Dwight Eisenhower's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, March 29, 1969]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
EISENHOWER DEAD AT 78 AS AILING HEART FAILS;
RITES WILL START TODAY
END IS PEACEFUL
De Gaulle Will Attend Funeral of the 34th President Monday
By Felix Belair Jr.
Special to the New York Times
WASHINGTON, March 28 -- Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, died peacefully at 12:25 P.M. today at Walter Reed General Hospital after a long fight against coronary heart disease. He was 78 years old.
Death came to the five-star General of the Army and hero of World War II as members of his immediate family stood at his bedside.
The end had been foreshadowed in a midmorning medical bulletin that said the general's condition "continues almost imperceptibly downhill." It added that Mrs. Eisenhower was at his side.
The former President's doctors gave no immediate cause of death, presumably because they considered this unnecessary. His damaged heart -- scarred by seven attacks and weakened by recent episodes of congestive heart failure -- finally gave out despite the best efforts of medical science to prolong his life.
A Popular Leader
In all corners of the earth where the name Eisenhower was associated with victory in war and a tireless crusade for peace, great men and small were moved by the passing of the man whose rise from a farm boy in Kansas to supreme Allied commander and conqueror of the Axis powers and President of the United States was a story of devotion to duty.
Trained to command, he welded together the greatest military coalition in history by the tactic of conciliation. After he became President in 1952 he ended the war in Korea, and he refused to give fighter planes to the French forces in Vietnam because he was fearful the United States might become directly involved as a result.
As President he governed effectively through the sheer force of his popularity among average Americans of both major parties, and it was the average American who was the real source of his power.
His critics at home accused him of playing too much golf and of garbling syntax at his news conferences.
But the voters loved him and twice elected him President by the largest pluralities ever recorded at the time.
In his infectious grin and his highly expressive face most Americans thoughts they saw in "Ike" a dim reflection of themselves.
In Paris, it was announced today that General De Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces when General Eisenhower was supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II would come to Washington for the funeral ceremonies on Monday.
From London there was word that Lord Mountbatten, supreme Allied commander in Southeast Asia during the war, would attend as the personal representative of Queen Elizabeth.
The announcement of General Eisenhower's death, read to reporters by Brig. Gen. Frederic J. Hughes, commandant of Walter Reed, said:
"General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States, died quietly at 12:25 this noon after a long and heroic battle against overwhelming illness. His passing was peaceful, and he experienced no distress.
"Mrs. Eisenhower and the immediate family were nearby. President Nixon, former Presidents Truman and Johnson, and General Eisenhower's brothers have been notified. The commanding general, Military District of Washington, is responsible for all arrangements for the state funeral.
"It is the wish of the family that, in lieu of flowers, friends will recall charities of their choices, or those of prime interest to General Eisenhower during his lifetime."
Visibly moved by the news he had to impart, General Hughes brushed aside an inquiry on whether there would be a medical briefing.
"No," he replied. "This is a period of mourning, not of medical discussion."
President Nixon, who had been notified of the death of his former chief moments after the event, left the White House at 12:50 P.M. and was sped to the hospital behind a motorcycle escort. He was accompanied by Mrs. Nixon and their eldest daughter, Tricia.
Proclamation by Nixon
The President, before leaving his office, signed a proclamation calling for a day of mourning on Monday and ordering that the flag be flown at half-staff on all Government buildings and other Government facilities at home and around the world for 30 days. The White House will be closed to visitors through Wednesday.
Mr. Nixon also sent a brief message to both houses of Congress notifying members officially of his action. Government offices were closed almost immediately, and Federal employees were sent home. The offices will remain closed through Monday.
Postmaster General Winton M. Blount announced there will be no mail deliveries on Monday and all post offices will be closed. Chief Justice Earl Warren announced that the Supreme Court would formally convene at 10 A.M. on Monday but would adjourn promptly without transacting any business.
General Eisenhower's brother Milton S. of Baltimore, former president of Johns Hopkins University, arrived at the hospital just ahead of the Presidential party. The other surviving brother, Edgar N., lives in Tacoma, Washington.
Behind the President's limousine followed one with Secretary of State William P. Rogers, Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird, Henry A. Kissinger, special Presidential assistant for national security affairs, and Bryce Harlow, White House legislative liaison chief, who had held the same post under President Eisenhower.
They joined the Eisenhower family in Mrs. Eisenhower's third-floor suite, adjoining that of General Eisenhower.
