Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has found an exchange of postwar correspondence between Gens. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall that could be the celebrated "lost letters" supposedly bearing on the future of Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, and Lt. Kay Summersby, Eisenhower's wartime driver and secretary.
If they are the lost letters, they are totally different from the correspondence as described by the late Harry S. Truman and support the Eisenhower family's contention that the supreme allied commander never intended to divorce Mamie and marry Lt. Summersby, as Truman had said.
On June 4, 1945, nearly a month after V-E Day, according to the correspondence discovered at Johns Hopkins where Eisenhower's papers are deposited. Eisenhower wrote Marshall requesting that he be permitted to bring Mrs. Eisenhower to Europe to live with him, even if the privilege were denied other Americans in uniform overseas. The long separation resulting from the war, he told Marshall, was causing serious personal problems for himself and his wife.
In a sympathetic reply dated June 8, 1945, Marshall told Eisenhower that he could not assent to extending to a select group in the army the privilege of bringing wives to Europe. Eisenhower then wrote Marshall that he was sorry he had put the question to him and said he understood Marshall's position.
These communications are completely at variance with Truman's story that "right after the war was over" Eisenhower wrote to Marshall, who was in Washington as Army chief of staff, asking to be relieved of duty so that he could return to the United States to marry Lt. Summersby.
Truman told this story to Merle Miller, who published it in 1973 in his book "plain Speaking: An Autobiography of Harry S. Truman."
According to Truman, Marshall replied to Eisenhower "in a letter the like of which I never did see." Also, according to Truman, Marshall said. "If Eisenhower even came close to doing such a thing, he'd not only bust him out of the Army, he'd see to it that never for the rest of his life would he be able to draw a peaceful breath."
Truman said that when he got wind of the correspondence he obtained the letters from the Pentagon and destroyed them. Later Truman's military aide, Maj. Gen. (Ret-) Harry H. Vaughan, said that he retrieved the letters from the Pentagon files and delivered them to Truman without ever having read the letters himself. Vaughan, who lives in Alexandria, Va., further said that Truman did not destroy the letters but returned them to Marshall. Not a trace of these letters, however, can be found among the late Gen. Marshall's papers. They have become something of a legend as "the lost letters."
In her book, "Past Forgetting: My Love Affair With Dwight D. Eisenhower," Summersby said the affair ended shortly after V-E Day when Eisenhower returned to the United States. Though she had expected to be among members of his staff returning with him, she was not included.
She saw him casually once or twice after that. Once she "ran into" him at Columbia University where he was president. "He looked very bothered and after a few minutes, he said, 'Kay, it's impossible. There's nothing I can do.' He sounded terribly distressed."
Nevertheless, ABC is preparing a two-part television program on Eisenhower, which begins, at least in the initial version, with a dramatization of Truman's account, as revived by the late Lt. Summersby herself in her 1976 book. She died of cancer soon after writing the book. The Eisenhower family was so incensed at the ABC program and its heavy emphasis on the romance that in refutation it made available to the Los Angeles Times Eisenhower's loving wartime letters to his wife. These letters, excerpts of which were published in The Times June 22, cast doubt on reports of Eisenhower's intentions of divorcing his wife.
The correspondence just found at Johns Hopkins and given to The Times by the supreme allied commander's son, Brig. Gen. John S.D. Eisenhower of Vallery Forge, Pa., indicate much more explicitly that the senior Eisenhower wrote to Marshall about bringing Mamie to Europe rather than about returning home himself to marry Lt. Summersby. According to Truman, Eisenhower said he wanted to be received of his duty to marry Lt. Summersby.
In Eisenhower's letter of June 4, 1945, to Marshall, however, the general said he would stay at his post as long as the war department desired. Far from threatening to "bust" Eisenhower out of the army, Marshall, in his reply, said that he would like to do anything he could for Eisenhower in his loneliness for his wife and son.
Eisenhower's letter was written from supreme Allied headquarters, presumably in Rheims. Addressing Marshall as "Dear General," he said, "I wanted to discuss with you one subject in which I must confess that my own conviction is somewhat colored by personal desire. It involves the - possibility of enunciating some policy whereby certain personnel in occupation forces could bring their wives to this country." Eisenhower suggested certain conditions under which such a program could operate. Then he continued:
"In any event so far as my own personal cases concerned I will admit that the last six weeks have been my hardest of the war. I presume that aside from disappointment in being unable to solve in clear cut fashion some of the nagging problems that seem to be always with us part of my trouble is that I just plain miss my family.
"My youngster is with the first division and I can get to see him about once a month but it is not the same thing as being able to reestablish after three years something of a home. Moreover, the strain of the past three years has also been very considerable so far as my wife is concerned and trouble with her general nervous system for many years.
"I would feel far more comfortable about her if she could be with me. In the event that no policy of any kind could be approved by the war department at this time the personal question would become whether this whole command or public opinion would resent myarranging to bring my own wife here.