3-350 Memorandum for Admiral King, October 2, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 2, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Admiral King

October 2, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


I have received the attached note from Admiral Leahy with Mr. Frank Mason’s request regarding publicity on the Doolittle carrier-based operation against the Japanese.1

I see no particular reason now why the actual facts in the case should not be disclosed. However if Mr. Mason who makes the request with a view to “correcting what I believe to be a rapidly growing false impression about Naval aviation” was responsible for Commander Thach’s interview, then I have grave doubts as to the advisability of granting his request. I consider that the interview referred to was a gross piece of business calculated to do infinite harm and no good whatever in Army-Navy relations.2

It is exceedingly difficult to keep the younger men from partisan comments reflecting their particular experience and interests, but when these statements originate in a department-controlled interview then the harm done is most serious. I have radioed instructions to various parts of the world to see that the Army air people refrain from any comments regarding Commander Thach’s statements, but personally I feel that the War Department is entitled to an explanation of the Thach incident.3

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. Leahy had sent Marshall and King a memorandum asking for their “comment on the propriety of allowing publication of the details of the Doolittle raid on Japan.” He attached extracts from a memorandum written by Frank E. Mason of the navy’s Office of Public Relations. The extracts began, “Agitation for the discontinuance of the building of battleships for the United States Navy has now spread to active propaganda against naval airplane carriers.” Writer Lowell Thomas had asserted that Brigadier General James H. Doolittle was enthusiastic about the value of carriers, Mason wrote, and Thomas proposed to write a book about the April 18, 1942, air raid. If Doolittle was cited as aggressively championing naval aviation and aircraft carriers, it would be most “constructive in correcting what I believe to be a rapidly growing false impression about naval aviation,” Mason concluded. (Leahy Memorandum to General Marshall and Admiral King, October 1, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 000.7 (10-14-42)].)

2. Lieutenant Commander John Smith Thach (U.S.N.A., 1927), a carrier squadron commander and decorated veteran of the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, had criticized army bombers and fighters at a Navy Department press conference on September 29. He was quoted by the New York Times as asserting that “not one major ship in this war has been sunk by horizontal bombing. . . . But with a couple of dozen aircraft carriers and supporting task force units, and with enough Marines to carry out landings I’m convinced we can cut a path across the Pacific, and cut it quickly right to Japan.” (September 30, 1942, p. 5.)

3. King replied that he was dissatisfied with the explanation of the incident by the navy director of public relations, that he deplored “all such interviews,” and that he would meet with the secretary of the navy “with a view to bringing such matters under control.” (King Memorandum for General Marshall, October 5, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Public relations was a responsibility of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. In replying to Admiral Leahy’s October 1 memorandum, Marshall said: “I am endeavoring to prevent a continuation in the press of the controversy concerning the relative merits of carrier-based and land-based aviation, and I am therefore withholding approval of the publication of Mr. Mason’s article until Admiral King feels that these matters have been brought under control.” (Marshall Memorandum for Admiral Leahy, October 14, 1942, ibid.)

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. 378-379.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 3-350

Rights: Public Information