL: Well, they -- they were -- 50 years ago -- they were still close when Ike goes to Europe as supreme allied commander of NATO, but in -- in -- Truman tries -- is pretty sure he doesn't want to run for reelection in 1952, although he could. He was grandfathered under the two-term constitutional amendment. But he offers to back Ike again as a Democrat. Ike in November of 1951 tells him that he -- if he runs, it would be as a Republican. And so Truman can accept this. He has great respect for Eisenhower.
And so he -- when Ike comes home from NATO in June of '52, he decorates Ike, has him upstairs and -- and they have a drink in the White House study. And he says -- gives Ike some advice. Ike is complaining about being attacked, and the -- that picture was taken on the day when Ike came back, and you can see that they're -- HST's in an expansive mood. Ike is complaining about a whispering campaign by the right wing against him. Truman says, "If that's all there is, it's nothing to worry about." But -- and Ike is nominated in '52 at the Republican convention. Truman thought he would lose to Bob Taft for the nomination because it was -- Ike just barely won the nomination over Bob Taft.
LAMB: What kind of a Republican was General Eisenhower?
NEAL: General Eisenhower would be a moderate Republican, would be -- he certainly was in -- in -- he was an internationalist. But in domestic affairs, in some ways, he was to Bob Taft's right. And that's something that -- Eisenhower would not have run for president in 1952 if -- he made an offer to Bob Taft that -- he met with him at the Pentagon, and if Taft, Senator Taft, leader of the Senate Republicans, had endorsed the Truman foreign policy in Europe, the right of the U.S. to participate in NATO, Ike wouldn't have run. Taft declined to do that, and so that was a factor in Ike's decision to run. Ike also supported Truman in his decision to fire General Douglas McArthur. He thought -- for his very public insubordination.
LAMB: This is a famous picture.
NEAL: Wonderful picture, when Ike's reaction, taken by "Stars and Stripes," with -- after -- because Ike didn't think that Truman would actually do it. But he fully supported his decision.
LAMB: Why'd he fire him?
NEAL: Truman fired McArthur for publicly defying administration policy in Korea and for writing a letter to -- among other things, to the House Republican leader, Joe Martin (ph), disagreeing with administration policy that, as supreme allied commander, McArthur was supposed to be carrying out. So McArthur made it very -- Ike had for years been appalled by McArthur's insubordination, including the routing of the bonus marchers in 1932, when McArthur ignored a directive from the -- from the White House, went across the bridge and routed the bonus marchers and needlessly humiliated them. Ike thought this was cruel and inhumane, and he believed in civilian control of the military, something which General McArthur didn't always share.
LAMB: Stop for a moment and talk about Korea. Korea started when, the war?
NEAL: The war starts -- the U.S. intervention is right after the North Korean invasion of June of 1950.
LAMB: Where is General Eisenhower then?
NEAL: Ike is -- Ike was in New York when he got the news, but he -- he rushes to Washington after because he knows that his -- he will -- and he consults the Joint Chiefs.
LAMB: When was he president of Columbia University?
NEAL: He was president of Columbia University from 1958 until his -- his resignation in 1952 on being elected president of the United States. He was on leave for much of that time, though, because half that time he was working for President Truman as his chief military adviser after the 1948 elections. Ike was very bored at Columbia after what he'd been through. And then, of course, in 1951, he comes -- in '52, early '52, as supreme allied commander of NATO. And so he really believes strongly in the Truman foreign policy. He disagrees with much of the Truman domestic policy.
And -- but Brian, the question you asked earlier about their break -- in August of -- Truman understood the Republican platform, which denounced his administration -- even though Ike had been a participant in the foreign policy, Ike didn't write the platform. The Bob Taft wing of the party wrote the platform.
The break starts in August of 1952. Ike is staying at the Brown Palace (ph) Hotel in Denver, which was his headquarters. And Truman has a briefing at the White House with Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Eisenhower had such respect for Stevenson that John Eisenhower told me once that Ike told him that had he known Governor Stevenson would have been the Democratic nominee, he never would have gone into politics because he had great respect for Stevenson.
But when Stevenson attended a briefing at the White House with the Truman cabinet and foreign policy team, Ike criticizes Stevenson as -- as being a captive of -- of the Truman foreign policy and the Truman team and said this would be business as usual.
Well, President Truman invites Eisenhower to this same briefing with the CIA director, Walter Bedell Smith (ph), Ike's World War II deputy, and with Dean Acheson and the cabinet. Ike respectfully declines and puts out a telegram saying that he is declining this, saying that in his new role, he did not feel it was appropriate for him to do so.