The family included David Eisenhower, the general's grandson, and his wife, the former Julie Nixon, daughter of the President. They had remained in an anteroom while the former President's wife Mamie, his son, John, and the latter's wife Barbara, remained at his bedside until the end.
Tributes to General Eisenhower were numerous. President Nixon said of the man with whom he worked for eight years as Vice President that "he spoke with a moral authority seldom equaled in American public life.
"Dwight Eisenhower was selfless," the President said. "He was devoted to the common cause of humanity, to his beloved country, and to his family and friends. He was both a great man and a good man. To millions the world over he was a symbol of decency and hope."
In his proclamation President Nixon said, "General Eisenhower's life will shape the future as it shaped our time."
"As long as men cherish their freedom," he said, "Dwight Eisenhower will stand with them, as he stood during war and peace; strong, confident and courageous. Even in death he has left us a great spirit that will never die."
The President emerged from the hospital red-eyed and silent, entering his waiting limousine and returning to the Executive Mansion. He canceled all appointments for the next five days and left by helicopter for Camp David at Catoctin, Md., accompanied only by an aide.
In his eulogy of General Eisenhower, President Nixon offered as a key to his character a statement the general had prepared in event the Normandy invasion during World War II ended in disaster. It read:
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and Navy, did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
Mr. Nixon said the statement was filed away and never used because the landings had been successful.
"But that was a man ready to take the consequences of decision," the President said. "That was Eisenhower."
To Lie In State
Plans for the state funeral and interment of the former President at Abilene, Kan., were approved by General Eisenhower himself in 1966. They will be put into effect starting just before 11 A.M. tomorrow when his body is taken from a funeral home here and conveyed by hearse to the Washington Cathedral.
The body will remain there until midafternoon Sunday, when it will be placed on a caisson, and a procession will go from the cathedral to the Capitol. There the body will lie in state from 5:30 P.M. Sunday until 1:30 P.M. Monday on the same black-draped catafalque that supported the body of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
Just before 4 P.M. on Monday the body will be returned by hearse to the Washington Cathedral for a formal funeral ceremony at about 4:30 P.M. At about 6:00 P.M. it will be placed aboard a special funeral train, also carrying old friends for the trip to Abilene, taking about 40 hours, and burial, on Wednesday.
The former President -- he preferred to be addressed as General Eisenhower -- had been a patient at Walter Reed since last May 14. He was flown here from Southern California, where he had been hospitalized temporarily after his fourth heart attack, on April 29.
There were three more attacks on June 14, Aug. 6, and Aug. 16. All but the last one was diagnosed as a myocardial infarction -- severe damage to the myocardium, or main pumping muscle of the heart. The sixth attack was diagnosed as equaling in severity his first massive infarct, in Denver in 1955.
The seventh attack, although less damaging than the others, marked the onset of ventricular fibrillating, or fluttering of the lower left pumping chamber of the heart. On at least four occasions he had to be "defibrillated" by massive electrical shock, restoring his normal heart rhythm.
In each of these episodes the old warrior lost consciousness, and there were times when his doctors despaired of his life. But, after being listed in "critical" condition for several weeks he rallied.
Equanimity mixed with light humor came to be recognized as the General's hallmark during his last days in the hospital.
When told of the need for surgery, his immediate reaction was a wry smile.
"Okay, if that's the way it has to be. But I don't want anybody waking me up at 2 in the morning to stick another needle in me and carting me off to the operating room. If there's going to be another invasion, I want to know about it in advance and that it's coming off on schedule."
Two days later Walter Reed doctors talked about the former President's "remarkable recovery." Less than seven months earlier, on Aug. 16, Lieut. Gen. Leonard Heaton, Surgeon General of the Army, talked openly about General Eisenhower's "miraculous recovery" from his seventh heart attack.
Since his last major heart attack, his doctors knew that death might strike at any time. General Eisenhower knew it too. He had known since his second and third attacks, on Nov 9 and 11, 1965, for which he was hospitalized at Fort Gordon, Ga. that he was living on borrowed time.
The General's doctors kept no secrets from him about his condition. He was aware that his cardiac disease was progressive and that he might just as readily die in a rocking chair at his Gettysburg, Pa., farm as on the golf course at Palm Desert in Southern California.
But General Eisenhower never seemed distressed at the thought. In August of 1968, after his sixth heart attack, he spoke of death to a long-time friend as preferable to life as a bed-ridden cripple and a burden to his family.