Just before dismissing me, he gave me some brief instructions that I have never forgotten. I can repeat his words almost verbatim, “Eisenhower,” he said, “the department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well but feel compelled always to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”
He looked at me with an eye that seemed to me awfully cold, and so, as I left the room, I resolved then and there to do my work to the best of my ability and report to the General only situations of obvious necessity or when he personally sent for me.
This habit I cultivated to the point that one day, finding myself in a crisis situation, I issued an order that occasioned for me ten days of acute embarrassment. Indeed, I suspected—with obvious reason—that I might be ignominiously dismissed from the presence of the Chief of Staff, if not from the Army. The facts were these:
We badly needed to send a division of troops to Australia, and it happened that in one of our ports and ready to depart was the British ship the Queen Mary. Having permission to use her, I directed the loading of 15,000 men on her and started her across the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope without escort.
Because of her speed, I was not particularly worried until we intercepted a cable sent by an Italian official in Brazil to his government in Rome. It read as follows:
“The Queen Mary just refueled here, and with about 15,000 soldiers aboard left this port today steaming southeast across the Atlantic.”
At once I had visions of all the German submarines in the South Atlantic trying to concentrate around the Cape of Good Hope area, possibly intercepting the great ship and filling her full of torpedoes. For the next few days I slept little. But finally I had the welcome news that the Queen Mary had arrived safely in Australia.
I felt so good that I took the time off to go voluntarily to the General’s office to tell what I had done and of the great suspense in which my principal assistants and I had been living. I said that I had not told him this before because I saw no use for his bearing the same burden of worry that I had been carrying. But now that all was well, I thought he might like to know what had happened.
He smiled and said, “Eisenhower, I received that intercept at the same time that you did. I was merely hoping that you might not see it, and so I was saying nothing to you until I knew the outcome.”
Rarely have I seen such generous consideration for a subordinate so beautifully exemplified.
One incident has bearing upon his conception of performance of duty without fear or favor. I was in his office once when he picked up the telephone to answer a call that an aide said came from a senator, the chairman of an important committee. As I watched the General’s face, it became flushed; he was obviously more than a little annoyed.