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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Extracts from General Dwight D Eisenhower's letters to his wife Mamie.

David Irving dictated these extracts in Abilene in about 1976. They may contain phonetic or transcription errors. We invite comments, corrections and expansions. Please give date of letter referred to. [comment]

On January, 3rd 1945 he wrote, '. . . Possibly I've been remiss about writing the past two weeks, although I've sent two or three teletypes. From your papers you will understand that we have been under some stress, and you'll understand that it has been hard to sit down and to compose thoughts applicable to a letter to one's best only girl. . . Yesterday my senior naval officer, and my great friend, Admiral [Bertie] Ramsay, was killed in an accident. His plane went into a stall on take off I haven't heard any explanation. Such things are most saddening. . .'

On January, 7th (?) he wrote, 'It always distresses me when I get a message from you indicating anxiety or impatience because I have failed to write. Please, please understand that I do go through periods when I simply cannot sit down and write a note. To hold a pen is sometimes sheer mental, almost physical, agony. . . These are trying days. I keep as fit as can be expected but exercise is out of the question. There are always guards, snoopers etc. there is even a guard in my upstairs hall. (For Lord's sake don't tell anyone that! they'd think I was scared. Actually, I permit it only to satisfy you 'Security' people. In Africa I could occasionally ride a horse. I even got a few chances in England. But never here.

'Today Butch [former naval aide, Harry C Butcher] came out. He is looking fine, after a long trip including a visit to the South of France on some public relations business. . . His latest promotion gives me a bigger money allowance, but no other increases. I found that there was a big bother in trying to make changes in allotments, so I'll just send you a check each month for about 225.00 dollars. Please be on the look out for these. . .' 'I've had about three different sets of instructions on insignia I'm to wear. Now looks as if it will be a very small circle of five stars and a miniature seal of the U.S.'

On January, 11th 1945 he write, 'Not long ago a Polish General came to my main office to pin on me a Polish decoration. Because the photographer happened to catch the corner of my office that has the picture of yourself, Johnny and my mother, I'm sending along a copy.'. . . 'This noon I ran down to the dispensary to denote a bit of blood. The medics had a dickens of a time getting a needle into my vein either my veins are old and tough or he had just had a dull needle. The business itself amounts to nothing! We've had a lot of visitors lately much interest is being taken in our affairs at the moment.

We've had a hectic few weeks. The so-called holiday season was particularly so. On January 15th, he writes about the weather: 'The winter that you and I spent in France was nothing like this one. For the past two weeks we've been blanketed in snow. It's difficult to travel by road and the low lying fogs make airplane almost impossible. Certainly you can not plan a trip on the basis of using a plane. . . Not long ago I saw [General] Everett [S Hughes], who is in fine health. . . I often wonder how you're getting along; what you do and so on. . . As a matter of fact I've had very few letters from you this past month. That's probably because you've gone to Benning and cannot find time to write while you are traveling.' And he adds a postscript: 'You've never said anything about the perfume I sent you or the 1,000 francs note in a wallet I sent for John. Did you ever receive them?'

NOTE: A thousand francs is equivalent to twenty dollars. It never arrived.

Mamie wrote to him concerned that about the rumours relating to the security of General Eisenhower.

On January, 18th he replied, 'I am distressed that rumours get about that can disturb you so much. . . I know what a burden you have to carry and I must say I wouldn't put it past a fanatical Nazi prisoner to try to harm you. . . Anyway you be careful. How I hope this new Russian offensive keeps on going into the heart of Germany. In any event its' initial successes must be a shock to the Germans.'

On January, 29th 1945, 'Enclosed is a note that puzzles me. Has the lady made a mistake? I cannot remember ever having been in Middleton, Connecticut. I'll send her an acknowledgment, but I must say, my memory is a blank so far as she is concerned.'

Around this time news reached Eisenhower that his son John was being sent out to his theater.

