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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

Having a valet around produced its share of mirthful moments. Mickey would carefully button Eisenhower’s clean shirts just as the Army had taught him, which usually resulted in a stream of profanity-strewn language from Eisenhower who did not want to be bothered unbuttoning them. To remove the source of irritation, Mamie got into the habit of undoing them, only to have Mickey return and re-button them, thus perpetuating the daily litany of obscenities.

It was the start of a warm relationship. Mickey McKeogh would remain with Eisenhower throughout World War II as the most faithful of his enlisted orderlies. Once, in North Africa, Eisenhower excused Mickey from accompanying him on a trip to the front. Mickey refused, saying, “Sir, my mother wrote me that my job in this war was to take care of you. If General Eisenhower doesn’t come back from this war, don’t you dare come back.”


One of the assistants Eisenhower inherited was a jovial, fortyish San Antonio native, Ernest R. “Tex” Lee who looked more like the former insurance and car salesman he was than an officer. Nevertheless, Eisenhower liked Lee and retained him. Mickey McKeogh and “Tex” Lee thus became the first and second members of his loyal World War II personal staff.

* * *

Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger meets with Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Gen. George Marshall at a field HQ in 1943. National Archives.Dwight Eisenhower and Walter Krueger were a good match. Experience and foresight were the traits Krueger sought, and in his new chief of staff he gained both. With little time left until the maneuvers, the two men began planning an orthodox but nevertheless aggressive strategy for Third Army. “Luckily I’ve spent most of my life in large headquarters, so am not overpowered by the mass of details,” Eisenhower noted.

Within a few weeks Krueger wrote to a friend in the War Department that Eisenhower “is going strong.” When his friend Mark Clark’s glowing reputation as the army’s best training expert resulted in his promotion to brigadier general in July 1941, Eisenhower was envious. “Why haven’t I been promoted?” Ike regularly wanted to know. “It’s in the works,” Clark would reply, answers that were hardly satisfactory to an officer fearful of being bypassed by his contemporaries.

By 1941 it seemed certain that America would be drawn into the war. The only question was when and under what conditions. Unfortunately, however, the United States had an army in name only. A worried head of U.S. Army ground forces, Lt. Gen Lesley J. McNair, remarked, “We had to get together something of an Army pretty darn fast.” Indeed, the process of assembling and training a modern army was as difficult and frustrating at McNair’s level as it was at Eisenhower’s. The United States was, after all, still devoutly isolationist and its army, as one soldier quaintly described it, was “a goddamn mess.”

1941 was also the year Marshall tested the Army’s preparedness to fight. Large-scale division, corps and army level war games were held in Tennessee, Louisiana and in the autumn, the mountains of the Carolinas.

This article will conclude next month with how Dwight Eisenhower not only became a key player in the largest maneuvers ever conducted by the United States Army but also cemented his reputation as an officer destined for a greater role in the coming world war.

Carlo D’Este is the author of Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life; Patton: A Genius For War; and the forthcoming Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945.

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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..