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Kay Summersby

Kay Summersby

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Kay Summersby was a member of the British Mechanised Transport Corps
Mechanised Transport Corps
The Mechanised Transport Corps , sometimes erroneously called the Motor Transport Corps, was a British women's organisation that existed during the Second World War. It was a civilian uniformed organisation which provided drivers for government departments and other agencies...

 during World War II, who served as chauffeur to Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force , was the headquarters of the Commander of Allied forces in north west Europe, from late 1943 until the end of World War II. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of SHAEF throughout its existence...

 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, later as his secretary and, it is alleged, his mistress.


Summersby was born Kathleen Helen MacCarthy-Morrogh in Ballydehob
Ballydehob is a coastal village in the southwest of County Cork, Ireland, located on the N71 national secondary road.-History:Ballydehob is a microcosm of Irish local history, and legends and folklore abound in the locality. At the dawn of the Bronze Age , copper was mined on Mount Gabriel, just...

, County Cork
County Cork
County Cork is a county in Ireland. It is located in the South-West Region and is also part of the province of Munster. It is named after the city of Cork . Cork County Council is the local authority for the county...

, Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. She was the daughter of Andrew F. and Vera MacCarthy-Morrogh; her father was originally from County Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

, and her mother was born in Wales. She described her father, a retired Lt. Colonel of the Royal Munster Fusiliers
Royal Munster Fusiliers
The Royal Munster Fusiliers was a regular infantry regiment of the British Army. One of eight Irish regiments raised largely in Ireland, it had its home depot in Tralee. It was originally formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of two regiments of the former East India Company. It served in India and...

, as black Irish
Black Irish
Black Irish is an ambiguous term used mainly outside of Ireland. Over the course of history, it has been subject to several distinctive ascriptions, including religious affiliation and poverty. Modern traditionalists, however, maintain the term to be synonymous with a dark-haired phenotype...

 and her mother as English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. As a young woman, she moved to London where she worked as a film studio extra, dabbled in photography, and eventually became a fashion model. She was married and divorced, retaining the name of her ex-husband.

When Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 entered the Second World War in 1939, Summersby joined the British Mechanised Transport Corps
Mechanised Transport Corps
The Mechanised Transport Corps , sometimes erroneously called the Motor Transport Corps, was a British women's organisation that existed during the Second World War. It was a civilian uniformed organisation which provided drivers for government departments and other agencies...

 (MTC). She drove an ambulance throughout the London Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 in 1940 and 1941. When the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 joined the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 after the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 declaration of war in December 1941, Summersby was one of many MTC drivers assigned as chauffeurs to high ranking American military officers. She was assigned to drive Major General Dwight Eisenhower when he arrived in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in May, 1942. Though there was a brief interruption of several weeks due to Eisenhower's short return to the US, Summersby drove the general and later became his secretary until November, 1945. During this time Eisenhower rose in rank to a five-star General of the Army
General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...

 and Commander of the European Theatre, and Kay, with his help, became a US citizen and a commissioned officer in the US Women's Army Corps
Women's Army Corps
The Women's Army Corps was the women's branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554, and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943...

 (WACs), ultimately leaving the service as a captain in 1947. Captain Summersby's military awards included the Legion of Merit
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

, Women's Army Corps Service Medal
Women's Army Corps Service Medal
The Women’s Army Corps Service Medal was a decoration of the United States Army which was created on July 29, 1943 by issued by President Franklin Roosevelt. The decoration was intended to recognize the contribution of women to the Army during the Second World War...

, European Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
The European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military decoration of the United States armed forces which was first created on November 6, 1942 by issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt...

, World War Two Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
The Army of Occupation Medal is a military award of the United States military which was established by the United States War Department on 5 April 1946. The medal was created in the aftermath of the Second World War to recognize those who had performed occupation service in either Germany or Japan...

 with "Germany" clasp.

Summersby married the Wall Street
Wall Street
Wall Street refers to the financial district of New York City, named after and centered on the eight-block-long street running from Broadway to South Street on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, or...

 stockbroker Reginald H. Morgan in 1952. She died at her home in Southampton, Long Island
Southampton (town), New York
The Town of Southampton is located in southeastern Suffolk County, New York, U.S., partly on the South Fork of Long Island. As of the United States 2000 Census, the town had a total population of 54,712...

, of cancer, on 20 January 1975.

