2-285 Memorandum, October 19, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 19, 1940


October 19, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Conference with British Purchasing Commission regarding new British Production Program.1

25-Pounder: Mr. Knudsen and Mr. Vance say no.2 Machine tool is the bottle-neck. We understand they are adamant on this question. 1800 guns implies a force of 1,000,000 men, therefore a difference of caliber would not present much complication. Incidentally, deliveries on this number of guns could not be produced on a quantity basis before the late spring of 1942, whereas, our deliveries of 105 [mm guns], including ammunition, on a quantity basis will commence ten months from now. It is conceivable that we might release these deliveries to the British, the situation being as at present. Such an arrangement would mean no serious interference with our production and a much earlier British receipt of guns in this approximate caliber.

2-Pounder (40mm) Anti-tank and Tank guns: British are willing to take our 37mm tank gun, but they prefer their 2-pdr. anti-tank gun. Mr. Vance states that this would seriously interfere with our 37mm anti-tank guns; and that the British would get into production much more quickly if they would accept our 37mm anti-tank gun.

Anti-aircraft: The British still seem unwilling to go ahead on our production of 90mm and 37mm guns. They continue to insist on the Bofors 40mm gun. Mr. Vance states Bofors production would, (a) seriously interfere with our production, and (b) would be a very long time in getting under way.

303 Enfield Rifles: Mr. Vance and Mr. Knudsen are opposed to attempting production of .303 rifles, especially because the machine tool bottle-neck would mean a very serious delay to one of our most important weapons,— the caliber .50 anti-aircraft machine gun. Mr. Carpenter, of the Remington plant, who was concerned with the principal production of Enfield rifles in this country in 1918, stated that it would be 2_ years before a new plant could be got into quantity production on these rifles.

Our proposal was that we lease for British use our complete caliber .30 rifle plant at the Rock Island Arsenal; that the Remington people set this up in the Remington-Ilion plant in New York, where space is available and they now have 1200 people engaged in making sporting rifles; and also where there are machinists unemployed who are familiar with this type of work. Mr. Carpenter was of the opinion that in ten months they would be in good production.

The difference here is between 2_ years and 10 months, and between the serious interference with one of our most important requirements, .50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns (as well as caliber .30 machine guns), and a unified production program.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Marshall probably wrote this memorandum for Secretary of War Stimson. Following the German victories on the Continent, the British government formulated a program to create fifty-five new divisions; this necessitated supplemental materiel purchases from the United States of British-design ordnance. These new orders competed with those being placed under the United States Army’s Munitions Program of June 30, 1940. (See editorial note #2-238, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 285-87].) To clear up the numerous problems which had developed over ordnance supply, Sir Walter Layton, director-general of programs in the British Ministry of Supply, arrived in Washington on September 22. On October 11 he submitted a memorandum detailing British requirements, the main elements of which were: 1,800 field guns; 5,250 tank guns; 3,000 antitank guns; 3,400 antiaircraft guns; and 1,000,000 rifles—all of British types. Such a program would require new factories and machine tools; but “owing largely to the demands of British industry, the machine-tool situation was likely to remain critical for at least fifteen months.” (H. Duncan Hall, North American Supply, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO and Longmans, Green and Company, 1955], pp. 184-87.)

2. William S. Knudsen, president of the General Motors Corporation, was N.D.A.C. executive in charge of the Industrial Production Division. His assistant, Harold S. Vance, chairman of the board of the Studebaker Corporation, was head of the Machine Tools and Heavy Ordnance Section.

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. 334-335.

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