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Editorial Note on Plans for Pacific Operation
President Roosevelt replied to the July 10, 1942, memorandum signed by Marshall and King by telephoning from Hyde Park on Sunday, July 12. “In view of your Pacific Ocean alternative please send me this afternoon by plane, a detailed comprehensive outline of the plans, including estimated time and overall totals of ships, planes, and ground forces. Also, any proposed withdrawal of existing or proposed use of ships, planes, and ground forces in the Atlantic. Also, advise as to the effect of such an operation on Russian and Middle East fronts during the balance of this year.” (Colonel John R. Deane Memorandum for Admiral King, July 12, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book 6].)
The reply to the president’s request (first drafted by Operations Division chief Major General Thomas T. Handy), signed by Marshall, King, and Arnold, admitted that a detailed plan for major offensive operations in the Pacific had not been completed. “Our current strategy contemplates the strategic defensive in the Pacific and offensive in the Atlantic. A change therein would require a great deal of detailed planning which will take considerable time. . . . A major factor affecting plans for an offensive against Japan is whether or not war breaks out between Russia and Japan. In any event the plan would include an advance from the South and Southwest Pacific areas to the northward along the TRUK-GUAM-SAIPAN line, and/or to the northwestward through the Malay barrier and Borneo to the Philippines. This might be accompanied by action from Siberian Russia, in case Russia is at war.” Air, naval, and ground forces estimates followed. “We would immediately augment air forces in the Central, South and Southwest Pacific to the extent practicable with the facilities now available or which can be quickly established. . . . A direction of our major effort to the Pacific would result in no major change in the present naval forces in the Atlantic. It would, however, allow some strengthening of anti-submarine measures in the Atlantic. . . . A very large reduction of service troops now planned for Bolero would be made and these troops would be turned to the Pacific. The airborne and parachute troops now planned for Bolero and three Army amphibious divisions would be dispatched to the Pacific theatre where they are urgently required.” In reply to Roosevelt’s query as to the effects on the Russian and Middle East fronts, the chiefs replied: “Turning to the Pacific would adversely affect the United Nations’ effort on the Russian-European front. If the Japanese attack the Russians, strong offensive action on our part in the Pacific would have a favorable effect on the Russian-Asiatic front. . . . The Pacific operation would have little direct or immediate effect on the Middle East situation. Strong action on our part against Japan would serve to eliminate the danger of a Japanese move against India.” (Marshall, King, and Arnold Memorandum for the President, July 12, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 5, Item 1].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 272-273.