Sold - General Dwight D. Eisenhower to His Wife Mamie - Amidst the Tunisia Campaign, Planning For Operation Husky, and Personal Dangers - “The thicker things get, the more I think of you!”

He confides, “I'm fed up with this headquarters for the moment.  I love you all the time - and how I miss you! Don't forget me.”

Key Facts

  • An intimate, poignant letter
  • It illuminates his feelings about the key leadership experiences he was having at the time
  • The difficulties and frustrations of the Supreme Commander show through

"I love you all the time, - and how I miss you! Don't forget me.”

The first Allied invasion point in Europe was not in Normany, but Italy. The plan, dubbed Operation Husky, was for an assault on Sicily in July 1943, which after capture could then be used as a staging point for an Italian campaign in the fall. Possession of Tunisia in North Africa, less than 200 miles from Sicily, was considered a prerequisite for the success of Operation Husky. The invasion of Tunisia took place in November 1942, and by December both the Allies and Germans were pouring in troops and arms. Things did not go well initially, and Eisenhower found nothing to celebrate over Christmas 1942. He and his subordinate commanders concluded that their string of defeats could be ended only by making major changes in the way they were fighting Axis armies. They would have to do more than simply replace personnel and equipment losses and try another dash to Tunis. They would have to build a multi-division force with hundreds of tanks and much stronger air support, as well as coordinate pressure against the Axis on a front hundreds of miles long. In February 1943 the Germans, under General Erwin Rommel, launched a powerful attack. The Americans suffered a series of losses, including a major one at Kasserine Pass. In short order General Eisenhower restructured the Allied command and changed key personnel. The Americans received the highest-level personnel change when in early March Eisenhower selected General George S. Patton, Jr., to command II Corps. In mid-March the Allies went back on the offensive with coordinated attacks in the north and south of the country. By mid-April German forces had been pushed into a perimeter at the northeast corner of Tunisia, an area about the same size as their bridgehead of six months before. The initiative in North Africa had clearly swung toward the Allies. Ike told a news agency on April 15 that “I hope and believe that it will be comparable to Stalingrad.” Attention could now be turned to Operation Husky.

 

At the beginning of April, amidst the Allied assault, Eisenhower paid a visit to the headquarters of British General Bernard Montgomery. This first meeting between the men did not go well, with Ike leaving unimpressed. On April 7, Eisenhower’s mind was on how to get his men ashore in Sicily safely. That day he wrote General George Marshall fretting about whether the operation could succeed if the Germans reinforced the Italians (whom Ike preferred to face). With Churchill pressing Roosevelt, on the 10th of April, Eisenhower was notified that the invasion would proceed regardless. So Ike paid visits to the headquarters of his various commanders and talked things over with them. But the details of that operation were anything but fully worked out, and Montgomery and Eisenhower were in substantial disagreement about them. On April 19 Ike flew to Algiers where he met secretly with Montgomery and British General Alexander to discuss a proposal Montgomery rather intensely placed on the table. It was as much a confrontation as a meeting, and there would be more meetings ahead on Operation Husky before a resolution was reached a few weeks later. In addition to the strategic issues, every time Ike flew there, personal danger was involved. On April 14, the Americans intercepted a plane carrying Japanese Admiral Yamamoto; the plane was shot down and Yamamoto was killed.

At that moment, in that pressured atmosphere, Ike sat down and wrote his wife this extraordinary letter. Autograph Letter Signed, 5 pages, headquarters in Tunisia, April 21, 1943, to Mamie, whom he addresses as "My darling." “Tomorrow I go away again on a short trip.  A few days may elapse before I write again. This morning I got your message via Stoner acknowledging receipt of my teletype about Gordon.  I don't know when I'll get to see him; possibly a month before I'll get down that way.  But when I do see him I'll tell you all about it.

“My day is crowded with appointments. Looks like I am to have someone in each fifteen minutes until lunch, and after that I have a long conference with a French politician. How I hate some of these talks that, so far as I can see, are merely designed to help someone's personal ambitions.” He pointedly avoided telling her about his flight to see Montgomery just two days before.

Drawing a line under that paragraph, Eisenhower resumes the letter some time later: “One has just gone. He may have gotten something out of the meeting - I didn't. In fact I'm fed up with this headquarters for the moment. Maybe that's the reason I look forward to my trips. Thank the Lord they are necessary. Your teletype said you were leaving G.A. in ten days, so I guess I'll send this to Washington.  It isn't much of a letter; that I realize.  But I do want you to know that the thicker things get, the more I think of you! I love you all the time, - and how I miss you!” He ends the letter poignantly, “Don't forget me.”