The Eisenhower years; 7
The following program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We went through the little town of large and htan and out on a blackboard that they were advertising the specials of the day at a restaurant or something. So our hair was chalked on a blackboard path. Perrier. And sure enough it was. That's how we found out about it was that the ball is in our self-confidence really Pete. And. He took immediate charge of the situation and began moving around armies on his own. I just had total command of the situation at that point until telling a German surrender. That was the general that Eisenhower was. It was terrible for the men who were in Iraq but it probably was Hitler's dying gasp. I got a call about 4:00 o'clock that morning and I got on the phone himself and said you know Brad it's all over. And went on tell me had signed just that day at midnight and the next day informs me that the forces
of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations flags of freedom earlier. The Eisenhower years a chronicle in sound of the life of white Eisenhower produced by extension Radio-TV at Kansas State University this week the final us victory in Europe. By early August 1944 General Dwight Eisenhower had moved his headquarters from England to France. A tent camp set up in an apple orchard. And from there the man who commanded all the allied forces directed the war in Europe. Biographer Ken Davis was a correspondent then attached to that headquarters. It was a very very small group of people running in this
war. Everybody felt good in its head quarters and everybody liked when they worked together. They were forced to work together because he insisted upon it and it was a kind of a friendly feeling in his headquarters. Really it was. And this was Ike's influence as much as or more a different commander would have been a different kind of headquarters. He could he could exude a certain kind of worms and genealogy which was important historically General Eisenhower's public relations officer for Smith. This little camp was just his personal facility. Actually all these were the general and his aides and secretaries and little communications team and little Miss team and and this little press group that I had. And this was just really just sort of a stopping off place so you were
very rarely in in camp. I would go and we'd have our own little convoy of about three or four cars and he'd go to the various various command headquarters practically every day. So we were just constantly on the move following him trailing him. Smith recalls an incident during that time. That is yet today frightening in its implications. General I made a tour of the Cherbourg Peninsula with General Bradley. They've they've been up to Sherbrooke itself and then after that they came back and they took a look at the first two site that we overran and we were there were just a handful of us there at the time. And I'll never forget the total overwhelming amazement of both General Bradley and General Eisenhower when they saw this thing because the B-2 installations were not the simple ski run type of thing like the bus bombs where they this this installation
which wasn't completed incidentally was looked like Boulder Dam under construction. It was huge. It must have been working on it for years and that hadn't finished it yet. And but they could tell from the way it was the way it was oriented where it was supposed to be aimed and it didn't look as though it was aimed at England. And I can remember General eye turning turning to General Bradley and saying Brad we'd better get our ordinance people over here and take a look at this. Were they were aiming at the United States but it was it goes to show how little we knew about about these things. And this this was really our almost a terrifying experience to think that maybe they were building a rocket that could hit the United States the Normandy campaign raged through July and August. Near the end of July with Montgomery holding fast around Khan The breakthrough came at some low.
The third week in August the campaign was over because of the tremendous defense the Germans put in around. We finally had to start some way back and send low swings but then swinging around the movement was just a whole effort to capture the German 7th Army sprung up from the fact that they didn't want to give up that line so they began to tack right into our hands and give us a big opportunity. And Bradley I think probably thought of the idea first and said let's bring in closer and capture these guys right here and we won't have to fight them on the say. And I say you go right ahead that's fine. And as we close these armies one on the other the British on the north and the Americans come around. Right. The Germans trying to get out. And of course we brought to bear all of our air all of our machine gun fire and artillery and you know the soldiers began to speak of that is a great killing ground. I think the battle ended as I recall about
August 16th and 17th and I went in there about two or three days later and doing all the acres and acres. It was just nothing but dead. And then it was the scene was even more terrible because the fact that German they were using a great deal of horse drawn artillery and a whole team had just been killed by the same shell burst and just laying flat there with guns and I just don't want that part of my life without ever stepping on ground. It was a horrible scene. And it was the end of the Normandy campaign from then on it was exploitation right up to the line almost or up with the Normandy campaign over the allies push toward Germany itself. And Ike found himself directing the final thrust of the war in Europe and while he was busy and constantly on the move there was time occasionally for relaxation and the company of an old friend General of the army.
