Kay Summersby - Relationship With Eisenhower

Relationship With Eisenhower

There is a question whether Summersby consumated a romance with Eisenhower during the war. Many people knew both of them during the war but none alleged there was an affair. In Eisenhower Was My Boss, her 1948 memoir of the war years, she made no mention of an affair. Her 1975 autobiography, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower, was explicit about the romance. Past Forgetting was ghostwritten by Barbara Wyden while Summersby was dying of cancer. This book was contracted after Eisenhower had died in 1969. The text states the omission of the affair from the 1948 book was due to her concern for Eisenhower's privacy. Summersby reportedly stated in 1976: "The General is dead. I am dying. When I wrote Eisenhower Was My Boss in 1948, I omitted many things, changed some details, glossed over others to disguise as best I could the intimacy that had grown between General Eisenhower and me. It was better that way."

Those who dispute the claim of an affair maintain that the second book's description of the relationship was simply fabricated, presumably by the ghostwriter. By the book's account there were two unsuccessful attempts to have intercourse, as recounted in a 1991 report in The New York Times: "Miss Summersby, a former model, wrote of how her friendship with the general had developed into passion. 'I suppose inevitably, we found ourselves in each others' arms in an unrestrained embrace,' she wrote. 'Our jackets came off. Buttons were unbuttoned. It was as if we were frantic, and we were.' But, she added, the general had difficulty consummating the affair". Instead of sex, wrote Summersby, the affair mostly consisted of "stolen kisses" during walks or on airplanes, holding hands, and horseback riding or golfing together. She kept a note from Eisenhower that asked, "How about lunch, tea & dinner today?" the note says. "If yes: Who else do you want, if any? At which time? How are you?"

Eisenhower himself only mentioned Summersby once in Crusade in Europe, his memoir of the war, in a list of aides. Historian Carlo D'Este notes that members of Eisenhower's staff denied that there was ever an affair between them, and dismisses Summersby's book as "fanciful". However, rumors and jokes about their relationship were common among soldiers. Eisenhower's son John, who briefly served as an aide, described her as "the Mary Tyler Moore of headquarters. She was perky and she was cute. Whether she had any designs on the Old Man and the extent to which he succumbed, I just don't know".

Summersby began the war as a British subject and the equivalent of a private in the British forces and ended the war as a US citizen and a captain in the US Army WACs, which came about through the direct efforts of General Eisenhower. It is generally agreed that Kay and Ike were extremely close, were seen together in many press photographs during the war (as shown in the two books and other literature) and (as evidenced by letters between the two), Summersby was not well liked by Eisenhower's wife (who was alive when the second book was published). Summersby was married and divorced prior to meeting Ike and married Morgan some time after her discharge from the army. There was an engagement to marry US Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Dick" Arnold, that overlapped her initial period with Eisenhower; however, this ended by the death of her fiancé during the North Africa campaign.

President Harry S. Truman reportedly told author Merle Miller that in 1945, Eisenhower asked permission from General George Marshall to divorce his wife to marry Summersby, but permission was refused. Truman also allegedly said he had the correspondence between Marshall and Eisenhower retrieved from the Army archives and destroyed. But Truman's account of the Summersby controversy has been widely rejected by most (but not all) scholars. Historians say Truman had a mistaken recollection, and emphasize that Eisenhower had asked permission to bring his wife to England. Others have speculated that Truman was not truthful about Eisenhower because of animosity between the two men that intensified during the Eisenhower presidency (Truman stated that Eisenhower did not invite him back to the White House during his administration). Historian Robert H. Ferrell stated he found that the tapes of Miller's interviews with Truman contain no mention whatever of Summersby, and concludes that Miller concocted the story.

Eisenhower biographer Jean Edward Smith writes, "Whether he and Kay were intimate remains a matter of conjecture. But there is no question they were in love." Smith cites Omar Bradley, who in his autobiography wrote that the two were in love and that "Their close relationship is quite accurately portrayed, so far as my personal knowledge extends, in Kay's second book, Past Forgetting."

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