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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

What mattered was that Eisenhower’s performance was recognized by those who counted. He later proclaimed that the experience gained during the Louisiana Maneuvers was “incalculable.” However, the lavish publicity accorded Eisenhower left lingering resentments in Krueger who felt his chief of staff had taken credit for a plan he insisted he had conceived.

* * *

“Red” scout cars and artillery of the 27th Armored Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, engage “Blue” armored forces near Monroe, Louisiana, in September 1941. National Archives.Mark Clark conducted the formal critique of the Louisiana Maneuvers. Near its end, he was handed a telegram from the War Department containing the names of officers being nominated by Roosevelt for promotion to major general, along with some twenty colonels being advanced to brigadier general. Clark scanned the list, read their names, then announced, “That’s it.” The group was dismissed and as the fortunate selectees were surrounded and congratulated, Eisenhower, visibly deflated by the omission of his name from the list, had one foot out the door when Clark banged his gavel and intoned, “I forgot one name – Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Amid the throng of people Clark heard Eisenhower laugh, “I’ll get you for this, you sonofabitch.”

Eisenhower was genuinely elated at becoming a general after twenty-six years of military service. On October 3,1941, with his wife, Mamie and her parents present, Krueger pinned the single silver stars of a brigadier general on Eisenhower’s shoulder tabs. Afterwards, the new general proudly accepted the salute during the first of many parades that would be staged in his honor.


With his promotion, Eisenhower had reached a goal he never expected to attain. “But the nicest part of all, I’ve quickly discovered,” he wrote to a friend, “is to be assured by good friends that the War Department was not too d—- dumb in making the selection.” A family friend, Askel Nielsen, wrote to request an autographed photo. Flattered, Eisenhower wrote back, “I am hurrying it off at once – it would be tragic to have you change your mind. Wouldn’t you like three or four???”

The only worrisome aspect of his promotion was that Eisenhower had performed so well as Krueger’s chief of staff that he feared having to serve out the coming war in a succession of staff jobs, which would exclude him once again from obtaining a combat command. He had missed World War I stuck in Camp Colt, Pennsylvania training troops, and was determined it would not happen twice.

* * *

Shortly after the maneuvers McNair sent Marshall his evaluations of those he recommended for higher command. Virtually everyone over the age of fifty was excluded. Almost as an afterthought, the last name to appear on a list of seven unrated “others” named as potential division commanders was the name “Eisenhower.” McNair clearly felt no compelling need to rate any higher a career staff officer who had never commanded more than a battalion. Indeed, were it not for the glowing reputation he gained during the maneuvers, it is arguable that Eisenhower’s name would not have appeared at all.

Eisenhower and Patton were among a mere handful of officers over fifty years old to be retained, and later promoted. In 1989, Patton’s son would tartly observe that, “McNair’s predictions were not too hot. Take notice of Ike at the bottom of the list – ‘an also ran.’”

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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.