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My Room Mate… Is Dwight Eisenhower…”
April 1973 | Volume 24, Issue 3
After the North African landings in 1942 Ike—now a lieutenant general and commanding general of the Allied forces—sent from Algiers a lengthy letter about his responsibilities. He regretted that he could not talk over his problems with P.A. and wrote: I can say … that high command, particularly Allied Command, in war carries with it a lot of things that were never included in our text books, in the Leavenworth course, or even in the War College investigations. I think sometimes that I am a cross between a one-time soldier, a pseudo-statesman, a jacklegged politician and a crooked diplomat. I walk a soapy tightrope in a rain storm with a blazing furnace on one side and a pack of ravenous tigers on the other. If I get across, my greatest possible reward would be a quiet little cottage on the side of a slow-moving stream where I can sit and fish for catfish with a bobber. In spite of all this, I must admit that the whole thing is intriguing and interesting and is forever presenting new challenges that still have the power to make me come up charging.
By early September, 1943, Ike had been a four-star general for more than six months, yet he had just received a promotion in the Regular Army from lieutenant colonel to major general. Still a lieutenant colonel, P.A. took note of Ike’s new permanent rank: “Well, you’ll never again be a mere field officer… and I don’t know whether to be glad for you or sorry.… it’s going to be pretty hard on you to be prominent all the rest of your life.… Anne and I are very proud of you.” Ike responded: “Your worry about my difficulties in being ‘prominent’ the rest of my life can be dismissed at once. When this war is over I am going to find the deepest hole there is in the United States, crawl in and pull it in after me. As an alternative I am going to live on top of Pike’s Peak or some other equally inaccessible place.”
With the end of the war P. A.,then a colonel, retired and moved to Mill Valley, California, near San Francisco. Ike returned to become chief of staff. On October 30, 1946, he wrote P.A. : My life is one long succession of personnel, budgetary, and planning problems, and I am getting close to the fed up stage. While the shooting was going on I always thought that I would be able to retire the second the Japanese war was over. I was counting on Bradley serving as Chief of Staff while I could take Mamie off to some cabin in the woods and do a lot of high-powered resting. The more time goes on the more anxious I am to begin such a program.
When P.A. brought up the possibility of Ike’s running for President in 1948—“I think you’d make an excellent President, but am not sure you’d be very happy doing it” —Ike replied: “To settle one thing once and for all, as far as the one subject mentioned in your letters goes—I don’t want any part of a political position. That is completely sincere and honest and there are no mental reservations either real or implied.”
As the years passed, Ike became president of Columbia University, NATO Commander, and then President. Though more infrequently, he still corresponded with P.A., who was now crippled by arthritis. In 1955 Ike wrote him a couple of newsy letters and expressed concern upon hearing that he was in Letterman Hospital. Two months after the last letter, on October 7, 1955, P.A. died.
The President of the United States sadly wrote: “In P.A.’s passing, I have lost one of my oldest and best friends; one who always had my admiration, respect, and deep affection. I shall miss him more than I can say.”