Summersby, Kathleen Helen “Kay”, born in 23-01-1908 in Inish Beg Island, off the coast of County Cork, Ireland, as Kathleen Hellen McCarthy-Morrogh”. She was the daughter of Donald Florence MacCarthy-Morrogh and Vera Mary MacCarthy-Morrogh (born Hutchinson). Her father, descended from the MacCarthy Reagh Princes of Carbery, was originally from County Kerry and her mother was born in Wales, as the fourth of 5 sisters, to an English gentleman and Irish mother who was also descended from the Morrogh family. She described her father, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Munster Fusiliers , as Black Irish and her mother as English. Kay was the eldest in a family of three girls and a boy: Elizabeth Evelyn (‘Evie’), 14 months younger, James Clement, known as Seamus (born January 1912 in Kinsale and a wartime commando and Mary Sheila (known as Sheila or ‘Pick’, who was born in 1915 and died of cancer in May 1948. 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, an accountant, boxer and skilled poker player, and who was a couple of years younger than Kay. When they divorced, she retained the name of her ex-husband. Gordon Summersby died in the west of England at the age of 84 in October 1994. There was an engagement to marry US Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Arnold, that overlapped her initial period with Eisenhower; however, this ended by the death of her fiancé during the North Africa campaign.
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, and was reportedly excellent at navigating London streets during blackouts and fog. 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 David “Ike” Eisenhower when he arrived in London in May 1942.
Ike Eisenhower was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II. 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. 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.
Soon she was more than a chauffeur: sitting in on top-secret meetings, going to 10 Downing Street with the General for lunch with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, dining with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull and key advisers such as Averell Harriman , Harry Hopkins and Bernard Mannus Baruch . Hull died old age 83 on 23-07-1955 in Washington, Harriman died very old age 94 on 26-07-1986 in New York, Hopkins died age 55 on 29-01-1946 in New York City and Bernard Baruch died very old age 94 on 20-06-1965 in New York County.
Ike and Kay were together a great deal until the war ended, when Eisenhower cut his ties and returned to the United States. It is generally agreed that Summersby and Eisenhower became extremely close during the war. Some later writers suggest there were sexual relations between the two.
Kate here with General Omar Bradley , accompanied Eisenhower to combat areas and shared GI rations and “liberated champagne” with Generals, Omar Bradley and George Smith Patton. Often she presided as hostess at his formal dinners. “We have no secrets from Kay,” Eisenhower told Winston Churchill, who was charmed to sit on her right at table and later awarded her the British Empire Medal. Captain Summersby’s military awards included the Bronze Star Medal. 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, no documentary evidence has been found that she was ever awarded it. The Legion of Merit was normally awarded to senior officers in the rank of colonel and above, which reduces the likelihood that Summersby was awarded it.
When another driver took over, Kay still went everywhere with the supreme commander , often joining him in the back seat. On the eve of D-Day, she was at his side at an airfield in Newbury in Berkshire, England. From the roof of a hangar they watched U.S. paratroopers with blackened faces filing aboard transport planes for the night drop behind enemy lines. She saw his eyes brim with tears as the C-47s with the 101 Airborne Division men lifted off under a full moon.
(see my friend, corporal Merlano, Louis Philip “Lou”)
George Patton often saw them together and found Eisenhower “very nasty and showoffish in her presence.”
Omar Bradley, Eisenhower’s West Point classmate and favorite field commander, called her “Ike’s shadow.”
Kay Summersby was even as only woman present when Ike signed the German surrender, ending World War II in Europe in May of 1945. She was cut out of the official picture hidden behind General Walter Bedell Smith ( General Eisenhower’s chief-of-staff), but she was present.
Death and burial ground of Summersby, Kathleen Helen “Kay”.
Eisenhower later considered divorcing his wife Mamie Eisenhower
, to marry Summersby, but on the advice of General George Catlett Marshall
, not to, because it would cost him his career, he did not. Kay Summersby went to the USA
after her fiancé Lieutenant Colonel Richard “Dick” Arnold, from Florida died while mine-clearing during the war, Summersby married the Wall Street stockbroker Reginald H. Morgan in 1952, but was soon divorced again and took an American citizenship and lived out the rest of her life in Southampton, New York. Kay died in hospital of liver cancer in, Southhampton, New York, age 66, on 20-01-1975 and was cremated, but her ashes were scattered by her brother Seamus – or James – on the MacCarthy-Morrogh family grave (she was MacCarthy-Morrogh before her first marriage) outside the church of Rath and the Islands in West Cork, Ireland. Seamus (a WWII commando) was later buried in the same grave – one of only two outside the church. Both their names are on the stone at the bottom. Author Kieron Wood
from Ireland wrote a book about the romance with Eisenhower “Ike’s Irish Lover”
and kindly sent me the grave photo’s of Kay Summersby.