Kay Summersby

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Kay Summersby
Kay Summersby.jpg
Kay Summersby in 1944.
Birth nameKathleen Helen MacCarthy-Morrogh
Born(1908-11-23)23 November 1908
County Cork, Ireland
Died20 January 1975(1975-01-20) (aged 66)
Southampton, New York, U.S.
Allegiance United Kingdom
 United States
Service/branchMechanised Transport Corps (UK)
Women's Army Corps (US)
Years of service1939–1947
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsBronze Star Medal
Women's Army Corps Service Medal
European Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
British Empire Medal
External image
image icon Bust portraits of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kay Summersby Morgan[1]

Kathleen Helen Summersby BEM (née MacCarthy-Morrogh; 23 November 1908 – 20 January 1975), known as Kay Summersby, was a member of the British Mechanised Transport Corps during World War II, who served as a chauffeur and later as personal secretary to Dwight D. Eisenhower during his period as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in command of the Allied forces in north west Europe.

Summersby and Eisenhower spent a significant amount of time together until World War II ended, at which time Eisenhower cut ties and returned to the United States. It is generally agreed that Summersby and Eisenhower became extremely close during the war; some writers have suggested a sexual relationship between the two, although people who knew both of them at the time have rejected that claim, as have most of Eisenhower's biographers.

Early life[edit]

Summersby was born in Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland.[2][3] She was the daughter of Donald Florence MacCarthy-Morrogh and Vera Mary MacCarthy-Morrogh (née Hutchinson). Her father, descended from the MacCarthy Reagh Princes of Carbery, was originally from County Kerry, and her mother was born in Wales,[2] as the fourth of five sisters, to an English father and Irish mother who was also descended from the Morrogh family.[4]

She described her father, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, as "black Irish" and her mother as English. 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 in 1936 to British Army officer Gordon Thomas Summersby; when they divorced,[when?][why?] she retained the name of her ex-husband.[3] There was an engagement to marry US Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard "Dick" Arnold that overlapped her initial period with Eisenhower; however, this ended with the death of her fiancé while mine clearing during the North Africa campaign.[5][6]

World War II[edit]

When Britain entered the Second World War in 1939, Summersby joined the British Mechanised Transport Corps (MTC). She drove an ambulance throughout the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941,[3] and was reportedly excellent at navigating London streets during blackouts and fog.[6] When the United States joined the Allies after the German declaration of war in December 1941, Summersby was one of many MTC drivers assigned as chauffeurs to high-ranking American military officers.

Summersby was assigned to drive then Major General Dwight Eisenhower when he arrived in London in May 1942. Though there was a brief interruption of several weeks due to Eisenhower's short return to the US, Summersby chauffeured Eisenhower and later became his secretary until November 1945, based at his home Telegraph Cottage in Warren Road, Coombe, Kingston upon Thames. During this time Eisenhower rose in rank to a five-star General 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 (WACs), ultimately leaving the service as a captain in 1947.

Captain Summersby's military awards included the Bronze Star Medal,[7] Women's Army Corps Service Medal, European Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp. (Although several online sources state that Summersby received the Legion of Merit, there is no known documentary evidence that she was awarded it. The Legion of Merit was normally awarded to senior officers in the rank of colonel and above.)

Life after the war[edit]

Summersby was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 1945 New Year Honours List.[8] The award, at the insistence of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was presented, with a signed photograph of the Prime Minister, aboard the MV Britannic in New York more than three years later.[9]

After leaving the service in 1947, Summersby settled in the United States, and was, at one point, engaged to a man in San Francisco who thought she had money.[6] She married the Wall Street stockbroker Reginald H. Morgan in 1952,[10] but was divorced in 1958.[11][6] She died at her home in Southampton, Long Island, of cancer, on 20 January 1975,[12] at the age of 66.

Relationship with Eisenhower[edit]

There is a question whether Summersby consummated a romance with Eisenhower during the war, as there is no definitive evidence as to the matter. Many people knew both of them during the war but none alleged there was an affair. In Eisenhower Was My Boss, her 1948 memoir of the war years, written with journalist Frank Kearns, she made no mention of any affair. Her 1975 autobiography, Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower, was explicit about there being a romance, although it also said they had not actually had sexual intercourse. However she did not dictate the text. Past Forgetting was ghostwritten by Barbara Wyden while Summersby was dying of cancer.[13] This book was contracted after Eisenhower had died in 1969. The text states the omission of the affair from the 1948 book was due to her concern for Eisenhower's privacy. Summersby reportedly stated shortly before her death: "The General is dead. I am dying. When I wrote Eisenhower Was My Boss in 1948, I omitted many things, changed some details, glossed over others to disguise as best I could the intimacy that had grown between General Eisenhower and me. It was better that way."[14]

Those who dispute the claim of an affair maintain that the second book's description of the relationship was simply fabricated, presumably by the ghostwriter. By the book's account there were two unsuccessful attempts to have intercourse.[14] Instead of sex, wrote Summersby, the affair mostly consisted of "stolen kisses" during walks or on aeroplanes, holding hands, and horseback riding or golfing together. She kept a note from Eisenhower that asked, "How about lunch, tea, & dinner today?" the note says. "If yes: Who else do you want, if any? At which time? How are you?"[6]

