EISENHOWER, Dwight D. (1890-1969), President. Autograph letter signed ("Dwight D. Eisenhower") Lt. General and Commander-in-Chief, TO THE MOTHER OF KAY SUMMERSBY, Mrs. Vera McCarthy Morrogh, in London; [Algiers], Allied Force Headquarters, Office of the Commander in Chief, 12 June 1943. 3 pages, small 4to, (8 x 7 7/8 in.), written on rectos only of three sheets of Eisenhower's C-in-C stationery, with the original envelope with Eisenhower's note: "Censored by Dwight Eisenhower General, U.S.A. C-in C."
IKE REPORTS THE DEATH OF KAY SUMMERSBY'S FIANCÉ AND CONFESSES THAT "I HAVE GROWN VERY FOND OF HER DURING THE MANY MONTHS SHE HAS DRIVEN MY CAR"
The Irish-born Kay Summersby (later Morgan) had been assigned as a driver to General Mark Clark and Eisenhower on an early visit to London, and Ike later requested Summersby serve as his personal driver. A vivacious 24-year-old, she joined the Women's Army Corps and rose from driver to personal secretary and aide to Eisenhower, eventually attaining the rank of Captain and serving with Ike in North Africa, the Sicily campaigns and finally, in England and on the Continent. At this date, during Ike's work on the planning for the Sicily invasion, Summersby was engaged to an American, Col. Richard Arnold. Both she and Arnold were married and in the process of obtaining divorces from their respective spouses. Arnold, though, was the victim of a land mine. Here, a few days after the tragedy, Eisenhower writes on behalf of the extremely distraught Kay to her mother:
"I am writing this note at the request of your daughter Kay, who has just suffered a great shock through the accidental death of her fiancé. She will, of course, soon write to you, but feels quite incapable, at the moment, of doing anything." Eisenhower recounts the sad circumstances of Col. Arnold's death, then adds: "Kay, who, as you know, is my driver, also asks that you inform her good friends...She fears that they will continue to mention her approaching marriage, something that would only deepen her distress. She is heart broken and there is little that her friends--of whom she has many--can do. However, we will try to keep her occupied and hope that time will heal her."
He concludes on a personal note: "I cannot tell you how sorry I am for her--all of us are; but I have grown very fond of her during the many months she has driven my car. If she does not soon write to you I will send you another note when I have further news."
During the war, there was considerable gossip about Summersby and Eisenhower, but the controversy surfaced very publicly in 1974, with publication of Merle Miller's Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, in which Truman recalled that at the end of the war, Eisenhower had asked General Goerge C. Marshall to post him to the U.S. so that he could divorce Mamie to marry "an English girl." According to Truman, Marshall was shocked and angered by the request, and wrote a strongly worded letter declining Ike's request. Kay Summersby herself wrote two memoirs of her years with the Supreme Allied Commander. In the first, Eisenhower Was My Boss (New York, 1948), she did not allude to any romantic involvement between them, but in the second, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair With Dwight D. Eisenhower (New York, 1976), published after Ike's death, she frankly avowed that an affair, although unconsummated, had indeed taken place. As one recent biographer writes, "the nature of their relationship was probably less than she claimed, but more than he acknowledged" (G. Perret, Eisenhower, 1999). The few surviving letters between Ike, Kay and her mother are critical to the documentation of their relationship, whatever it might have been. The letter is not published in Eisenhower's Papers.
Provenance: The Estate of Kay Summersby Morgan, (sale, Sotheby's, 13 June 1991, lot 161).