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Ike’s Military-Industrial Complex Speech Deconstructed

Dwight Eisenhower’s military prowess made him a war hero and a president. But on January 17, 1961, three days before he left the White House, Eisenhower told the American public, in a televised address, to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Fifty years later, the warning still resonates, but 21 newly discovered documents suggest that the message did not come easy. The son of presidential speechwriter Malcolm Moos found the trove of speech drafts and related memos in a family cabin. The papers, many of which had been chewed by mice, reveal that Ike and his advisers worked on the themes and language of the speech over the course of 20 months. “We didn’t know that the preparation began in May 1959,” says Karl Weissenbach, director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. “And there were last-minute changes just before the president addressed the nation.”

The now-famous phrase “military-industrial complex” only shows up about 18 months into the speechwriting process. While staffers had discussed the “dangers of ‘overgrown military establishments’” and the “war based industrial complex,” the exact wording first appears in a full draft of the farewell address from the fall of 1960. It counsels a “jealous precaution” against any weakening of civil control over the military. By January 7, that phrase had evolved into “jealously guard,” but the president’s brother Milton scratched out the word “jealously,” leaving the more neutral “guard.” Despite this apparent softening, the speech’s caution about the combined threat of the military and industry, coming from the man who had been the commander of Allied forces in Europe and the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, was a powerful parting shot.

Likely Pocahontas Wedding Site Unearthed

Pocahontas, the Indian princess who married Englishman John Rolfe in April 1614, is the most celebrated bride of the colonial era. So the recent discovery of postholes for the Jamestown church where the nuptials may have occurred came with a light coating of glamour. The daughter of Chief Powhatan, who headed a network of tribes in the Tidewater region of Virginia, Pocahontas was a linchpin for the ne’er-do-well settlement at Jamestown. Legend has it that she intervened to prevent the execution of the colony’s founder, Captain John Smith. She subsequently adapted to English ways while being held captive for ransom, converted to Christianity and became a living-and-breathing bridge between the Old World and the New. While there are no documented historical details on the wedding’s site, William Kelso, director of archaeological research and interpretation for Historic Jamestowne, couldn’t help but feel some of the buzz Pocahontas has generated through the ages. “I can stand in the place where she was married,” he says. “It’s pretty neat that you can say that about somebody who had that status.”

Manuelito Stirs Renewed Passions in New Mexico

The image—half of a stereograph— had been gathering dust among the archives of the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe for nearly 50 years until Daniel Kosharek was sorting through a batch of unidentified photographs and recognized Manuelito, one of the greatest war chiefs of the Navajo, sitting next to his brother, Cayetanito. Manuelito conducted negotiations during the late 1800s with two presidents, Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes. “He was the man,” says Kosharek, a museum archivist, who could barely contain his excitement over his serendipitous discovery.

Ice Age Bones Surface Near a Hot Resort

When a paleontologist starts gushing about “unusually sweet bones,” do not assume that a broth is in the making. Kirk Johnson, in this case, was talking about a mother lode of Ice Age animal and plant fossils unearthed recently near the Snowmass ski resort in Colorado: eight to 10 American mastodons, four Columbian mammoths, two Ice Age deer, four Ice Age bison, one Jefferson’s ground sloth, one tiger salamander. For Johnson, the chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the plant remains were cool, too: “wood that looks like wood, green leaves, beaver-chews sticks.” The stuff, which radiocarbon dates from 45,000 to 130,000 years BC, was very well preserved because the site was a high-elevation lake that gradually filled with silt over time. The resulting oxygen-free environment kept some of the bones a bright white. And there’s a lot more waiting to be unearthed. The site was discovered in late fall, so Johnson’s team had only two weeks to grab goodies, and still managed to put in 4,000 man-hours. (They’ll be back in the spring.) Says Johnson, “We were exhausted and thrilled.”

Mount Vernon Breaks Out the Brandy

George Washington’s Mount Vernon has finally made some booze that would have been to his liking. Two years after the re-created distillery on the estate started making rye whiskey—not Washington’s favorite, but the product that made his operation one of the biggest in the early United States—a team of visiting craftsmen made one of the great man’s choice tipples: peach brandy. Says Thomas McKenzie, master distiller of Finger Lakes Distilling: “It had an earthy quality, but a real nice peach aroma and a real nice peach flavor.” The hooch will now age at Mount Vernon and then be sold to raise money for the estate.

Civil War Drug Mules Unmasked

Nina and Lucy Ann look so sweet and innocent. You’d never suspect that they had a secret life as drug smugglers. But these Civil War–era dolls, from the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., are thought to have been mules: carriers of quinine and other medicines into the blockaded Southern states. As precious objects in a museum collection, Nina and Lucy Ann couldn’t be disassembled, so they were taken recently to a local hospital for X-ray testing, which revealed hollowed-out areas inside. “We know very little for certain about these dolls,” which were donated separately, says Catherine Wright, the museum’s collections manager. “But they came with stories that they were used for smuggling.” Now Wright will try to find a way to finagle a swab into the hollows to test for drug residues.


Originally published in the April 2011 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here