4-027 Memorandum for Admiral King, June 28, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 28, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Admiral King

June 28, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


The question of responsibility for offensive operations against submarines and that of responsibility for long-range air striking forces are so closely related that a proper solution of one, in my opinion, involves consideration of the other. The tentative Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement appeared to offer an acceptable solution to both of these issues and solely on that basis I stated to you in my memorandum of June 15 that your proposal to take over anti-submarine air operations appeared to offer a practical solution to a vexing problem which has adversely affected the efficiency of our aerial war effort.1

I should state here that in all of these Army and Navy air discussions I have tried very carefully to hold myself to a position from which I could consider the problems from a somewhat detached and I hope, purely logical basis. As I remarked in the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the other day I feel that the present state of procedure between the Army and Navy is neither economical nor highly efficient and would inevitably meet with public condemnation were all the facts known. I have been hopeful that during the actual war effort we could manage our business in such a manner as to be spared the destructive effects of reorganizational procedure. But I am becoming more and more convinced that we must put our own house in order, and quickly, in order to justify our obligation to the country. I feel this very strongly because it is plain to me, however it may appear to others, that our present procedure is not at all what it should be.

Feeling as I do that the two questions involved are part and parcel of the same problem I believe that the Committee on Missions of the Army and Navy should be given both questions in their entirety for appropriate recommendation, or that we should formalize the entire Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement. The latter procedure promises earlier, and I believe, more satisfactory results as it appears rather likely that the Committee may reach an impasse in the matter as the result of past strong prejudices and bitter discussions.

There is a further and most important consideration involved. The Secretary of War has declared himself emphatically in a letter to General McNarney that unless the entire Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement is accepted by the Navy he is unwilling to consent to the transfer of Army anti-submarine airplanes to the Navy and that if the matter is taken to the President he desires to be heard by him on the subject.2

Under the circumstances I propose that you and I endeavor to reach an agreement along the following lines (which I believe represent the substance of the Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement), to be made available to the Committee:

a. The Army is prepared to withdraw Army air forces from antisubmarine operations at such time as the Navy is ready to take over those duties completely.

b. Army anti-submarine airplanes would be continued in that service as long as the Navy has need for them.

c. Army anti-submarine B-24 airplanes would be turned over to the Navy in such numbers as they could be replaced by Navy combat B-24s.

d. The Navy is requested to submit a schedule on which the Army can turn over their planes to the Navy and draw Navy replacement B-24s.

e. The Fleet Air Wings which the Navy proposes to station along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts will contain no striking forces but will be restricted to airplanes capable of undertaking such off-shore patrol as is necessary, in addition to pure anti-submarine operations.

f. The Navy agrees that all long-range striking forces for the defense of the Western Hemisphere and for active operations in other theaters will be assigned as an Army responsibility.

g. Long-range patrol planes assigned to Fleet Air Wings are for the primary purpose of conducting off-shore patrol, relieving the Army strategic striking forces from this duty.

This agreement to the transfer of long-range aircraft for antisubmarine operations makes it clear that such transfer does not establish a basis for the duplication of the long-range air striking force now in being in the Army. Such duplication, if permitted, would be patently uneconomical and would result in an unavoidable drain on our resources.

Meanwhile the Army Anti-Submarine Command will continue to function as at present, insuring that no detriment to the war effort will occur as a result of any delay which may accrue while this matter is being properly settled.

In all of this matter I am inclined to the belief that it bears a marked similarity to the Army problem of divisional organization. A division commander knows, for example, that he can handle the artillery and engineers more efficiently if they are all organic parts of the division and do not include elements attached for a particular operation. Practically every division commander therefore presses for a larger artillery and engineer permanent complement and resists the policy of providing reinforcements for particular operations from Army Corps and Army troop pools. We recognize the division commander’s point of view as to efficiency, but we also must recognize that such an arrangement is wasteful in the extreme because it involves the immobilization, as it were, of large bodies of troops in order that each division commander may have all of the units that he may require on a particular occasion, always under his control.

The same applies to antiaircraft and to anti-tank guns, and considerable feeling is constantly displayed regarding these units by the interested commanders. But it requires only a little arithmetical calculation to determine that such a procedure would be so wasteful of manpower and also would so increase the burden of logistical requirements that the gain in divisional efficiency would be heavily offset by the losses in other directions. This has been a continuing problem in the Army since 1917 but I think the Navy has had little of it to contend with until this question of air striking forces has arisen and virtually another Army, in the shape of Marines, is in process of being established. Naval commanders will feel that they can work more efficiently if they have Naval, Air and Marine units, as a homogeneous force, and undoubtedly they can. But on the other hand if this argument is carried to its ultimate conclusion it means the consolidation of the Army and Navy.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. Marshall’s previous communication on this subject is #4-014, Marshall Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, June 15, 1943. King replied to this on June 19 that the crucial issues were the ones he had raised in his June 5 memorandum to the chief of staff regarding the navy’s control of aerial antisubmarine warfare and that Marshall’s “more general proposals” could be handled later. Arnold wrote that King’s response “appears to be a transparent effort to obtain unilateral benefits from the agreement without settling the fundamental conditions on which the Chief of Staff’s proposal was based.” He recommended that Marshall tell King that his memorandum of June 19 was unacceptable. (King Memorandum for Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, June 19, 1943, and Arnold Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 21, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 560].)

2. Secretary of War Stimson had accepted the Arnold-McNarney-McCain agreement reluctantly as a means of eliminating army-navy friction. He remained unconvinced that eliminating the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command constituted an improvement in the war effort. “It now appears by his letter of June 19th that Admiral King, while proposing to accept our relinquishment of the anti-submarine work, is quite unwilling for the Navy to turn over to us the quid pro quo by which that concession was to be obtained. In this letter he proposes to leave quite unsettled the Army’s right to conduct all other long range striking operations by land-based planes. Under such conditions I see nothing in the future but further trouble between the Army and the Navy over these vital problems of jurisdiction.” Neither was the secretary impressed with the proposed navy antisubmarine warfare establishment, believing that it lacked elasticity and left too little room for initiative. “Under these circumstances I am quite unwilling to give my consent to the proposed transfer to the Navy of our present anti-submarine activities. I feel that such a transfer under the conditions revealed by the letter of June 19th would not be at all in the interest of an effective preparation for the safety of our great Army movement next year. If this matter goes to the President, I shall desire to be heard by him on that subject.” (Stimson to McNarney, June 25, 1943, ibid.)

3. King replied that he accepted Marshall’s points a through g, with minor changes, and proposed a point h stipulating: “Nothing in the foregoing sub-paragraphs is to be so interpreted as to limit or restrict a commander in the field, Army or Navy, in his use of all available aircraft as weapons of opportunity or necessity.” Marshall notified King that he accepted these changes and that Secretary Stimson concurred, (King Memorandum for Chief of Staff, U.S .Army, July 3, 1943, and Marshall Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, July 9, 1943, ibid.) In August the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command ceased to exist, and by October seventy-seven army antisubmarine-equipped B-24s had been exchanged for an equal number of combat-equipped B-24s from navy allocations. (Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, p. 409.)

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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 33-36.

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