Omar Bradley Well we usually got together at least once a week either because of his coming to my headquarters. Imagine going back to his time with playing to. I was afraid he would sit and talk about future operations and about personnel we could play bridge. And in general we just spend our time talking over future operation personnel. Is why I sent him back a recommendation for some colonel to be made a brigadier general. I want him to know something about this man ahead of time. So I usually talk about Junior generals and colonels. So I send back recommendation promotion he could visualize what I've been doing my writing out a long letter and he kept track of the personnel. Well Eisenhower's aide and longtime friend Harry butcher he was a good bridge player and I was just a novice. I still am. We played in the evening we played for very small stakes and if he
found a good partner he generally held on to the good partner in the age to get the bad partner. But on one occasion General Alexander who was then chief of staff to General Clark and I don't like we're partners in this game in a tent and Clark and I who are free loaders were the opponents and Al Granter was so good a bridge player that he was a referee at the West Club in New York when he was an instructor at West Point. And I was good particularly at mathematics that he could tell you about for all 52 cards or when the bidding was finished. But these fellows had like to psych us but the one occasion they cite to one another they made the extravagant bids and we gave him a double and they came tumbling down all because they were trying to mislead us but misleading one another and the famous Eisenhauer temper he had a
temper. He expressed himself very humanly at times but this was good for me. It got him out of his system once he got angry with me publicly about something that miscarried in the way of a car car had been ordered to another exit from the hotel and I was I hopped on to me. I wasn't in charge of the car. One of my compatriots was doing that. So we got back to the villa. I said I resign as your aide and he looked at me and said Who the hell ever called you an aide. Well that was the end of the argument. I didn't resign anymore. Now the allies were pushing the Germans across France driving toward Germany itself. And the question of Paris historian Stephen Ambrose author of the Supreme Commander what I wanted to do is to bypass Paris and leave it in German hands.
First of all because he wanted to fight a battle for it. He was keenly conscious incidentally and parent radically here. The cultural and historic monuments of Europe and had very stern orders to all of his army commanders to do and especially the airman. To do everything possible to avoid the destruction of any of the cultural monuments that would be in the path of the advancing armies and those orders are pretty well bad. OK so you felt strongly that you didn't want to fight any battles for Paris one too. His biggest problem. Then is really always until Antwerp was fully ready and was he just didn't have enough port capacity to supply the advancing troops and he wanted to keep this is August of 44 and the Germans were on the run and he wanted to keep the pressure on them. To do that he needed supplies especially gasoline but everything else to to keep the troops going. Paris was. Apparently cleared. I can't remember off hand the figures he had worked out something like 200 tons a day sticks in my mind. For the minimum requirements of the city.
Just to keep people alive. So that the allies took Paris. Two things happened. One they would have to take on the burden of supplying Paris from their already very limited capacity until you relieve the Germans or the. Honor his duty of doing it. So his plans were to cross the scene above and below Paris but to leave the city itself in German hands. The general wanted to go out and tour the Falaise Gap area in town and other other towns in that area. And while we were while we were doing this one day we went through the little town of town and out on a blackboard up they were advertising the specials of the day at a restaurant or something. So right here was chalked on a blackboard Pat Perry a Libris and sure enough it was that's how we found out about by this blackboard. How in the world they found out about I suppose they got it by by underground radio. When we got back to camp we found out that
this had happened and the reason it was so dumbfounding to us is we've been briefed that we weren't going to go into Paris but to go on General Clark had other ideas. And actually they they made up their own mind to go in and did it unilaterally. People who forced his hand. Were not gone and the people around him. It was a resistance within Paris. And. From what I can gather they simply decided they didn't want Paris to be liberated from the outside. They wanted to liberate it from the inside themselves they had been building up all through the war for this climactic moment. The only thing that held them back was there's not much point in liberating the city if you're not going to have allied troops coming in soon thereafter. Yeah. The Army's got close enough to Paris that the city is liberated and the allies could move right into it. They moved. And that's to Eisenhower's hand. And yeah he was mad. I had the unhappy task of going over the general likes trailer and telling him what had happened. And this was the only time during the whole time that
I was with him that I saw him really angry with the liberation of Paris the Battle of France was over. It had lasted 80 days. They had been costly in terms of lives for both the advancing allies and the stubbornly resistant Germans by mid-September. Allied forces had at one point punched through to the German border and the Germans dug in to fight for the Fatherland for Ike. It was a time of strategic and tactical decisions. Harry butcher he had decisions to make every day of the war and I suppose several wins every week. And one of the Sunday the Sunday school are on Sundays where most everybody else would be in Sunday school or church. Generally I would meet with the Judge Advocate General. And I would go over with him. The court martial of the week.