Truman wrote him a letter, Brian -- if I could show it to you -- that he said -- he says that he is sorry if he has caused Ike any embarrassment, that he thinks that he has allowed some crackpots to come between them because he has threatened the bipartisan foreign policy of which Eisenhower had been a big part. And he says finally that he's sorry if he caused him any embarrassment, "from one who always meant to be your friend and always tried to be."
Ike writes back a handwritten note, very respectful, saying, "Mr. President, you've caused me no embarrassment, but I feel that since there was no emergency, it was not urgent for me to be there and it might be misunderstood" if he went and attended this briefing. And so he -- but Eisenhower, in fact, is insulted that -- and tells Walter Bedell Smith that he got a letter from a high personage with wounded dignity about Eisenhower not coming to the meeting.
Now, President Truman felt that Ike had showed disrespect not just for Harry Truman but the office of the presidency of the United States. And Truman always sort of differentiated those, so he would never -- Ike had always come before when Truman had called. But of course, Eisenhower had always been his -- his subordinate in the past.
So later that fall, when Ike -- Ike is running with some people that he doesn't really care to be in the same room with, such as William Jenner (ph) of Indiana, who was a real hater and sort of a kook and a red-baiter. But most of all, Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. There's a tough decision. Thomas E. Dewey, who was one of Ike's major advisers, advises Ike not to go to Wisconsin because he would be on the same stage with McCarthy. There was sharp dissension in the campaign. Eisenhower ultimately decides to go to Wisconsin because Truman had carried Wisconsin. There was some question that this would be a close election. Eisenhower also is booked to be on the same stage and to ride the train with Joe McCarthy.
Now, Eisenhower told his speech writer, Emmett John Hughes, "Let's put a paragraph in where I comment about George Marshall, my esteem for George Marshall." That would be a way of -- of helping -- of salvaging some dignity out of sharing the stage with McCarthy. Ike is pressured not to do this by the moderate governor of Wisconsin, Walter Kohler (ph), and Sherman Adams, Eisenhower's campaign manager, thinks that Ike should listen to Governor Kohler. He takes out this reference -- this defense of General Marshall.
The text leaks, and it's published in "The New York Times" that Eisenhower has, in effect, surrendered to McCarthy and shared the same stage with him. And Truman now has an issue to go after and rip into Eisenhower (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And he goes all across the country saying that this showed moral cowardice, and you can't trust someone who doesn't stand by their friends, and "I have great respect for General Eisenhower, but he's bowed to expediency." And Truman became increasingly vitriolic in his attacks.
There was one unfortunate attack when -- there was a little known senator from West Virginia named Chapman Revercomb, who was the Republican sponsor of the McCarran Act, which was discriminatory revision of U.S. immigration law, that discriminated against Catholics and Jews. Revercomb was such a caveman that Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 wouldn't appear with him. But General Eisenhower in 1952 did.
And he -- President Truman issues a statement basically saying that the -- he is appalled that the person who helped liberate Europe from those who believed in the master race is now appearing with them, in effect suggesting that -- that Ike was allying himself with fascism. And I think Truman went over the top on that thing, and he later issued a clarification the next day. Ike was livid at that.
But another thing that -- Truman knew that Eisenhower was going to win this election. He was the most popular person in the country. Brian, there's a telegram here that -- if I can find it -- that he sent -- that President Truman sent General Eisenhower after -- can you see a telegram on this...
LAMB: I think it's on the bottom. I saw it in the stack earlier. It may be still...
NEAL: That is...
LAMB: Here, I can try to find it for you.
NEAL: OK. It is -- he says -- General -- President Truman says, "Congratulations on your overwhelming victory," and that "the presidential aircraft is available, if you'll still want to go." Now, what he meant -- Ike right before the election pledges if elected, he will go to Korea. And this turned a close election into a rout because nobody -- there was no American soldier with more prestige than Dwight Eisenhower. And he, in effect, pledged to end the war in Korea.
Well, Truman attacked this as campaign demagoguery at its worst and noted that Ike had been part of the decision to withdraw Korea from the U.S. defense perimeter as chief of staff. But Ike was genuine in his commitment to go there and try and do something to end the war. But Truman, by putting in the phrase, "If you still want to go" -- Ike was -- again was incensed, didn't know if he could even ride down Pennsylvania Avenue with Truman, he was so angry.
Truman, though, once the election was over, thought that bygones could be bygones, and he was determined -- he had been uniformed about many issues when he became president. He put together the first formal transition office, worked very hard to have a smooth transition. You can see in that picture, with Ike's jaw, how it was a -- not a warm meeting. And that was the only meeting they had in between the -- the June of '52 and that famous ride in January of 1953, when they rode to the Capitol together.
