Ike! Where Are You When We Really Need You?
Straightway I telephoned Mrs. Eisenhower in Washington. Neither I nor anyone else knew that Ike was on a super-secret trip to the United States to confer with President Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff. With surprisingly little difficulty I reached Mrs. Eisenhower, who knew no better than to agree to talk with me in San Antonio where she was going after Ike went back to England. She also suggested that I get in touch with Ike’s oldest brother, Arthur, who was regarded as the head of the family.
I called him immediately in Kansas City and he also agreed to see me late in January. The truth is that the Eisenhowers were so unused to the ways of publicity that, instead of making a careful inquiry about my bona fides, they thought they had to see anybody who wanted to write about their suddenly famous general.
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First on our list was Mamie Eisenhower, who was staying at Fort Sam Houston. Although the temperature was seventy-two that afternoon, [Ruth’s aunt] Mary insisted that Ruth borrow her magnificent mink coat so she would be properly dressed for such an important occasion. It was really wasted sweat because Mamie was so friendly and unpretentious that before we left Ruth told her the story of the coat. Mamie was also much prettier than her pictures, with deep blue eyes under dark lashes and exquisitely delicate skin. Her famous bangs were the subject of a brief comment. “All the newspaper people wonder why I wear them,” she said. Sweeping them back to reveal an abnormally high forehead she asked, “What would you do if you were half-bald?”
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That was a gay book to write. Ike’s whole life had, in truth, been so simple, honest and idealistic that there were few, if any, problems of what to put in and what to leave out for fear of injuring his reputation or downgrading his prestige as Supreme Commander. This would not ordinarily be a question for an honest biographer, but in the midst of a war it would have been unpatriotic almost to the point of treason to make injurious statements about a man in Eisenhower’s position. Fortunately my conscience was easy; there were no shadows in the General’s past.