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Posted on Jul 10, 2008 in Carlo D'Este, Stuff We Like

1941 – The Year Eisenhower Became a General

By Carlo D'Este

In March 1941 Eisenhower was promoted to the rank of full colonel. He had barely pinned on his shiny new eagles when his friends and colleagues began to proclaim that before long he would be a general. Eisenhower muttered in mock anger to his son, John, “Damn it, as soon as you get a promotion, they start talking about another one. Why can’t they let a guy be happy with what he has? They take all the joy out of it.”

With the promotion came yet another transfer, this time to the same job with the IX Corps, also based at Fort Lewis and commanded by one of Patton’s mentors, a prominent cavalry officer named Kenyon Joyce. With one minor exception, in Colonel Eisenhower, Joyce had acquired an ideal chief of staff. However, Eisenhower became so immersed in the demands of his new job that he was habitually careless of his personal appearance, and once had to be reminded that brass polish and his belt buckle had never met. Eisenhower could not be bothered with what he deemed minutiae and promptly detailed an NCO to purchase eight new belts and replace them whenever one got dirty.


* * *

In the autumn of 1940 Major General Walter Krueger, the newly appointed commander of the VIII Corps at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, required a new chief of staff and attempted without success to obtain Eisenhower. In 1941, Krueger was promoted and given command of the Third Army which was slated to be one of the two major maneuver elements in training exercises to be held in Louisiana later than year.

Eisenhower briefs Lt. Gen Lesley J. McNair as Maj. Gen. H. A. Dargue looks on during the Louisiana Maneuvers, Sept. 14, 1941. National Archives.In June, Krueger wrote directly to George Marshall urgently requesting that his present chief of staff be replaced. “In my judgment, that position demands a younger man, one possessing broad vision, progressive ideas, a thorough grasp of the magnitude of the problem involved in handling an Army, and lots of initiative and resourcefulness. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower, Infantry, is such a man, and I urgently request that he be detailed to Third Army.” The War Department approved and directed Eisenhower to report to San Antonio at once without benefit or formal orders.

On July 1, 1941, Ike and Mamie’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, they returned to the Army post where they had begun married life in 1916. They moved into spacious field-grade quarters that, once the resident silverfish and cockroaches had been fumigated, Mamie soon turned into the latest edition of Club Eisenhower. With the grander quarters, however, came new responsibilities, such as tending the lawn and garden, which was too much of a strain on Mamie ‘s health to manage alone. Eisenhower was far too busy to attend to such household details had he been so inclined.

Fourteen- to sixteen-hour days were the norm and home became a place only to eat and sleep. Eisenhower later described it “one of the busiest periods of my life,” little knowing his long days were only the tip of a future iceberg.

For the first time in his career Eisenhower was authorized a striker, an enlisted aide. A notice posted in the barracks brought forth a young first generation Irishman and former New York City bellhop named Michael J. “Mickey” McKeogh who quickly won Ike and Mamie’s heart with his efficiency and devotion.

Mickey had plenty to do to keep up with Mamie’s insistence on neatness. The house usually reeked of cigarette smoke from the growing numbers of cigarettes Eisenhower smoked each day. Keeping a tidy house was made more difficult by Ike’s habit of leaving the newspaper wherever it fell and his proclivity to toss his cigarette butts into the fireplace. Mickey recalls that Mamie would admonish, “Now, Ike, can’t you stop being so messy?”

“But he never learned,” recalled Mickey, “not even when they lived in places that had artificial fireplaces.” Nor did Mamie ever break her husband of the habit until after the war when he abruptly quit smoking.

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  1. Need to know the month and year that Clyde Eugene Spiers either was drafted or enrolled in the US Army.
    Can you help me?
    Thank you in advance

  2. How about a story pertaining to General Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., and his role in the development of America’s Armored Force?

  3. Anyone have any info on my Dad’s(M.C.Ward) WW2 outfit – 149th Armored Signal Company? It was attached to the 9th Armored Division, and I’d like to hear from those that are still around that may have known him. He was originally from Oklahoma. Thank You..