President Truman was offended when he and Mrs. Truman invited General and Mrs. Eisenhower to the White House for -- for coffee and sandwiches before going up for the inaugural ceremonies. They declined. President Truman thought that, again, this was an insult to Mrs. Truman. In fact, Eisenhower was -- Ike, having been in the military all those years, did not really understand partisanship. And Truman had many friends with people who had savaged him far worse than he'd gone after Eisenhower.
But this was a real rift, and they would not -- Truman, as a good will gesture, brought John Eisenhower home from Korea during the -- John had known who was responsible for doing this, so during the ride to the Capitol, General Eisenhower says to President Truman, "Who -- do you know who brought my son back from Korea?" And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said "You can tell them that contrary old man from Missouri did."
And then Ike later did write Truman a note thanking him for this. Truman, as someone who had just one child, as the Eisenhowers did -- they had -- John was the -- their only son. They had a son earlier who died -- thought John should be there.
I think the Eisenhowers greatly appreciated this kind gesture on Truman's part, but -- but it would be a number of years before there was a warm conversation between Truman and Ike.
LAMB: When was the first time they had a -- a warm conversation after all that?
NEAL: Well, they nodded to each other at Justice Fred Vincent's funeral and -- but they -- they did not really have a -- President Eisenhower invited President Truman to the White House three times during his second term, for the 10th anniversary of NATO, when NATO foreign ministers were meeting in Washington, for the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Korean war, and for a stag dinner with Winston Churchill. On each time, Truman found excuses. So they didn't actually have a conversation until General Eisenhower broke the ice late in 1961, when he calls on President Truman at the Truman Library.
They have a friendly conversation. Truman gives him a personal tour of the library. And then a few weeks later, they go to the funeral -- the other picture you showed -- of their friend, Sam Rayburn, the great House speaker in Texas.
But what really brings them back together was that terrible weekend in 1963, when John F. Kennedy has been shot. President Truman and his daughter, Margaret, are staying at Blair House. Former president Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower drive down from Gettysburg. They go to the service, JFK's service, with the Trumans. They come -- go to the grave site with the Trumans. And I -- there have been so few people who have been president of the United States, I do really think they felt something of a bond and remembered some of the great things that they had done together.
And they -- after coming back from the grave site at Arlington, they have lunch, a light lunch at Blair House. And it's a very warm, friendly conversation. They really become sort of comrade again.
LAMB: In '63, how old were each of them? How much time did they have to live?
NEAL: Well, President Eisenhower would die in 1969.
LAMB: He had six years.
NEAL: Yes. And President Truman lived for another -- President Truman lives until late 1972 and dies just a few weeks before Lyndon Johnson.
LAMB: So that when they're in the Blair House together, what kind of shape are they in, physically?
NEAL: Well, they are -- Ike is still pretty vital and is -- is in good shape. Truman is -- is still in fairly good shape, too, although he -- the deterioration starts fairly quickly after then. He has some injuries not long after that and stops going to the library every day, as he had been doing. But at that time, they are still -- they both speak to the nation in -- Truman in an informal sidewalk setting and Eisenhower also on the sidewalk in New York, when he learns the news of JFK's death. And I think that that weekend, the reconciliation between these two great figures was a very bright thing, a good thing for the country at this sad time.
LAMB: Did they ever have a natural relationship after that?
NEAL: They -- they had a warmer relationship, but it was still formal. It was never as it was during the great years between 1945 and '52. One of Ike's speech writers, Bill Ewald (ph), did a book and helped Ike with his memoirs, recalls that when Ike is putting in a list of the towering figures of the West that he worked with, he at first omits President Truman. But then he puts him in fairly close to the top.
And when Ike asks President Truman to be the co-chair of a 50th wedding anniversary for him and Mamie, as a frontrunner for a college that is named for Eisenhower, Truman gladly does this. He also helps Ike with a fund-raising drive for a World War II memorial in Britain. And Ike, when he takes -- and Mamie take the train -- because Mamie didn't like to fly -- to Palm Springs every winter, would send a telegram to or try and call President Truman from the train.
And so -- but they -- their last meeting is in 1966 in Kansas City, and it fittingly is at a luncheon for the United Nations, which they both believed in very strongly. And they -- I think that their cooperation in shaping NATO -- I don't know that two other leaders could have done it because only Eisenhower had the prestige to get NATO off and running in 1951. And they both believed strongly in the U.N.
LAMB: What do you personally think was the real problem?
NEAL: Between the two of them?
NEAL: I think that it was a difference in backgrounds. I think that Ike, as a five-star general, had not been used to the criticism that -- that comes in politics. And so I think that he did not understand that when Truman went after him with these vitriolic attacks that -- that this happens in politics. In the case of President Truman, I think he probably did go too far in -- in some of those. Same time, I think Truman was very hurt.