He wrote to Mamie, on January, 30th 1945: I've been cudgeling my brains as to the best way of getting John up here for a visit. When his unit lands I suppose he will want to make sure his men are comfortable, well taken care of and so on. So I'm afraid I'll have to leave it up to him as to when he can come. The best I can do is to make sure transportation is standing by so no time will be lost when he can get away. I'm so anxious to see him but I feel like a June bride ten days before her wedding that is I think I do, although I am not certain how she'd feel. . . The doctor dropped by the other day to give me a checking up. Except for a stinging lecture he gave me on the number of cigarettes I smoke, he seemed pleased with my condition. B.P. was 138/82. Then, of course, I'm eight pounds over weight.'

On the morning of February, 4th 1945 he went away for several days. Meanwhile Lee went to the fought to meet John. He wrote on 3rd February, 'I think I know the particular job J. is going to get and it will be one to burden and instruct, him, and at the same time will be one where I can see him reasonably often. I cannot tell you how eagerly I am looking forward to seeing him. We'll probably talk ourselves to death. . .'

On February 11th he wrote, 'This has been an irritating morning. I had to do a sound movie, and because the equipment got soaked I had to do it twice. Very naturally I was annoyed, so the second effort was not so spontaneous or natural as the first. John and I sat up until very late eve. During the day he went back to his division and collected his property, etc, preparatory to his move. He seems pleased. I've certainly enjoyed having him here. I'm more than tired of mud, rain, fog and generally bad weather. But maybe we'll have an early spring!. . . The Russians are still making good progress after their early spectacular successes. Lord knows they can't go too fast and too well for me. More power to them. . .' On February, 15th 1945 he left John at his new headquarters. 'He seems pepped up about his job even though it entails six weeks more of school. . . I'm really going to miss him we had a fine time while he was right here in the house. I gave him a big weather proof fur lined coat for use Jeeps.'

[Four hours later he continued the letter:] 'I'd like to get out for a short walk today and really hope to make it before dark. The only trouble is that the area in which they will let me walk, without a flock of sentries, is very constricted, so there's nothing but a small circle to tramp around. Rather boring. ***** that we will be blessed with an early and a bright spring. It seems to me that ever since I came to war (except for the month of May, last year in England) we've been fighting weather. Once I was quoted in the papers as referring to the 'Damnable weather.' I received a letter from a shocked lady who not only deplored my selection of adjectives but reminded me that since the Lord sent the weather, I have no right to curse it. She really put me over the jumps.'

On February, 19th he wrote, 'John. . . has a habit of vagueness, out of which I hope he will grow. He wanted to get some cash, so I arranged it rather Colonel Lee did. But J. wanted to do it his particular way. Upshot: he got no money. Then he went off without his gloves and nice Burberry coat. . . He's lots of fun and we have a thoroughly good time when he is here. But I can't quite figure him out when he gets just sort of roaming about in his mind. Right now, due to a variety of causes, we're in comparative doldrums. I have periods of relative inactivity. I always like to think we're getting along with things splendidly.

On February 28th 1845, 'I'm leaving in twenty minutes for a trip that will last several days. My headquarters is now conveniently located to the places I normally visit and this reduces the wear and tear on me. For so many years I've accustomed myself to dictation of my thoughts when I pick up a pen I get completely uncoordinated. I make up my mind that I have a few minutes, to write to you, I sit down, and all the things I was counting on telling you seem to dissolve in my memory. This morning a photographer was in my office taking pictures of the flags in the corner. He was a nice, friendly boy, and suddenly said ' General, when were you married?' I told him. Then he said, 'Did you and your bride have any premonition on that day, that sometime a photographer would be in your office to take pictures of your personal flags for world wide distribution?' I just gazed at him blankly but later I realized I missed a chance to tell him that I was thinking of something far more important -- you. It beats the devil how one thinks of fine replies, an hour too late.'