And here I had to decide the what should be done should the court martial be upheld or should it be reviewed. Should it be set aside et cetera. Some cases would involve death penalty and those have to be sent back to Washington. That was the worst time we ride home after. You know for Sunday lunch and he would be real glum. This was a tough time. By early December of 1944 the Allied line stretched from between Belgium and the Netherlands on the north south along the edge of Germany to Switzerland. But on the morning of December 16th Hitler sprang his surprise a counterattack in the Arden forest region of France. It began with a thunderous sound of German tanks under the cover of fog and heavy clouds to Panzer armies drove a wedge in the Allied lines behind the tanks came. German infantry aided by the bad weather which kept allied airpower grounded. But German armies began to
wheel to the right toward Antwerp. The Germans called it Operation watch on the Rhine. It was better known as the Battle of the Bulge. It caught the Allies in their weakest area and General Eisenhower had a full scale German counterattack on his hands. Harry butcher was not surprised. In fact he had said before that that this was the weakest part of the war and we can't control all the line solidly because we got a tremendous front and so had the Germans. So it is possible for either of us to build up strength at any given point and go pushing through if we want to and that's what happened in the battle of our dens. We didn't know it at the time but Hitler had massed all the forces he could spare some he couldn't spare to try to get through at one point to try to demoralize. I remember at the meeting of his principle subordinates up front and
some other corps commanders and the army commanders. And I like I. I don't want any solemn faces his first reaction was. Strongly positive that this was the best possible thing that could happen. He had been looking forward rather gloomily to a long winter in which he would be building up his supplies carrying out limited offenses but not doing very much to get the job done and suddenly as he himself put it on the first meeting. Of his senior commanders after the Boers began they've come out of their holes. And now we've got a chance to get them. And he took that attitude throughout the meeting incidentally took place in an old barracks room of the French army had ever done. And just think about done what it means in the greatest land battle of all history you know the highest casualties and so on. Stay here and we're done in this old French barracks. That. Was at least two hundred years old and a gloomy room with a potbellied stove Eisenhower sat down with Bradley and Smith.
Of going on. Who is. Montgomerie's. Chief of Staff. And Patton. Hodges and Simpson. They all sat down in the hall atmosphere of the place and the fact that the Germans had indeed surprised the Allies so much. With First of all the attack itself and second the strength of the attack. Everybody was sitting around a very gloomy frame of mind. Now I looked around and said there would only be smiles at this table. And Patten picked up and. Picked up on that right away and said hello like that. Bother later the channel and then we can really chop him up and cut him off. I thought you wouldn't let him go quite that far but. That he agreed with the spirit and he ordered the general Papum to come up with his forces and patent mood with characteristic speed and got there at last on and saves the day of labor. That's not to say others didn't do a terrific job to General Bradley
and his forces momentarily under command of General Montgomery Marshal Montgomery who in turn will Marshal Montgomery sort of emerged as a hero in that affair. But a British briefing officer said at our Grebe hotel press conference that at the time of the German break through in the Ardennes Montgomery whose forces were on the north side of it all answered Antwerp and Holland had a whole corps marching in the other direction. So little did he know about it. In lot of ways a tactical general that's where he came into his own. Up to that time he had. It's probably fair to say that he had been letting a combination of his own staff officers.
Lead by beetle Smith plus Patton class Bradley plus Montgomery push him around. And the biggest complaint about Eisner is you know Shep was and he went first one way and then another. Depending on who he had talked to last hour and rockiest to make this criticism. And with some modifications that charge is true for the first. Five months of campaigning in France it was at the balkanize our self-confidence really peaked. And. He took immediate charge of the situation began moving around armies on his own took two armies away from Bradley and gave him to Montgomery because of seeing him the reasonable thing to do. Over Bradley's great protest it was the first time he'd ever really crossed Bradley. Was Eisenhower decided to hold Bastogne that this was the key role and center and that had to be held. My favorite scene from this came about three days after the attack began and I know it's poring over a map with the staff officers and they all making suggestions. He just wrapped in the tape on that requires that I'm wise I'll tell you what we're going to do. And he sketched out the movement of our five armies on the.
