2-278 Editorial Note on Burma Road Opening, October 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 1, 1940

Editorial Note on Burma Road Opening

October 1940

The Tripartite Pact (also called the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis), a ten year mutual aid treaty signed on September 27, 1940, formally added Japan to the Axis coalition. This treaty, plus Britain’s decision to reopen the Burma Road supply line to China on October 17, prompted Prime Minister Churchill to ask President Roosevelt to “send an American squadron, the bigger the better, to pay a friendly visit to Singapore. . . . Anything in this direction would have a marked deterrent effect upon a Japanese declaration of war upon us over the Burma Road opening.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Warren F. Kimball, 3 vols. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 1: 74.) See editorial note #2-363, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 409-10].

Churchill’s suggestion was the chief topic for discussion at the October 5 Standing Liaison Committee meeting. The chief of naval operations was strongly “opposed to any measures which did not fit into the general plan of operations in the event of war with Japan. He stated that the vital theater was the eastern Atlantic, and the western Pacific a secondary one.” Marshall and Sumner Welles agreed with Admiral Stark. The next day President Roosevelt told Stark to cancel the orders for sending 4,000 Marines to various Pacific stations, because he wanted an army division sent to reinforce Hawaii. (Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 8, 1940, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Categorical, Miscellaneous]. The October 5 meeting is discussed in Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1950], pp. 117-18.) The General Staff was opposed to this move. Not only would it disrupt training schedules, but it would complicate the army’s supply problems in Hawaii. What was really needed was antiaircraft personnel to man the equipment already on hand in Oahu. (George V. Strong Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, October 7, 1940, NA/RG 165 [WPD, 3444-4].)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 327-328.

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