D-Day mystery: Another table said to be used by Ike in planning invasion surfaces

By REBECCA SCHELLER | Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, Kan. | Published: January 17, 2020

ABILENE, Kan. (Tribune News Service) — Recently in Bloomfield, New Jersey, there was an auction with NYE & Company and they had a noticeably familiar table up for sale: a table they claimed was used for the planning of the Normandy Invasion with General Eisenhower and his Commander-in-Chief. However, here in Abilene at the Eisenhower Presidential Museum, there is a table passed down through Eisenhower himself which was used for confidential delegations about the Normandy invasion.

When looking at the auction table’s plaque and the table here on display, one notices the inscriptions are the exact same. They read “This Table was in constant use October 1943 to May 1944 for the deliberations of General Eisenhower, Allied Commander-in-Chief and his staff who were then planning the victorious Allied advance in Germany. It was also used by General Marshall and Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Army when plans for “D” Day were put into direction whilst staying at Stanwell House, England, May to June 1944.”

Despite these similarities, each table comes from a different place with different purposes.

All information during the time of planning D-Day, such as location and any details, were confidential, even in times after the war. This means there is no picture evidence for either table to say if they were used and what for, but there is a series of documents that form a paper trail.

When speaking with the Museum and Library Director, Dawn Hammatt, Communications Director Samantha Kenner and Curator William Snyder, there was definite evidence for how the table went from the top-secret planning table to being on display in the Museum.

The table

It is known that this table was made in the 18th century Sheraton Period, which would put the table at about 150 years old when used by General Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief and staff. There were 12 Chippendale chairs from about 1750 and a Persian rug accompanied with the table.

After the war the furniture made its way into the British Dental Association’s ownership, according to documentation from the Association. There was also an article published in the New York Times on August 2, 1955 claiming an anonymous friend of Ike’s purchased the furnishings and had them shipped from England to the White House for President Eisenhower in honor of the 10th Anniversary of V-E Day.

When receiving the table, Eisenhower put it on display at the White House for a short while.

He eventually donated the table to the museum in Abilene along with 10 of the chairs and the carpet, according to Snyder.

Along with multiple letters and documents that confirm where the table had been, who owned it and where it went, there are letters to and from Eisenhower talking about the table.

In a letter provided by the Eisenhower Library and Museum is conformation that Nelson Rockefeller had sent the table, chairs and rug to Eisenhower.

“As a token of the gratitude felt by so many throughout the world for what you have done and continue to do for your fellow man, I should like to present to you a remembrance of those momentous days,” Rockefeller said in a letter.

In which Ike replied with much gratitude. “You could not possibly have thought of a war memento of greater significance for me than the table, chairs, and carpet combination…”

“Our challenge is that we don’t have any photographs of this table being used in headquarters because like he said [Snyder], it was above top-secret. There were no photographs of this. What we do have is Ike’s letters and writings and with that we know he was very excited to receive it and he showed it off in the White House,” Hammatt said.

Based on the documents from the library, this table passed down to the museum was believed to be used at SHAEF Headquarters at the Southwick House near Portsmouth, England.

Second table

The table placed up for auction is believed to be from Stanwell Place near London which comes from only information found on the auction’s website.

This manor house was purchased in 1933 by Sir John Gibson, a civil engineer, who aided with the Mulberry harbor design.

SHAEF command as well as Gen. Eisenhower had met at the Stanwell Place with Sir Gibson twice which does prove the point that if this table up for auction had originated from Stanwell Place, then it was most likely used for delegations about D-Day.

“What’s interesting is the plaques that are on both tables say ‘Stanwell House.’ Well, Stanwell House is a small hotel on the south coast of England. That hotel was probably used briefly by the military during the invasion period,” said Snyder.

It remains unknown who put the plaques on the tables or if the information is correct. They would have been added sometime between 1945 and 1955 and at this time, information about the war planning and meeting place would still be confidential. This could have been a deliberate act to not disclose the exact location, or simply whoever had created the plaques had not known correct information.

©2020 the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (Abilene, Kan.)
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