Same. Map and just had total command of the situation from that point until May 8th and. The Germans surrendered. That was the general that Eisenhower was. He told the boys what to do. On December 23rd the weather broke and the American airpower joined the battle. Within two weeks the Germans had been turned back. The Allies were again on the offensive and Hitler had had his dying gasp during that period. General Eisenhower received his fifth star general of the Army only one man in American history ever attained higher military rank General John Pershing as the armies marched into Germany now. Eisenhower made a decision that has been criticized perhaps more than any other he ever made. He decided to hold the Allies advancing to Germany at the Elbe River some 60 miles west of Berlin that let the Russians reach Berlin before the allies. Henry Butcher that was a decision that later was highly criticized by
lots of people who don't really or didn't really know all the circumstances. The basic circumstance that should be brought in time is that the the directive of the combined Chiefs of Staff which were the British and the American chiefs of staff with headquarters in Washington. Directly to the Supreme Commander allied supreme commander of shave was that he lead the forces to the destruction of the heart of Germany. General construed the heart of Germany as did his associates on the military level at least as the industrial heart of the country where the Royal Ballet and where the where there was the coal and the iron and steel and the materiel flowed to make the tanks and the guns and when General Ike had encircled
that his forces. This was the end of the war so far as the ability of the Germans to continue. General I thought with respect to crossing the aisle that it would cost 5000 American lives to get into Berlin. The Russians were already fighting in Berlin and block by block. We would have great difficulty controlling and keeping our armed forces separate from the Russians. They might conceivably end up fighting one another accidentally. I did not think it was worth five thousand lives to get into Berlin which he always regarded as having been pummeled into military on a military graveyard. But of course politically Berlin was a place on the map and it's also g as had on our tanks had on their vehicles all the way from
North Africa to France Berlin or bust. Then many of them didn't get there and they didn't like it. He did it in the face of opposition from. Patton. Simpson. Not so much hijos Montgomery and most importantly Churchill. And that. Latter group were all furious and thought he had made a dreadful mistake. His primary reason was simple. Military possibilities. In a way I almost took the attitude that these political arguments were having as to the importance of Berlet should we take it or should the Russians take it all very interesting. But the reality situation is such that there is no possibility of our getting to Berlin for the Russians so why should we try. Our second reason was political that. What difference does it make if the West or the east captured Berlin. Sense the lines of division. In Germany as a whole. For zones of occupation and in Berlin in particular had already been agreed to formal agreements between heads of government. Nobody had any intention of cheating
on these. Even Chucho who is the strongest advocate of. Western troops taking Berlin gave his justification only that it would be. Good for Western prestige my point losing their lives for purposes of national prestige as the Allied armies poured into Germany. Then the Russians squeezed in from the east. The German army all but collapsed on April 30th. Hitler killed himself. The Nazi era ended Grand Admiral Karle done it became head of the Reich and a surrender to generalize and R was arranged to take place at Remes on May 7th. General good job yodeled and Admiral Hans von Furstenberg representing doughnuts signed that surrender. Harry butcher recalls it. I elected not to take the surrender himself that was a sign that his chief of staff smelled and they after the signatures of the German generals were received. He asked them if they understood what they had signed that this was unconditional surrender and they
answered yes and then they were dismissed. I was a general Bradley got the word directly from Ike by phone at that time away up in Germany and we'd connected it joined up with the Russians on the Hill. And just a few Germans left in between. They had no fighting building left. So it was bound to come very soon. I got a call about 4:00 in the morning and I on the phone himself and said Brad it's all over. And went on tell me it's just the fact you get to midnight the next day. So I immediately called all the army commanders and passed on to them to stop all operations so no more casualties. To take any more losses along with one. And that was down three and four o'clock and six and I called all the commanders. I
only took a few minutes because I had a direct connection with them. And that was it for General Eisenhower the surrender brought not so much elation as fatigue. The job was over. We were so now. Anticipating a thing. It was a letdown really. There was no celebration. I swear it was 2:30 in the morning I was so tired I got in bed with a wildcat I anything I was just worn out and I think everybody in the place was in the next day we had to work we had a lot of work to do. We were you know we should go so we never did get the chance to celebrate. It was with relief. There was one last piece of business to be on that early morning by the supreme commander to draft the message to the joint chiefs of staff telling them of the German surrender how the butcher and his staff set to work on an eloquent communique. But I himself wrote it. The message officially notifying the surrender of Nazi Germany. The climax of what Roosevelt had termed the mighty endeavor read simply the mission of this Allied Force
was fulfilled. At 0 241 local time March 7th 1945. Likes war was. The Eisenhower years. By extension Radio-TV at Kansas State University on a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The producer narrator is Ralph Titus. Research by Anne Frank music for the Eisenhower years was composed by Gail cubie. Performed by the Kansas State University Chamber Symphony conducted by Luther Lebombo. Our thanks to the following for materials used in this week's broadcast. National Educational Television. CBS News and Metromedia radio. Next week the transition. The post war years.
This is Paul the. New. This is the national educational radio network
- The Eisenhower years
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- Chicago: “The Eisenhower years; 7,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-w950ms7k.
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