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Posted on Aug 25, 2008 in Carlo D'Este, War College

1941 – The Year Eisenhower Became a General Part 2

By Carlo D'Este

During the exercise, Hanson Baldwin of The New York Times and Eric Sevareid of CBS were urged to look up a certain Col. Eisenhower who “makes more sense than any of the rest of them.” The correspondents began converging on Eisenhower’s tent for informal bull sessions, and as a gathering spot where they could obtain straight talk, but just as importantly, relax and possibly even obtain a drink in an otherwise largely dry South.

It was during the maneuvers that Eisenhower discovered a previously unknown talent for public relations. The press liked his open, easy going manner and his willingness to poke fun at himself and the army. Eisenhower’s risqué side emerged in the company of other men as he entertained them with unprintable stories about the New Orleans prostitutes with whom some of his troops had consorted.


Although Eisenhower drew the line at procuring women for those bold enough to ask, virtually all came away impressed by the balding colonel whose praises they extolled in newspaper columns across the United States. Syndicated columnists, Robert S. Allen, and Drew Pearson, whose “Washington Merry-Go-Round” column was read by millions, praised Eisenhower’s performance, noting that he had a steel-trap mind and unusual physical vigor. Although many mis-identified him as “Lt. Col. D.D. Ersenbeing,” Eisenhower did not mind a bit, pleased that at least they had managed to get his initials right.

* * *

Eisenhower was deeply troubled by the many failures of leadership he observed in Louisiana. The closer the United States came to war, the more passionate he became on the subject of preparedness. Convinced a war could not be won with inferior leadership, he continued to champion the weeding out of unfit officers who, he said, “have not the iron in their souls to perform the job.”

Marshall did just that. As Eisenhower had predicted, there ensued a ruthless but necessary house cleaning which resulted in the forcible retirement of hundreds of aging senior officers. Just as importantly, the Army began identifying its most promising leaders who would carry the burden of fighting during the coming war.

Maj. Gen. George S. Patton (microphone in hand) directs the operations of his 2nd Armored Division during the Third Army maneuvers in October 1941. National Archives.Three notable names emerged from the maneuvers, all for very different reasons. Eisenhower, for his role in devising the Third Army strategy, even as he grumbled that he would rather have been commanding a unit of Patton’s tanks. Brig. Gen. Mark Clark wrote the maneuver scenario that earned him accolades as the Army’s preeminent planner. And George S. Patton, the epitome of the new breed of aggressive tank commanders whose name alone some said was worth an armored division.

Eisenhower was credited with devising the strategy by which Krueger’s army had achieved such great success. The praise given Eisenhower has been exaggerated, in part, retrospectively because of his later rise to supreme command. The truth was that Krueger and Eisenhower together had formulated a winning strategy that outsmarted the more conservative Ben Lear. Eisenhower’s contribution cannot be minimized, but even Ike’s son, John later mused, “Why Dad got so much credit for the Third Army’s performance, I do not understand, because he was not the commanding general. But Krueger had a tendency to take a back seat, and I guess Dad had more visibility. It’s a strange thing.”

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  1. Very interesting. I am currently reading Arkansas papers from 1941 regarding the build-up of troops in Arkansas for the maneuvers which began in southern Arkansas and crossed the border over to Louisiana.
    It is fascinating to read how important these war games were for the preparation for WWII … and to talk with local people who remember the summer the troops came to town.

    While Eisenhower may have joked about the prostitutes in New Orleans, in Arkansas 60-75 prostitutes were rounded up and detained until after the troops left. Known prostitutes were also tested for venereal diseases according to the newspapers reports I am reading.
    The irony is that the local girls, from mid-teens and up, were encouraged to go to chaperoned dances held for the soldiers at community designated Soldiers Center.
    Thanks for the informative, site.

  2. Ms. Joan, my grandpa recently passed away and was a WW2 vet as well as my elderly neighbor (he has his picture taken with General Patton) and i am just getting into reading war history. Do you have a list of books you could recommend, including the papers on Arkansas during war time. (as i am now living in Arkansas and am interested in knowing more).

    Thank you

  3. I guess i was a military brat as protrayed in Chris Kristaffesons movie on CD titled BRATS(found in libraries) having been born in the Ft. Benning hospital Jan 1941. My father was a Dentist in Patton’s unit all across France and first rembered seeing him when he safely returned home in Louisville KY some time in 1944-45. We had lived in Ft. Polk, Ft. Benning, Lompok, Ca., Ft. Smith, Ark. and who knows where else. Strange occurance, I was flying a light twin over Ft. Polk the day the shuttle crashed( some 60 yrs later) and was asked by Polk approach to report any smoke since nobody knew just where it had gone down. 30 minutes earlier and we would been right under it and the only plane in the area. Dad retired as a Full Bird Colonel with 36 years of service to his country. I spent 3 years in the Army as an E-5 helicopter chief so could relate ever so slightly as to what he went through. Mom and Dad passed away several years ago and I’m 71 now so at least some of us have not forgotten what the men and the families gave up so long ago. God bless all the troops that came before us and all the one that will follow and their families that have protected this great Nation for so long. Clay N.