Deadly weapons putting generals’ jobs in jeopardy

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JUST as we’re getting all geared up for Christmas along comes a sex scandal to divert us from the annual argument at this time of year – will-I-won’t-I do an artificial tree and if it’s to be a real one, shall we go for Douglas fir, an Eastern white pine or a Scotch pine.

Then there’s the Fraser fir and the Noble fir or a Colorado blue spruce depending on your sense of smell and whether you can cope with pine needles on the carpet.

I really can’t get my head around all the different varieties when all anybody’s talking about these days is the alleged interesting private lives of two of America’s most high profile soldiers, General John Allen who was in line for promotion to Supreme Commander of all Nato forces in Europe, and General David Petraeus, a much-decorated soldier who was head of the CIA but has now resigned, and the glossy gals with whom they’ve been associated, Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley.

David Petraeus has publicly admitted his affair with Ms Broadwell declaring it ‘a mistake’, whilst General Allen’s alleged involvement in what a White House official described this week as ‘flirtatious’ and ‘potentially inappropriate’ email messaging has led to pictures of him in the media looking like a startled pony rather than the tough, brave soldier splattered with medals we’re normally familiar with.

As for the Florida ladies allegedly involved, well it’s all quite confusing. Ms Kelley has been good friends with the Petraeus family but there appears to be no love lost between her and Ms Broadwell. There is no suggestion of course that Ms Kelley has had an affair with General Allen. It’s the stuff of soaps. Come Christmas day and whose dinner tables will they be sitting at? Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall?

High profile illicit relationships in UK – usually with footballers – tend to have the ladies rushing off to the tabloids to make a quick £20,000 or so to see them through for a few months – do they ever pay tax on these earnings I often wonder? We can’t even guess at how the revelations across the pond are going to pan out. Will the ladies tell all or wait until they’re on their death beds before revealing chapter and verse?

You see, affairs of the heart (if that’s what they are) are nothing new to high-profile American military people. Such men aren’t usually rich but they have enormous power, a well-known aphrodisiac for certain types of women. Uniforms do it, too, for women I believe.

The most famous American military/marital affair was that between Kay Summersby and no less a man than Dwight D Eisenhower who at the time – 1942 – was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and married to his devoted Mamie, and who after the war became the 34th President of the United States.

Kay, in fact was born Kathleen Helen McCarthy-Morrough in a place I know well, Ballydehob in Skibbereen, Co. Cork. Her father was Irish, her mother Welsh. Maybe she fancied the bright lights of a city – her native Ballydehob is beautiful but not much goes on there even today – because she headed for London where she became a film extra, then a fashion model, married and divorced roughly in that order. When World War Two broke out she joined the British Mechanised Transport Corps and her skills at driving an ambulance through the London blitz of 1940-41, and navigating the city’s streets full of black cabs and fog were legion. Many of her colleagues were chosen as chauffeurs for military personnel. It might have been her soft, Irish looks and her Cork accent that appealed to Dwight D Eisenhower but after her first assignment with him he chose to keep her on as his driver, later his secretary. Rumours and jokes about their ‘affair’ were commonplace amongst the soldiers but the Supreme Commander buttoned his lip, as did Kay.

After the war he returned to Mamie but for Kay there were some compensations – he helped her become a US citizen and she rose to the rank of captain in the Women’s Army Corps.

Kay didn’t breathe a word about the affair in her memoirs published in 1948, but in her 1975 autobiography Past Forgetting, My Love Affair with Dwight Eisenhower, she was ‘explicit’ about the romance. She died the following year. The cuckolded Mamie who suffered in silence lived another three years.