2-203 Editorial Note on the Fall of France, June 1940

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

Editorial Note on the Fall of France

June 1940

France’s collapse and the looming German threat to Great Britain forced Marshall to consider worst-case scenarios for the Western Hemisphere. At a June 17 morning meeting with George V. Strong (W.P.D.), Frank M. Andrew (G-3), and Richard C. Moore (G-4), the chief of staff said that, considering the various possibilities, the United States might suddenly find Japan and Russia acting in concert to hold the American fleet in the Pacific Ocean while the Germans pressed ahead with whatever plans they had for South America. It seemed likely that the United States fleet would have to be concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. General Strong observed that he anticipated a desperate need for United States troops to protect Brazil and Uruguay within the next sixty days. The international situation seemed to indicate, Marshall said, that the National Guard should be mobilized. The others agreed.

General Marshall also suggested that the Hawaiian garrison might be reinforced with five or ten Flying Fortress bombers; he noted that the Japanese could be four-fifths of the way to Hawaii before the United States knew that they had moved. But General Andrew thought that having a few more bombers in Hawaii would not be effective; the Air Corps should send many more or none and avoid dividing its forces.

President Roosevelt, replying on June 15 to French Premier Paul Reynaud’s plea for materiel support, assured the French that so long as they fought for their liberty, “so long will they rest assured that materiel and supplies will be sent to them from the United States in ever-increasing quantities and kinds.” Marshall observed to his staff, however, that the army had already “scraped the bottom” for supplies for the Allies. (Major Walter B. Smith Notes of conference in office of Chief of Staff, June 17, 1940, LC/RG 165 [OCS, Chief of Staff Conferences File]. President Roosevelt’s message to Reynaud is in Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940, pp. 266-67.)

Meanwhile, Arthur B. Purvis, head of the British Purchasing Commission, submitted a list of pressing needs, including heavy bombers, to Treasury Secretary Morgenthau. The next day, June 17, the secretary and President Roosevelt informally agreed to give the British a few of the oldest model B-17s. (FDRL/ H. Morgenthau, Jr., Papers [Diary, 273: 123].) When he was told of this plan early in the afternoon of June 18, Marshall immediately began to prepare a memorandum opposing this action. (Major Walter B. Smith Memorandum for Mr. Morgenthau, June 25, 1940, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, Foreign Sale or Exchange of Munitions File].)

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. 245-246.

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