January 4, 2002
Eisenhower Library Releases Additional Sound Recordings of Eisenhower Conversations
Washington, DC. . .The National Archives and Records Administration announced today that the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, will open for research on Wednesday, January 9, 2002, compact discs of thirty-eight dictabelt sound recordings of conversations between Dwight D. Eisenhower and others in his office at Columbia University. The complete set of CDs will be available at 9 a.m. (CST) from the Eisenhower Library. The Eisenhower Library is located at 200 SE 4th Street, Abilene, KS. A selection of three CDs, including conversations with John Foster Dulles, will be made available from the National Archives Public Affairs Staff in the National Archives Building, Washington, DC at 10 a.m. (EST). The National Archives Public Affairs staff is located in Room G-12, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.
Each CD includes several dictabelt recordings and is accompanied by a tape summary prepared by archivists at the Eisenhower Library. There are a total of 10 CDs, which may be purchased as a set at a cost of $150.00 or individually at a cost of $15.00 per CD. Checks should be made payable to the Eisenhower Library. Payment by major credit card is also acceptable.
All of the conversations on dictabelts to be released were recorded between September 1949 and June 1950 while Eisenhower served a President of Columbia University in New York City. The dictabelts record approximately 15 minutes of conversation each and comprise a total of 21 separate conversations. Highlights of the conversations include a December 20, 1949, conversation with John Foster Dulles, who later served as Eisenhower's Secretary of State. The discussion centered on whether Eisenhower would seek political office. At one point Eisenhower states, "I hate and despise the term 'politician' so if I open my mouth on what I consider to be the most basic principle instantly I'm a politician." He continues "Well, now if I were seeking a political position why would I be signing on in 1949 and having to carry the burden for three years before I was ready to make a move. Why, to my mind, everything I have done is on the other side. However, they know that I try to avoid that partisan business…so they smear me with that."
Four of the released dictabelts record the February 7, 1950, conversation between Eisenhower and journalist-writer John Gunther, author of Eisenhower the Man and the Symbol. The discussion focuses on the differences between liberalism and conservatism. Eisenhower describes himself as "militantly progressive" believing that "all processes should be for the benefit of all the people." Eisenhower points out that a person can hold both liberal and conservative views at the same time. He says that "[Franklin] Roosevelt was an extreme liberal about child labor and about old age pensions, but he was an extreme conservative about the Bill of Rights." Eisenhower later remarks, "I've gotten so that I hate both terms because those two terms mean all things to all people." As the conversation continues, they talk of the freedoms enjoyed by Americans. Eisenhower comments that Americans must join together to counter the challenges facing the nation. "That one hundred and forty million united Americans are the strongest temporal power there is. . . Let us not forget how strong we are, united. But how may we unite? Only if we understand in, only if we have a basic, common understanding of our great values."
Three belts document a conversation between Eisenhower and Clarence Malone, Vice President of the Second National Bank of Houston and an early environmentalist. They discuss Eisenhower's possible political ambitions. He tells Malone "we're right ahead of election time now and everybody is just trying to find in every word I say a political meaning. . . So, you can see how I get awfully sensitive about these things."
The remaining twenty-eight belts record conversations on a wide range of topics including politics, military history, loyalty-security, Eisenhower family history, the Middle East, charitable works, and world economics.
In September 1997, during the routine processing of the papers of Brig. General Robert L. Schulz, aid-de-camp to General Eisenhower, a staff archivist discovered the dictabelts in one of the boxes. The Eisenhower Library has no equipment to listen to the original dictabelts. In the spring of 1998, the belts were transferred to standard audiotape for reviewing and processing; last year a sound restoration house enhanced their sound quality. Despite these efforts the quality of the recordings is often poor and large portions of the conversations are indecipherable.
In 1997 and 2000, the Eisenhower Library previously released ten dictabelt recordings of Oval Office conversations that occurred at the White House in 1955. President Eisenhower's secretary prepared brief typed summaries of those conversations at the time, which were opened to research at the Eisenhower Library in 1976.
On January 9, 2002 all known Eisenhower recordings of conversations will be
open for research.
For further information contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library at (785) 263-4751.