Eisenhower himself only mentioned Summersby once in Crusade in Europe, his 1948 memoir of the war, in a list of aides.[6] Historian Carlo D'Este notes that members of Eisenhower's staff denied that there was ever an affair between them, and dismisses Summersby's book as "fanciful".[15] However, rumours and jokes about their relationship were common among soldiers who did not know the two. Eisenhower's son John, who briefly served as an aide, described her as "the Mary Tyler Moore of headquarters. She was perky and she was cute. Whether she had any designs on the Old Man and the extent to which he succumbed, I just don't know."[6]

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery wrote in his diary that Past Forgetting "should have never been written, it can do Eisenhower no good. If American generals were in the habit of dealing with women secretaries and drivers as Eisenhower did and others appear to have done if this book is true, then their characters slump in the eyes of the world. This book makes it clear that Eisenhower discussed with Kay Summersby, his woman car driver, his views on Generals under him, and disclosed to her the most secret matters; all this is now given to the public in her book. Her views on world figures are enlightening, since they are obviously Eisenhower's views."[16]

President Harry S. Truman reportedly told author Merle Miller that in 1945, Eisenhower asked permission from General George Marshall to divorce his wife to marry Summersby, but permission was refused.[14] Truman also allegedly said he had the correspondence between Marshall and Eisenhower retrieved from the Army archives and destroyed.[17] But Truman's account of the Summersby controversy has been rejected by most scholars.[18][19][20] Historians say Truman had a mistaken recollection, and emphasise that Eisenhower had asked permission to bring his wife to England. Others have speculated that Truman was not truthful 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 during his administration).[21] Historian Robert H. Ferrell stated he found that the tapes of Miller's interviews with Truman contain no mention whatever of Summersby, and concludes that Miller concocted the story.[22]

Eisenhower biographer Jean Edward Smith wrote, "Whether he and Kay were intimate remains a matter of conjecture. But there is no question they were in love." Smith accepted Miller's account because Garrett Mattingly, who as a naval officer in Washington censored outgoing cables, told a similar story to his Columbia University faculty colleagues in the early 1950s. Smith cited several other people who believed in or were told of the existence of an affair. Omar Bradley in his autobiography wrote that the two were in love and that "Their close relationship is quite accurately portrayed, so far as my personal knowledge extends, in Kay's second book, Past Forgetting".[23][24]

Awards and honours[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bust portraits of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Kay Summersby Morgan, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division via Popartmachine.com, cph 3b20861, archived from the original on 18 February 2012, retrieved 1 April 2011
  2. ^ a b Entry in Census of Ireland, 1911
  3. ^ a b c Wyden, Barbara, Papers, 1944–1945, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kansas
  4. ^ 1958 edition of Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland
  5. ^ Korda, Michael (September 2007). Ike: An American Hero. harper collins. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-06-075665-9.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Mulligan, Hugh A. (28 May 1995). "When Gunfire Ended, So Did Ike's War Romance". The Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  7. ^ In the photo linked above, Captain Summersby is wearing the ribbon of the Bronze Star Medal
  8. ^ "No. 36869". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1944. p. 137.
  9. ^ Kieron Wood (Author). Ike's Irish Lover, The Echo of a Sigh. Retrieved 5 October 2016. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  10. ^ Announcement of marriage, Time, Monday, 1 December 1952
  11. ^ Obituary, The New York Times,21 January 1975
  12. ^ "Milestones, Feb. 3, 1975". Time. 3 February 1975. Archived from the original on 28 April 2007. Retrieved 19 May 2016. Died. Kay Summersby Morgan, 66, General Dwight Eisenhower's secretary, chauffeur and confidante during World War II; of cancer; in Southampton, N.Y.
  13. ^ Lester, David & Irene David (1981). Ike & Mamie, The Story of the General and his Lady. Academic Press. ISBN 0-399-12644-9.
  14. ^ a b c Kifner, John (6 June 1991). "Eisenhower Letters Hint at Affair With Aide". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  15. ^ D'Este, Carlo (2003). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Henry Holt and Company. p. 419. ISBN 978-0-8050-5687-7. Retrieved 26 November 2011. No evidence exists, beyond the fanciful allegations in a memoir [that Summersby] did not live to see published.
  16. ^ Hamilton, Nigel (1983). Master of the Battlefield Monty's War Years 1942–1944. McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. 769 footnote. ISBN 9780070258068.
  17. ^ Miller, Merle, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman (1974) Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN 0-399-11261-8.
  18. ^ Mark Perry (2007). Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace. Penguin. p. 363. ISBN 9781594201059.
  19. ^ Stanley Weintraub (2007). 15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall: Three Generals Who Saved the American Century. Simon and Schuster. p. 341. ISBN 9781416545934.
  20. ^ Wesley O. Hagood (1998). Presidential Sex: From the Founding Fathers to Bill Clinton. Citadel Press. p. 134. ISBN 9780806520070.
  21. ^ Nixon, Richard M. (1978). RN: The Memoirs of Richard M. Nixon. Grosset & Dunlap. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-671-70741-5.
  22. ^ Ferrell, Robert H.; Heller, Francis H. (May–June 1995). "Plain Faking?". American Heritage Magazine. 46 (3). Retrieved 8 November 2011. In the Miller tapes in the Truman Library there is no Truman conversation, nothing, about Kay Summersby.
  23. ^ Jean Edward Smith (2012). Eisenhower in War and Peace. Random House Digital, Inc. pp. 270, 291, 315, 441. ISBN 9780679644293.
  24. ^ Ike: The War Years (1979) by ABC Circle Films (www.imdb.com/title/tt0078628/?ref_=ur_urv)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]