Relationship with Eisenhower

Summersby is rumoured to have had a romance with Eisenhower during the 1942-1945 period. Eisenhower Was My Boss, her 1948 memoir of the war years, made no mention of an affair. Her 1975 autobiography, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower, was explicit about the romance. This was written after Eisenhower had died in 1969 and was presented as a sort of deathbed statement from Summersby to set the record straight. Within, she stated the omission of the affair the 1948 book was due to her concern for Eisenhower's privacy. Past Forgetting was ghostwritten by Barbara Wyden while Summersby was dying of cancer. Those who dispute the claim of an affair maintain that the second book's description of the relationship (which by the book's account consisted, sexually, of two unsuccessful attempts to have intercourse) was simply fabricated, presumably by the ghostwriter. Historian Carlo D'Este
Carlo D'Este
Carlo D'Este is an American military historian and biographer, author of several books, especially on World War II. He is a retired U.S...

 notes that members of Eisenhower's staff denied that there was ever an affair between them, and dismisses Summersby's book as "fanciful".

Summersby began the war as a British subject and the equivalent of a private in the British forces and ended the war as a US citizen and a captain in the US Army WACs, which came about through the direct efforts of General Eisenhower. It is generally agreed that Kay and Ike were extremely close, were seen together in many press photographs during the war (as shown in the two books and other literature) and (as evidenced by letters between the two), Summersby was not well liked by Eisenhower's wife (who was alive when the second book was published). Summersby was married and divorced prior to meeting Ike and married Morgan some time after her discharge from the army. There was an engagement to marry US Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Dick" Arnold, that overlapped her initial period with Eisenhower; however, this was ended by the death of her fiancé during the North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...


President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 reportedly told author Merle Miller
Merle Miller
Merle Miller was an American novelist best known for his biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson. Three years before his best-selling book Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S...

 that in 1945, Eisenhower asked permission from General George Marshall
George Marshall
George Catlett Marshall was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense...

 to divorce his wife to marry Summersby, but permission was refused. Truman also allegedly said he had the correspondence between Marshall and Eisenhower retrieved from the Army archives and destroyed. But this aspect of the Summersby controversy has been widely disputed. Some historians say Truman had a mistaken recollection, and emphasize that Eisenhower had asked permission to bring his wife to England. Others have speculated that Truman lied about Eisenhower because of animosity between the two men that intensified during the Eisenhower presidency (Truman stated that Eisenhower did not invite him back to the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 during his administration.) Historian Robert H. Ferrell
Robert H. Ferrell
Robert H. Ferrell is an American historian and author of several books on Harry S. Truman and the diplomatic history of the United States. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the Second World War and was an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. He received a B.S...

 has alleged that Miller fabricated some of the quotes in his interviews with Truman, which were published after Truman's death.

Further reading

  • Ambrose, Stephen E., Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect 1890-1952 (1983).
  • Miller, Merle, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman (1974) Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN 0-399-11261-8. London: Gollancz Ltd. (1974) ISBN 0-575-01841-0 ;Reprint (2005) by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. ISBN 1-57912-437-2
  • David, Lester & Irene David, Ike & Mamie, The Story of the General and his Lady (1981) Academic Press. ISBN 0-399-12644-9
  • Morgan, Kay Summersby, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1976.
  • Summersby, Kay, Eisenhower Was My Boss (1948) New York: Prentice Hall; (1949) Dell
    Dell Publishing
    Dell Publishing, an American publisher of books, magazines and comic books, was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte, Jr.During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Dell was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp magazines. Their line of humor magazines included 1000 Jokes, launched in...

    Mapback is a term used by paperback collectors to refer to the earliest paperback books published by Dell Books, beginning in 1943. The books are known as mapbacks because the back cover of the book contains a map that illustrates the location of the action. Dell books were numbered in series...

  • Korda, Michael, "Ike, An American Hero" HarperCollins, 2007
  • Perry, Mark, Partners in Command, Penguin Press (2007) New York
  • "It's nice getting back", TIME, May 28, 1945.
  • "Kay's War", TIME, September 27, 1948.
  • Summersby's wartime diaries
  • Oral History Interview with General Louis W. Truman
    Louis W. Truman
    Lieutenant General Louis W. Truman was the former Commanding General of Third U.S. Army. General Truman was cousin to 33rd President, Harry S. Truman, and served as his Aide-de-Camp during President Truman’s inauguration in 1948.-Military service:In 1926, General Truman enlisted in Company E,...

    , President Truman's cousin, on the Eisenhower letter about Summersby.

External links