Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lewis L. Strauss: A Bull____ Story

Lewis Strauss, ca. 1953
Lewis Strauss, ca. 1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lewis L. Strauss had much in common.  Both began their public service during the First World War.  Each served when America was drawn into World War II. Both rose to national office after the war.  Both were Republicans committed to American victory in the Cold War.

Much to his chagrin, Eisenhower’s service during the First World War did not involve combat.  He stayed stateside and trained tank commanders and crews.  Blind in one eye, Strauss was unable to serve in the military. Instead, he volunteered to serve as secretary to Herbert Hoover beginning in 1917.  After the Armistice, Eisenhower continued his service joining the 65th Engineers in a cross-country convoy to assess American infrastructure.  Strauss spent his immediate post-war years as private secretary to Hoover, assisting with food relief via the American Relief Administration and the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

When America entered World War II, Eisenhower was again stateside heading the Army General Staff in Washington DC.  In June 1942, he became Commander of the European Theater of Operations, leading Operation Torch in North Africa.  After being appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in late 1943, Eisenhower oversaw Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion of France.  Strauss, who had enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1925, ably served in the Navy Bureau of Ordnance during the war.  He promoted the ‘E for Excellence’ awards to improve production and morale, ending 1945 promoted to rear admiral by President Truman.

After the war, Eisenhower continued to serve, first as Army Chief of Staff, and later as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Europe.  He resigned in 1952 as he began his Presidential campaign.  Strauss’ postwar service saw him appointed to the newly created Atomic Energy Commission in 1947. He served as one of five Commissioners until 1950.  Strauss was convinced that the Soviet Union wanted to use atomic weapons to subjugate the West.  This position placed him at odds with other Commissioners but won him the respect of Republican Cold Warriors.

After Eisenhower was inaugurated in 1953, he appointed Strauss as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.  He was confident of Strauss’ competence and comfortable with his anti-Soviet orientation.  Eisenhower and Strauss both shared confidence that atomic energy could be used for peaceful ends, not just as tools of war.  Their ‘Atoms for Peace’ engaged multinational cooperation and led to a series of Geneva Conferences in the late 1950s.

The twined lives of these two prominent Cold War Republicans is well-documented by historians. What is less discussed is their private connections. Both Eisenhower and Strauss owned large livestock farms. Managing the farms gave them release from the tensions of Washington.  Eisenhower’s Gettysburg farm was consisted of nearly 200 acres overlooking the famed Pennsylvania battlefield.  Strauss’ 700-acre Brandy Rock farm was just outside Brandy Station, Virginia.

Both men raised Angus cattle, and both were proud of their prize bulls. This pride was justified.  Eisenhower’s bull, Ankonian 3551, sired dozens of prize-winning offspring. Their ribbons are still on display at Barn #2 at the Eisenhower Gettysburg farm national historic site.  Strauss’ prime bull, Evas Bardolierme, likewise sired lines that are still winning awards in Virginia.  In the correspondence concerning Brandy Rock farm in the Lewis Strauss papers, there are letters from Eisenhower’s top herdsman to Strauss’ farm manager concerning the swapping of bull semen between the herds.  I keep hoping that some graduate student with an interest in animal husbandry and the Cold War will go through this correspondence to tell the full story.  As we are not able to return to the Library due to Covid, I can only rely on memory to relate this bull s—- story.

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