Eisenhower lore centers around Fort Myer flag pole
June 7, 2013
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Between West Point and the White House, Dwight D. Eisenhower lived on Fort Myer's General's Row.
During a pair of stays at what is now Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, the World War II general made Quarters One, Quarters Seven and the Whipple Field flagpole notable landmarks.
In 1942, Eisenhower was based at Myer prior to heading to Europe and the daunting job of leading the Allied Expeditionary Forces. During his second stay as U.S. Army chief of staff from 1946 to 1948, the future president assembled his best-selling memoir, "Crusade in Europe," and hosted foreign dignitaries, including Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
One of the most touching Eisenhower-related Fort Myer stories involves wife Mamie and the Whipple Field flag pole. Ike's granddaughter, author and political analyst Susan Eisenhower, remembered the 1942 moment.
"Ike left to take up the command in Europe while at Fort Myer's Quarters Seven," she explained. "For me, it's a wonderful story of Mamie waving goodbye to the plane [by the flagpole] as it headed off for Europe in June of 1942. [Ike and Mamie] had this little agreement. He was leaving from Bolling [Air Force Base], and the agreement was he'd fly by Fort Myer and the pilot would tip his wings. There was quite a bit of poignancy to that moment.
"They had no idea in 1942 what would happen," Susan Eisenhower continued. "The British were in dire straits, and the outcome of the war was not at all clear."
Nearly eight months following the final victory in Europe, Eisenhower was on the move into Quarters One. Ike was named chief of staff Dec. 3, 1945, but a move-in date did not take place until 1946. Tim Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Library in Abiliene, Kan., has the documentation of when Ike hung his shingle at Quarters One.
"We have the orders authorizing their move on February 1, 1946, although it appears the actual moving took place on January 31, 1946," Rives said via email. "Ike was impressed with [Quarters One's] size, and noted its generous proportions in a letter to Winston Churchill on January 22, 1946 in which he invited WSC to stay with him when he next visited Washington. On Jan. 30, 1946, he writes WSC again and noted that he looked forward to having the Churchills over for dinner when they visited in March."
According to Rives and an Eisenhower diary, that dinner took place March 9.
Ike stayed at Myer until he was named president of Columbia University in New York City. By 1950, he was back in Europe as commander of NATO.
The general and president passed away in 1969, and Mamie survived Ike by more than a decade. Susan Eisenhower remembered the date in November 1979 when Mamie's memorial service was held at the Old Post Chapel.
"My grandmother's funeral was held in the chapel there at Fort Myer," she said. "Her body was put on a plane and flown to Abilene, Kansas."