When he tried to call on General Eisenhower when -- President Eisenhower, in his first visit as president, went to Kansas City, Truman called up to Eisenhower's suite and was, in effect, blown off by a staffer. And I don't believe that Ike ever got the message that day. I do not believe that. Now, Ike was still angry, but I will never believe that he would have slighted someone who occupied the office that he held. I think he felt badly about it when he learned about it.
And General Shultz (ph), who was one of Ike's aides, said President Truman made a mistake making the call himself rather than having a staffer do it, so that it -- but it was an unfortunate incident that made -- I think that was one of the reasons why Truman again felt he was shown disrespect and discourtesy, why he did not respond when Ike invited him to the White House on those later occasions.
LAMB: Did you find any evidence of a relationship between Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower?
NEAL: You know, they had a friendly relationship. They took a Spanish class together at one time, when -- when Bess was either the wife of the senator or vice president and Mrs. Eisenhower was living in Washington in her -- and Ike was in World War II. And they had -- they had genuine affection, I think, for each other. And when Margaret Truman went to Europe, when Ike was supreme allied commander of NATO, the Eisenhowers had -- had dinner with Margaret and -- and then the same time, President Truman thought very highly of John Eisenhower. And John Eisenhower told me once that he had visited with President Truman not long before Truman's death at the Truman Library. They had a very warm visit.
LAMB: Any relationship between John Eisenhower and Clifton Truman Daniel or Margaret Daniel, his mother?
NEAL: I don't think so. John was very appalled when Merle Miller's book, "Plain Speaking," came out, which a number of statements are attributed to Merle Miller about President Eisenhower, which I learned from doing this book, I think Merle Miller invented and made up. I...
LAMB: Made up?
NEAL: I've listened to Merle Miller tapes. I think that book is a -- is a book of untruths, yes.
LAMB: "Plain Speaking"?
NEAL: Yes. And President Truman threatened to sue Merle Miller during his lifetime, when Merle Miller asked about publishing some notes from some interviews he did as a background reporter for David Suskind. And so many of the remarks -- and then the incident that Merle Miller alleges that President Truman destroyed correspondence that Ike wanted to divorce Mamie to marry Kay Summersby -- that correspondence never existed. I think, again, that -- I think someone told Miller about this, but it -- there's no evidence that that ever happened, and I think that contributed to some of the bad blood that -- of some people of the Eisenhower and Truman camps.
LAMB: I kind of remember -- wasn't "Plain Speaking" a big seller?
NEAL: Huge seller, but it came out right after President Truman's death. And President Truman never uttered many of the statements that are in that book because I've listened to the tapes, and it is most -- because it makes Truman seem petty and mean. Now, Truman could be outspoken in his criticism of many individuals, and -- but many of the juiciest quotes are not on those tapes.
LAMB: Were the tapes that -- the interviews between Merle Miller and Harry Truman?
LAMB: And how did you get access to them?
NEAL: There are -- there are a set of those tapes at the Truman Library now. the Johnson Library has most of them because the people at the Truman Library do not have any respect for the Merle Miller book. They think it is book of falsehoods.
LAMB: And those were interviews at the time.
NEAL: They were, but they were background interviews. He was not the main interviewer. He was a -- like a contributing editor to a series that David Suskind was trying to put on television, a documentary about President Truman. So these were not -- there's a guy named Ben Gratis (ph) that did some wonderful interviews with Truman, that are much -- I found much more useful. And a guy named -- a team named Hillman and Noyes (ph) also interviewed Truman for his book, "Mr. Citizen" -- wonderful tapes. Now, he does talk with candor and detail about his relationship with President Eisenhower on those tapes, and I found those just immensely useful.
LAMB: Can anybody listen to these tapes?
NEAL: Yes. They're at the Truman Library. They have transcripts, which I prefer to work with, for the most part. Although in the case of Ben Gratis, I -- and Merle Miller, I listened to the tapes. I read many transcripts of -- of Truman's interviews for "Mr. Citizen" and also for his memoirs, where he had these long legal (ph) length, and -- and it's just wonderful transcripts, much of it previously unpublished.
LAMB: Are you -- I mean, one last question on this book, and then I want to ask you what your next book is. Did Harry Truman go to Dwight Eisenhower's funeral?
NEAL: He -- he did not. He was in frail health himself, but he issued a very gracious statement recalling their great service together.
LAMB: And final question. What's next for you?
NEAL: Eleanor and Harry, the correspondence of Harry S. Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt. When the death of her husband made him president, he made her first lady of the world.
LAMB: And when's that going to come out?
NEAL: It'll be out, Scribner, in September of next year.
LAMB: Steve Neal, we're out of time. Here's what the book looks like. "Harry & Ike," partnership between these two men. Thank you very much for joining us.
NEAL: Thanks, Brian.
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