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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

Also in the autumn of 1941, Marshall asked Mark Clark to provide him with a list of ten officers he would recommend to become the head of the Operations Division of the War Department General Staff. Clark replied that there would only be one name on the list. “If you have to have ten names, I’ll just put nine ditto marks below.” The name Clark wrote was, “Ike Eisenhower.”

* * *

On Sunday, December 7, 1941, Eisenhower went to work in the morning, but by noon was exhausted and returned to his quarters, leaving orders that “under no circumstances” was he to be disturbed as he took a rare afternoon nap. As he slept Mamie heard the news flash about Pearl Harbor on the radio, and “I immediately went and wakened up my soldier.”


1941 would prove to be the turning point in Eisenhower's career. National Archives.The days that followed were a frenzy of activity. On the morning of December 12, Eisenhower’s telephone rang and a gruff voice on the other end said, “Is that you, Ike?” The caller was Col. Walter Bedell Smith, the secretary of the War Department General Staff, and his message was terse and unequivocal. “The Chief says for you to hop a plane and get up here right away. Tell your boss that formal orders will come through later.”

Eisenhower was dismayed. He had no idea of what lay ahead in Washington, but was certain it would mean his relegation to a dreaded staff job for the duration of the war. “Heavy-hearted, I telephoned my wife to pack a bag, and within the hour I was headed for the War Department.” Eisenhower later learned that Colonel Charles W. Bundy, the officer whom he was to replace had been killed in a plane crash in the Colorado Rockies the previous night. Bundy had been a senior War Plans Division planner for Pacific operations and needed to be replaced at once.

For the second time in six months Eisenhower was urgently summoned to a new post without benefit of formal orders. This time, however, his journey was to become a date with destiny.

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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.