A photo inscribed by General Eisenhower for Sue Sarafian with the following words: “To Sgt. Sue Sarafian W.A.C. with appreciation for faithful and official service in my headquarters, Dwight D. Eisenhower"

The Armenian-American Aides of General Dwight Eisenhower: Video Report

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WASHINGTON – On May 7, 1945, a US Army Air Force (USAAF) pilot, Roland Jehl flew the Nazi High Command to Reims, France, where they signed the Surrender Act, which officially concluded the war in Europe. General Dwight Eisenhower’s naval aide, Captain Harry Butcher, later wrote about this historic day in his book Three Years with Eisenhower: “Shortly after five o’clock I saw Sergeants Chick and Sarafin [sic] were craning their necks out of the window, and, sure enough, the Germans were arriving.” The person Captain Butcher referred to as “Sarafin” was Sue Sarafian, the personal secretary for the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower between 1943-47. “He always misspelled my name,” added Sarafian in the oral history interview conducted by the Eisenhower Library researcher in 1991, referring to the misspelling of the “ian” Armenian suffix of her last name in Butcher’s book. Pilot Roland Jehl and Sue Sarafian married later, after which she became Sarafian-Jehl and retired from the US Army in 1947.

General Eisenhower with his staff during World War II: 2nd from the right is Sue Sarafian

Sergeant Sue Sarafian was the only secretary that Gen. Eisenhower took with him back to the War Department after World War II. “Here, he promoted her to 2nd Lieutenant and trusted her to write down his dictation and transcribe his words in the famous book Crusade in Europe. Roland and Patty Jehl, the children of Sue Sarafian, texted back to respond to this author’s inquiry.

Sue Sarafian’s parents were born in in Keghi, Kharpert, in Western Armenia. Surviving the genocide of 1915, they, as thousands of other Armenians reeling from the trauma of the genocide, found refuge in America. In 1917 Sue was born in Malden, MA and was two years old when the family relocated to Detroit, MI.

In 1942, Sarafian joined the Women’s Auxiliary Armed Corps (WAAC) and is known as one of most successful WAAC officers of World War II. What is less known, however, is that before joining WAAC, she was a member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF): an American-Armenian community version of the American scouting organization, which is where Sue first received her first taste of a physical training regime.

“When the war started, I came from a family of five girls, no boys, and I was the oldest, and my reason for enlisting was true patriotism,” Sarafian said in the oral history interview. Sue joined Gen. Eisenhower’s staff in 1943 and later moved with the general to London.

Like Sarafian, radio operator Greg Melikian was also in Reims, France, in May of 1945. When the Nazi generals handed the official document of surrender to General Eisenhower, he ordered Sergeant Melikian to cable the cheerful and historic news to Washington, D.C. On September 2, Melikian was present at the ceremony of designating Wilmington, NC as the first American World War II Heritage City, attended also by the US president. Donald Trump recognized the presence and the incredible experience of Melikian in his official speech: “When Greg was 20 years old, he served as a radio operator in the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Oh, I’d loved to have heard some of those conversations,” Trump said.

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Ramona Melikian, the daughter of Mr. Melikian, replied to this author’s inquiry to state: “The general chose my father because he was the youngest soldier on duty and could speak about the ending of World War II for the rest of his life.” Earlier this year, during the May celebrations dedicated to V.E. 75th anniversary, Britain’s Guardian dedicated an article to radio-operator Greg Melikian with an eloquent title “The Man who Stopped the War.”

The 1st Infantry division of the US Army, stationed in Scotland in August of 1942, was among the first American major detachments to be shipped to the European theater after America joined the war effort. Among other officers of the division was the American-Armenian George (Gevorg) Juskalian. In November of 1942, as an officer of the 26th Infantry Regiment commanded by Theodore Roosevelt Jr, George participated in Operation Torch: the landing in Africa. After advancing for three months, American troops met the increasing resistance of Nazis. It was at the battle of Kasserine Pass where Captain Juskalian was captured as he was searching for one of his officers who had gone missing on a reconnaissance mission.

Juskalian was a POW for 27 months during which he was awarded the Silver Star for the rescue attempt of the missing private. After returning to Washington, D.C., he was honored by being tasked with the role of Secretary to the Chief of Staff of the Army under General Eisenhower. A great patriot of his country, Juskalian passed away on July 4, 2010.  “Ideal man, a good commander,” this is how in our phone communication Julius W. Becton, the U.S. Army three-star general described Juskalian, with whom he had been stationed in Europe for many years.

A photograph inscribed by General Eisenhower states “To Lt.-Colonel George Juskalian with appreciation of outstanding service and with warm regard, Dwight D. Eisenhower”

Juskalian was also a dedicated member of the American-Armenian community and was an active participant and supporter of Washington’s St. Mary Armenian church. As he stated in one of our conversations, he had multiple interactions with General Eisenhower after he was elected President. “If he came to the Pentagon and saw me he would talk with me or wave his hand”, Juskalian said. The colonel was posthumously honored in 2011 with the post office in Centerville, VA being named after him.

The list goes on. US Air Force Colonel Harry Sachaklian served in Eisenhower’s staff in Europe during World War II and later.

These are but a few examples of the service and sacrifice American-Armenians community members have made on behalf of their adopted homeland of the United States.

Topics: World War II
People: Sue Sarafian

Charles Yessaian of Maryland contributed to the reporting.

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