President of the United States; Supreme Allied Commander.
Autograph Letter Signed, two pages, quarto, [Algiers], March 1, . To his wife Mamie, with the original envelope, bearing Eisenhower’s “censored” stamp and signature.
Dwight D Eisenhower, as the newly appointed Allied Commander-in-Chief in North Africa, had planned and directed the Allied landings which the Americans’ entry into the European War. The landings were largely unopposed. U.S. forces first faced combat when the Afrika Korps under General Rommel, the “Desert Fox,” attacked on February 19th, 1943. The U.S. forces vastly outnumbered the Germans but were overwhelmingly defeated at Kasserine Pass. Rommel was unable to capitalize on his victory and drive the American forces further back because of his own supply problems and difficulties with the Italians.
“I think I sent you a letter yesterday; but I couldn’t be sure. Anyway there is no better way for me to use a few free minutes than to concentrate on you by trying to get my thoughts onto paper. The only thing is that it’s not like writing an essay; you don’t take a subject, introduce it in para one, develop it in para 2, and emphasize your conclusions in para 3. How is there any way of expanding upon the fact that you are the one woman in the world?
“A fine letter from Johnny came just yesterday. I cannot tell you how much pleasure I get out of reading his notes; he always tries to give me something of his heavier problems and his philosophy of life. Right now it appears he has a new girl – from indifferent and casual language of his letter I think he must like her a lot. I encouraged him – said concentration was better than dispersion as a general rule, and told him that if she was so attractive as to make him forget the others, I’d like to meet her. Wonder whether you have seen her.
“You’ve read of our recent battles; in certain sections they still go on. I’ve had many trying situations with inadequate help – but now things are straightening out fairly well. I always look forward to the time when the pressure on me will be lightened – so far that time has not come.
“Well my sweet, I realize this is not much, but it will serve to tell you that on the afternoon of March 1, 1943, the thing I wanted personally to do was to be at our side and tell you that I love you.”
Dwight D Eisenhower’s “trying situations with inadequate help” refers to the poor leadership at headquarters and in the field at Kasserine Pass. There was an alarming complacency among the officers and their commander, instead of maintaining a strong, mobile reserve, had scattered his units piecemeal along the front. Eisenhower fired the commander and, famously, brought in General George S. Patton to straighten out the command and the Army. This was the opportunity that Patton had been waiting for, and preparing for, his entire career. The dramatic change he brought to the U.S. Army resulted in a highly disciplined combat force that succeeded in driving the Afrika Korps eastward across North Africa and up against the British Army attacking westward.
Dwight D Eisenhower’s appointment of Patton to command the US II Corps began the legendary World War II career of America’s most famous combat commander. Patton’s brilliant, unorthodox tactics in Sicily made him an American hero in the media. Eisenhower gave Patton the command of the Third Army for the invasion of Normandy; the Germans feared Patton as the Allies best combat leader and knew that he would be spearheading the invasion. With this knowledge, Eisenhower held Patton in England in the most important deception of the war. A phantom army was created in England with thousands of fake rubber tanks, wooden airplanes, trucks, artillery, jeeps; all of the radio traffic that would be generated by a full army waiting to invade was created.
Knowing that Patton and the Third Army were still in England convinced Hitler that the invasion in Normandy was not the real invasion and that the real invasion would be at Calais. Hitler therefore held back the major parts of the German army to drive Patton and his army back into the sea. It was not until days after the landings in Normandy that Hitler realized the deception and sent to the German divisions to Normandy but the Allied armies had already established themselves on French soil. The deception of using Patton as a decoy was a major factor in the Allies success.
After the Germans realized Patton wasn’t going to land at Calais, Eisenhower brought him to France and made the Third Army operational. Patton’s lightning advances across France brought headlines and constant gasoline shortages for his tanks which kept outrunning supplied.
When Dwight D Eisenhower alluded in this letter to Mamie about his appointment of Patton (“but now things are straightening out fairly well”), it is doubtful that he could have realized just how important his appointment of Patton would turn out to be. No other field commander of World War II, except for Rommel, would have the notoriety and fame of “Old Blood and Guts” Patton.
The disaster at Kasserine Pass was Eisenhower’s first test in the reality of being commander-in-chief. Up until this battle, the reality of his commanders’ actual abilities in war situations was unknown. It had all been planning, training and war games. The games were over now and, as Eisenhower once said, his mistakes “result in loss of life or disaster for the nation.” Far from the pressure being lightened on him, March of 1943 was only the beginning of more than two years of unimagined, unrelenting responsibility, tension and pressure.
Numerous commanders would have to be replaced, old friends like Patton reprimanded, temperamental national heroes like Montgomery and DeGaulle relentlessly confronted, and all the while fighting the Germans. His words to Mamie, “so far that time has not come,” seem overly optimistic but it was this optimism that enabled Ike to keep focused on victory when his armies were brought to a virtual standstill in Italy, were unable to break out from the Normandy front, Montgomery took months to take an objective planned for two days, and Market Garden, the British plan for a short cut to Berlin (“the bridge too far”) became a debacle. That optimism carried Ike to victory and gave the country the enduring Dwight D Eisenhower smile.
Framed (with taupe inner and outer maps, in a silver frame, with a photograph of the General speaking with the troops) dimensions: 23 3/4 inches wide by 25 1/4 inches high.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- World War II