ABOVE: Nov. 29, 1942 letter from Eisenhower (Peters Family Papers).

In the letter above, dated Nov. 29, 1942, Lt. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, overall commander of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of North Africa, advises the British Admiralty that he is awarding the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross to Acting Captain Frederic Thornton “Fritz” Peters of the Royal Navy.

The letter was forwarded to Peters’ mother as next-of-kin as a memento of her son who tragically died when the flying boat transporting him back to England crashed in heavy fog in Plymouth Sound in the evening of Nov. 13, 1942. It was likely sent to Mrs. Peters in 1943 by either Adm. A.M. Peters (no relation to Fritz) or Adm. Sir Frederick Dalrymple-Hamilton, both of whom served terms as Secretary of the Admiralty and wrote letters to Mrs. Peters in response to her inquiries after Fritz’s death. While A.M. Peters was a casual acquaintance of Fritz, Dalrymple-Hamilton was a longstanding friend and naval colleague who was a fellow student with Fritz at Cordwalles Boys School in Maidenhead in the 1901-1904 period. The letter was retained by Mrs. Peters and her descendants, and is part of the Peters Family Papers on which the new book “The Bravest Canadian — Fritz Peters, VC: The Making of a Hero of Two World Wars” is based.

In the letter Eisenhower applauds Peters for “extraordinary heroism during the attack on Oran, Morocco in the early morning of 8 November 1942”. It is interesting that Eisenhower mistakenly says Oran is in Morocco, when it is actually the second largest city of Algeria. This may have just been a clerical oversight, or it may be a reflection of Eisenhower’s poor knowledge of North Africa geography.

It is also interesting that Eisenhower says Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, in command of the Centre Task Force to capture Oran in Operation Torch, had made the recommendation for Fritz’s American DSC medal. Fredendall strongly disliked his British allies and encouraged his staff to mock them with fake English accents. At the time this letter was written, Eisenhower was still a strong supporter of Fredendall, but in February 1943, after the humiliating defeat at Kasserine Pass, Fredendall was replaced as commander of II Corps by Gen. George S. Patton, and sent back to the States.