Pearlie Hargrave McKeogh: SHAEF Wedding
December 16, 1944. To most members of Minnesota's Greatest Generation, that date calls to mind the the beginning of the bloody Battle of the Bulge. To Pearlie Hargrave McKeogh, a native of Pillager, MN and one of the first WACs to go overseas, it was the date of a joyful occasion: her wedding to Michael J. ("Mickey") McKeogh, Orderly to the Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theater, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The couple was married in Marie Antoinette's Chapel Royal at the Palace of Versailles in France - the only commoners known to be accorded that honor. General Eisenhower, himself, hosted the reception, though his appearance was brief in light of the serious situation at the European front.
Michael McKeogh and Richard Lockridge gave an account of the wedding in McKeogh's memoir, Sgt. Mickey and General Ike, reprinted here with permission of the author's daughter.
Pearlie and I had been engaged a long time; a year is a long time, when you feel the way I did. We'd been talking about getting married, and what our life would be after we got married. We'd agreed on things that we'd do then; that we'd have children, of course, and that we'd name the first boy after the General; that we'd get a little house and I'd get a job. We'd said all the things and made all the plans that people do make, I suppose. But to us it was always something new, and as if nobody had ever made plans like those before.
All our plans for a long time were based on the idea that we'd get out of the Army and then get married. And the war kept going on and you couldn't see when it was ever going to end and so finally we began to talk about getting married while we were still in the Army, although we knew what it would mean. There was a rule against married personnel serving in the same theater of war. We knew about that; we had to take that into account. If we got married it would be the most wonderful thing there could be, but we couldn't stay together except for a few days. And then one of us – and it would be Pearlie – would have to go someplace else. We'd thought about all that. And still we wanted to get married now.
This isn't a story about Pearlie and me, and I've tried not to make it one. But all the time since I met her, most of the things going on inside me had been about Pearlie and me and it couldn't be any other way. Sometimes that part of it has to come into the story, because it touches on the Boss [General Eisenhower] and me. It did now, when we decided we wanted to get married right away, and I went to him and asked his permission.
He listened when I told him how we felt about it now, and then he smiled and after a moment he nodded. He said that now he didn't have any objections. He said when we got back to headquarters it would be all right if I went ahead and made arrangements. I hadn't expected him to say anything else, but it was great when he said that.
There was, I reminded him, one hitch – his own order that people in the Army delay three months after they had said they wanted to get married before they got married. He smiled and said that needn't stop us; he said it wasn't meant to hinder people getting married when they felt about it the way Pearlie and I did. He said it was to make sure that people didn't rush into things they'd be sorry for afterward. He said that he was certain that Pearlie and I were not rushing into anything and that we would not be sorry about it afterward. He said he thought we were really in love. I suppose I just stood there and nodded at that. There wasn't any point in telling him again what he knew already.
He reminded me that we would have to be separated after we got married, because of the rule about married personnel in the same theater. He said he couldn't do anything about that. He couldn't change the ruling for us, or make us an exception to it.
I said I knew that.
He said he would send Pearlie back to England after we were married and I said I hoped, instead of that, that he could arrange to have her sent home. I explained why.
Pearlie had something wrong with her back. It wasn't very serious, the doctor said, but it needed treatment. Pearlie thought, and the doctor seemed to agree with her, that it ought to have treatment by an osteopath; that that was the only thing that would do any good. They don't have osteopaths in the Army. The doctor at the dispensary agreed, I told the Boss, that it would be better for her to go home where she could get the treatment she ought to have, and to try to get out of the Army.
The General thought a minute and said that if that was the way we wanted it, and if that would be best for her, he'd see that she went back. He said he would have Colonel Lee arrange for her to have transportation back to the States after we were married.
So we went ahead and made arrangements, and everybody helped, Colonel Lee and Captain Butcher – he was made captain that fall – and everybody else, including the General. And Special Service made a wedding gown. They had one of the dressmakers in Paris make it for the WAC, but for this time the WAC meant Pearlie. It was made for her, so it would fit her; it was a general issue wedding gown, but it was made just for Pearlie. After the ceremony it went back to Special Services and other Wacs used it when they got married in Paris, but for them it had to be pinned up or let out, or whatever you do to making wedding dresses fit when they are really made for somebody else. It was made for Pearlie.
We were married on December 16 in Marie Antoinette's chapel in the palace at Versailles, a year to the day after I had given Pearlie an engagement ring at the house on the farm outside Algiers. The Boss came to the wedding; I heard afterward that he was having a conference at headquarters with a number of officers, and all at once he looked at his watch and said: "Gentlemen, I'm sorry. You will have to excuse me. I have to go to a wedding."
We were married by Father John Keegan, the Catholic chaplain of the headquarters company. Colonel Lee gave Pearlie away and Sergeant Margaret Chick, one of the Wacs who had come over with her to North Africa, was her bridesmaid. Sergeant Farr was my best man. And afterward the General gave us a reception. He couldn't stay long; he was very busy that day. I didn't know then how busy he was, or why; I just knew that he seemed more rushed than he had been for some time, and that, although he was smiling with us and seemed to be trying not to show it, he was worried again. But I could forget that that day, kneeling with my girl, very beautiful in her GI wedding dress, and hearing Father Keegan say the words I'd been waiting to hear.
The Boss gave us a hundred-dollar war bond and we got a good many other presents; and we had important guests – General Smith, the Boss's chief of staff; Major General Everett Hughes, Brigadier General Davis, and a good many other officers. And Captain Butcher [Eisenhower's naval aid from 1942 to 1945], who was going away on a trip, gave us his apartment in Paris.
At the reception, Father Keegan bestowed the Pope's blessing on the General, acting as a deputy for Archbishop Spellman, who had received permission from His Holiness in Rome.
And on December 16, a few hours before Pearlie and I were married in Marie Antoinette's chapel, Von Rundstedt attacked with twenty-four divisions in the Ardennes in that last great effort the Germans made to break out of the pen into which we were driving them. I suppose the conference General Eisenhower left to attend my wedding was considering that; and that it was that which put the worried look on his face again.
Pearlie and I had a week in Paris. Then she went back to the States by air; she flew in the same plane with the new French ambassador to the United States. The Air Corps boys held her up a couple of days until there was a comfortable plane going. They wouldn't let her go in one that had just bucket seats.
And after she had gone I went back to the Boss. In a way I was glad to be with him again, because big things were going on again and he ought, I figured, to have me around. The boys had been taking care of him all right. But he wasn't at ease with them, the way he was with me. He needed everything running as smoothly in the house as it could then, because there wasn't any joke about the German drive.
McKeogh, Michael J. and Richard Lockridge, Sgt. Mickey and General Ike. New York: The Curtis Publishing Company, 1946; Michael J. McKeogh and Richard Lockridge, 1946. Used with permission.