On March 7th, 1945 he wrote, 'Darling, this morning I sent you a teletype to explain my failure to write for the past week. I really have been dashing about.' After a few hours he began again to complete the letter, 'It's now late afternoon and I've forgotten all the interesting things I thought I had in my mind when I started this letter this morning. . . I doubt whether anyone will note that 2nd Lieutenant Eisenhower (now 1st Lieutenant) has left his division. Bull was glad to let him go because of the responsibility he felt in the matter. He said J. was his best young officer; but he was glad J. has another job.' . . . 'It's amazing to read what you have to say about the 'pitfalls' of last summer. He (John) scarcely left my sight, going I think to only one party and that attended by a large number of people. So where he could have been in jeopardy, is beyond me. He and I have many long and frank talks whenever we are together, and I must say I find him conservative and rather sedate. But he's lots of fun, at that. I wish I could have him around all the time. . . Kennam [spelling?] came back and found me with a bit of blood pressure again. But I hope to last out this business!'

On March 17th he wrote, 'I've just gotten out of my plane after a hurried trip. It's almost time to close up shop for the day. . . We've got another battle in progress prospects look good, but I never count my Germans until they're in our cages or are buried! We keep pounding away. Soon I hope to see John. . . . . .Spent the day (yesterday) with Georgie P[atton]. He's always the same and a good tonic.'

On 19th March, 1945 he wrote, 'In my new headquarters I have a big house but I don't like it much. I'm going to try to find a decent place for my camp in another two weeks or so. The trouble is, of course, that each new camp takes for guards personnel ,. . . housekeeping, etc. But I like to keep in camp. . . Early in the war someone gave me an elaborate Contax camera. . . I never use one anyway.'

After the crossing of the Rhine, on March, 27th 1945, Eisenhower wrote, 'Darling it seems to me that for the past ten days I've settled at no one spot for more than a few minutes. Things are moving rapidly and it takes a lot of work to keep everything coordinated. There are many people to see, and always so much to be done. Thank god for people like Bradley, Spaatz Hodges, Patton, Beedle [Bedell Smith] and Simpson!' . . . 'Our troops are solidly across the Rhine something that is a great satisfaction to me. Boy will I be glad when this is over at least all but the shouting. Wish I knew how long it will be. The day is gone and a busy one. I've written the above at odd moments between conferences. One of my callers this a.m. was Judge [Samuel] Rosenman, who talked to you just before he left Washington some weeks ago.

On 9th April, 1945, he wrote, 'I had just been talking to another officer about the problems of devising a "policy", once the Germans stop fighting, under which I could get you over here quickly. It is difficult, of course, to do anything like that arbitrarily. I must [not give?] others the chance to say, 'The Boss doesn't care how long he stays here, he has his family, while we (all the others) are still separated from ours.' About such things it is impossible 'reason' we have to be most careful. But when the shooting stops I'm going to figure out something you can bet on that! We've been far too long apart.'

On April 15th 1945, he wrote, 'The night before last I saw John and the experience makes a bit of a tale. He is on a new job and already occupying a position properly belong ing to a Captain. He was right where he should be and had a particularly important task to do. . . just at this moment he received an arbitrary order to report to army headquarters (120 miles away). He suspected it was just that I wanted to see him so he had his immediate boss call back whether the matter was 'personal' or 'official.' He received word to obey the order! So he jumped in a liaison plane, and reported in, and hoped to leave again in an hour. That was about five p.m. and though he was informed that the purpose of his visit was to see me I didn't get in until eight. He fumed. The trouble had come about in a most curious way. It is difficult for me to remember that an expression of a slightest whim or wish on my part is likely to start a lot of things in motion in a hurry. When I was going past that particular headquarters on that morning I said, 'If my son is close by, I'd like to spend the evening with him. But he is not to come in if he is far away, or if he is busy.' But the man left in charge knew I wanted to see my boy. So hell or high water, in he came. He was put out, so was I; but we had a nice evening. The next morning he and I got up at 6.00 so he could get back to his proper place by 8.00 but the fog was such he couldn't get off until 9.00 . . . The other day I visited a German internment camp. I never dreamed that such cruelty, bestiality and savagely could really exist in this world! It was horrible.

On 21st April, 1945 he wrote, 'For the past twelve days there has been only on I've not travelled somewhere by air. This is Saturday eve, and I'm ready for an early night. Recently Lee had me sign a dozen photos and send to you. I suppose you received them. Just this minute I finished signing letters to all

[ rest of dictation missing. End of this tape?]

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."

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