Seventy years ago today, on April 16, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his most memorable speech. Our 34th President had only been in office for three months of what would be a two-term, eight-year presidency for America’s top World War II military general.
He delivered his speech at the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in Washington, D.C.
Eisenhower, who understood the devastation of nuclear war, spoke passionately about removing “the cloud of war” against the Soviet Union and warned that any country pandering for military intervention and conflict is “humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
The President’s words seven decades ago are as applicable today as they were then.
In honor of the anniversary of President Eisenhower’s “Cross of Iron Speech,” I post on this Lord’s Day the portion that should give pause to Congress, the President, and every citizen’s desire for military intervention in Ukraine.
“What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?
“The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.
“The worst is atomic war.
“The best would be this: A life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.
“It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
“The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
“It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
“It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
“We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
“We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
“This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road. the world has been taking.
“This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
“These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that come with this spring of 1953.”
President Eisenhower’s Humanity Hanging from a Cross of Iron speech reveals the peril and the point of hope for America in the spring of 1953 and 2023.
In World War II, a Catholic General ordered all Chaplains for a meeting that was 50 miles behind the Front. (Front was where the fighting took place.) The General told them they would stay 50 miles behind the Front. As Dad started to drive away, the General yelled, “Where are you going? Dad yelled, “Back to the Front, “I take my orders from God; not you!”
When the War was over, this General had Dad transferred to France where he failed to have him court-martialed. Then he told Dad he would stay until he agreed to take a ‘colored discharge’. 13 months went by until a friend wrote General Eisenhower. Eisenhower wrote back, “The Overseas Commander has taken care of the situation and Dave Ray is going home.”
Dad’s friend gave Eisenhower’s letter to Dad. After our parents died, I gave Eisenhower’s letter to the Bonham Museum, and they lost it.
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East. . . . ”
from a poem by M.L. Haskins
as quoted by King George VI during his Christmas speech
in the year 1936 when England went to war against Hitler
I suppose ‘appeasing Hitler’ was one thought people tried.
But Hitler was not to be appeased, no, and he continued to attack sovereign countries in the way that Putin now attacks Ukraine.
That is the way of tyrants. May God have mercy.
Did you hear about Biden going to the hospital? (He couldn’t stop Putin.)