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4-169 Editorial Note on Trip to the Pacific, December 1943

1943
   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 8, 1943

Subject: World War II


Editorial Note on Trip to the Pacific

December 8-22, 1943

Twice previously in 1943—in January and May—Marshall had planned but had been unable to make a trip to the Pacific. On the journey from Washington to Cairo, he decided to try again. (SeePapers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-479, #3-602, #3-616, #3-633 [3: 507, 643, 656, 671-72]; Marshall to Sexton, November 22, 1943, #4-164 [4: 190-91].) The previous two weeks had been hectic—thirteen formal meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seventeen of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, three major sessions with the Soviets at Teheran, and numerous other important conversations, meetings, luncheons, and dinners—and a lengthy flying trip (just over 20,000 miles and nearly one hundred hours in the air) would give Marshall an opportunity to rest and read. He and his small party (four other officers and a clerk) boarded a C-54 at Cairo on the morning of December 8 and flew 320 miles south to Luxor, gateway to ancient Thebes and the Valley of the Kings. After a half-day of relaxation and touring at Luxor—including a moonlight visit to the Temple of Karnak—they took off shortly after midnight for Bahrein, where their plane refueled and then departed for Karachi, where they spent the night of December 9-10. The next morning he witnessed the training of Chinese pilots and air crews before taking off in the afternoon.

Marshall spent the night of December 10-11 at Colombo, Ceylon. The longest and most dangerous flight of the trip—necessitated by Japanese control of intervening landing sites—was between Colombo and Exmouth Gulf on the coast of central Western Australia: 3,136 miles over the Indian Ocean in fifteen and one-half hours. (Marshall always had records kept of how far and how long he flew. See GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Categorical].) On the thirteenth, Marshall flew on to Fenton Field, near Darwin; on the fourteenth he arrived in Port Moresby, New Guinea. At every opportunity, the chief of staff inspected camps, talked with troops, and visited hospitals.

Lieutenant General George C. Kenney, who commanded MacArthur’s Fifth Air Force, met Marshall at Port Moresby on December 15 and flew him and his party over several important sites in New Guinea (e.g., Lae and Buna) to Goodenough Island, some two hundred miles east of Port Moresby. Lieutenant General Walter Krueger had his Alamo Force Headquarters on the island, and that morning his troops had landed at Arawe in the first phase of the attack on New Britain Island. MacArthur had already arrived from his headquarters in Brisbane. “That afternoon,” Kenney recalled, “General Marshall briefed us on the situation in Europe and at home.” During the visit, Marshall also “had a long and frank discussion” with MacArthur, the latter remembered. MacArthur complained about “the paucity of men and materiel I was receiving as compared with all other theaters of war. He [Marshall] said he realized the imbalance and regretted it, but could do little to alter the low priority accorded the area.” Krueger remembered that Marshall “took time out to drive with me in a heavy downpour to some of our troop units and installations.” (George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War [New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949], pp. 332-33; Douglas MacArthur,Reminiscences [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1964], p. 183; Walter Krueger, From Down Under to Nippon: The Story of Sixth Army in World War II [Washington: Zenger Publishing Company, 1953], p. 29.)

Marshall, MacArthur, and the officers accompanying them, left on the morning of December 16 for Port Moresby, where they had lunch together. Marshall’s party left shortly before midnight for Guadalcanal, nearly nine hundred miles east. At Henderson Field, Marshall met Lieutenant General Millard F. Harmon, with whom he flew over various sites in the southern Solomons to Munda, on New Georgia Island. It was, Marshall later wrote, “one of the most interesting days I have ever spent.” (Marshall to Harmon, December 19, 1943, GCMRL/F. McCarthy Papers [U.S. Army 1941-45].)

“Then I flew on to the New Hebrides,” the chief of staff later told a Yank magazine reporter; “I inspected the Army and Navy base at Espiritu Santo and went through the hospitals there. Then I went on to the Fiji Islands where I saw troops embarking. From there I moved north, went through the camps, visited patients in hospitals and talked to men assembled in open-air meeting places.” After a night on Fiji, Marshall flew on to Canton Island, where the plane refueled, and Marshall saw a night demonstration of antiaircraft firing. (Earl Anderson, “Gen. Marshall Reports to YANK,” Yank: The Army Weekly 2 [January 21, 1944]: 15.)

Marshall reached Honolulu, Hawaii, in time for breakfast on December 19. On Oahu, he witnessed jungle-fighting maneuvers. Afterward he told the assembled troops: “We have got the Japs beaten but we have to keep pushing. The Japs had jungle training long before the war and we didn’t. But the Japs are restricted and lack variation. Our great advantage is our enterprise and resourcefulness. Your training here is the best that can be given and it is up to you to push the enemy through the jungle.” He praised the resourcefulness and small-unit tactics the Germans had demonstrated in the Italian fighting. “You men have to do the same and better and you have the initiative and the leadership to do it.” (New York Times, December 23, 1943, p. 3.)

Another night flight brought Marshall to Los Angeles early on the morning of December 21. He stayed in Los Angeles for a “rather strenuous” day and then left early on December 22, arriving back in Washington that evening. (Concerning his California activities, see Marshall’s letter to his sister, December 30, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-194 [4: 226-27].)

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 199-200.

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