Ike's aide wants to put rumor to rest

WAY BACK WHEN

Back story

December 17, 2005|By FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN | FREDERICK N. RASMUSSEN,SUN REPORTER

Douglas R. Price, a semiretired Chestertown businessman, historian and writer, recently wrote to me about the rumored World War II affair between Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kay Summersby, an English woman who had been assigned to him as a driver.

"Since this is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, I thought it would be timely to put an end to that baseless rumor about Ike and Kay Summersby," Price wrote.

"I know firsthand the deep impact unchecked rumors can have. In the winter of 1951, I joined the Eisenhower-for-President campaign. From the outset, we were dealing with stories -- spread by Ike's political opponents -- relating to an alleged romance between General Eisenhower and Kay Summersby," he wrote. "It was a whispering campaign that seemed to reach every corner of America."

Price later served as a member of Eisenhower's press staff at the Republican National Convention held in Chicago and traveled as a member of his personal staff. He joined the White House staff after Eisenhower's election.

Currently, he serves on the editorial advisory board of the Eisenhower Papers at the Johns Hopkins University.

In the pantheon of stories and urban myths that refuse to go away, Price recalled a recent e-mail from a family friend, a Dartmouth College student, who was enrolled in a course on the presidency.

She said while sitting with several friends in the college library discussing extramarital presidential affairs, Ike's name entered the discussion. She had immediately accepted the supposed indiscretion as fact and "did not research it further."

After taking a second look, she acknowledged that she couldn't believe "how far this rumor has spread, and how long it has lasted."

Price, in a recently completed unpublished monograph on the subject, attempted to put the rumored affair to rest once and for all.

One individual's recollection Price relied upon was Sgt. Mickey McKeogh, Ike's orderly, who said, "That stuff about an affair with Kay is sheer nonsense. I put the boss to bed every night, and there was no one else in the bed. In the mornings when I would wake him up, there was no one else in the bed, except the one time when I found Telek, his black Scotty, on his pillow."

There was also a purported letter written by Ike to Gen. George C. Marshall asking that he be relieved from duty so he could return home and divorce his wife in order to marry Summersby. But that has never been found in either Marshall's papers or Eisenhower's, Price reports.

Price also criticizes Kay Summersby's Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight David Eisenhower. The book was written by a ghostwriter and not Summersby, who died a month after signing a contract to write her memoirs.

Former wartime roommates and close friends of Summersby, including the executor of her estate, have dismissed the book as pure fiction.

Price says that, based on the historical evidence, it is time for educators, journalists, biographers and historians to put that "baseless old rumor to rest."

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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