Famous Last Words: Avoid Rip-Off Pricing
In December 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was named by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to command the invasion of Europe. One week later, my father, historian Alden Hatch, was signed to write the first biography ever of the general.
What followed was a peripatetic 10 months of travel by my father and mother, myriad interviews and crushing deadlines. The biography was published a year later—while the War was still raging—under the title, "General Ike." During the process my parents became close friends of Mamie Eisenhower, Ike's wife, who was living at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington while he was overseas.
In 1947, my father was commissioned by Liberty magazine to write a series of articles on the candidates for the upcoming presidential election. At the time, Eisenhower was U.S. Army Chief of Staff. My father called Mamie to say he and my mother were coming to Washington for a series of interviews and asked if they could get together for a drink or dinner. Mamie immediately said, "By all means stay with us!"
"We'd love to, Mamie, but we're bringing Denny."
"Bring Denny. We'd be delighted to have him."
That's how, as a 12-year-old kid, I wound up staying for a week with the Eisenhowers at Quarters One in Fort Meyer, Va.
One evening, my parents and the Eisenhowers were going out to a black tie affair. General Walter Bedell (Beetle) Smith, Ike's chief of staff in the War, was coming over to hook a ride in the limo and Mamie recruited me to entertain him while the Eisenhowers and the Hatches were getting dressed.
I spent a half hour with the general, a low-key, affable gent. I remember we talked sports, especially fencing.
From Life to the Page
Over the years I have read many books about World War II in Europe, and Beetle Smith was mentioned in all of them, but not in great detail and seldom kindly. He always came across as a shadowy, dour, taciturn hardass with a lot of enemies.