26 May 2010

Eisenhower Speaks

From The Age on this day in 1964:

Risky Passage

GENERAL EISENHOWER has recalled how he feared for his army career when he despatched the Queen Mary, packed with American troops, to Australia in 1942.

He was worried that German submarines would zero in on the unescorted liner near South Africa.

Such a disaster might conceivably have ended General Eisenhower's career. More probably, it would have ended the life of Australia's most famous soldier, Field-Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey.

Then General Blamey, he was recalled from the Middle East after the fall of Singapore. With 30 of his staff, he went by flaying boat from Cairo to Cape Town, where he joined the Queen Mary.


Major-General L.E. Beavis (then brigadier and later Master-General of the Ordnance) said yesterday that the Queen Mary steamed at 29 knots.

This, he said, probably kept her out of range of submarines except any directly crossing her path.

One of Major-General Beavis's most vivid memories is of seeing many of the American troops reading Bibles as they sat in the crowded passageways.

On March 18, five days out of Fremantle, Sir Thomas Blamey heard the radio announcement of General MacArthur's appointment as Supreme Commander in the South-West Pacific area. Sir Thomas and his officers followed the lead of the Americans in cheering the appointment.

A few minutes later he commented to one of his staff that the appointment was "the best thing that could have happened to Australia. MacArthur will be so far away from his own Government that he won't have any interference from them, and as far as our Government is concerned he won't take any notice of them."

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