4-238 Memorandum for Admiral King, February 10, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 10, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Admiral King

February 10, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


With reference to your memorandum of February 8th regarding the Pacific situation, I gathered the impression Tuesday that many of the statements were made from the standpoint of an advocate or counsel and that the problem was not being approached with the view purely to its critical examination to determine the best course of action, leaving aside personalities, areas, command, service prestige, etc. It also was apparent, in my opinion, that we have a tremendous potential force in that region provided we conform to the basic principle of mass.1

There is a definite and almost purely Naval consideration as to what constitutes an undue hazard to our Naval power in the Pacific. However, this need only be related to the choice of successive objectives as there is no proposal by MacArthur to exercise command over the Pacific Fleet. He is concerned regarding the immediate task force that escorts and launches his amphibious enterprises.

We have struggled since the outbreak of the war over questions of command in various regions of the Pacific from the Aleutians to Australia. The time has now come, in my opinion, to divorce from our minds any thought other than a purely objective purpose to secure the maximum result in the shortest time from the means available.

The points raised by MacArthur, the record of the recent conference in Honolulu, the discussions Tuesday afternoon, recent events and developments in the Pacific, all taken together indicate to me the necessity for a re-examination of our Pacific strategy.

In your memorandum you state that MacArthur has not submitted a plan to carry out the Combined Chiefs of Staff decision, while Admiral Nimitz has done so. My understanding from the discussions to date is that both General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz have been planning to use a considerable portion of the South Pacific forces, whose redisposition is now under consideration. Neither MacArthur’s plan (Reno III) nor Nimitz’ plan (Granite) carried out the decisions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff without asking for additional forces. Therefore the scale and timing of future operations are not clear-cut and cannot be until the Joint Chiefs of Staff inform the commanders concerned of the extent to which their requirements can be met. There appears to be a general agreement that the eventual defeat of Japan requires that we establish ourselves in force on the East coast of China and there also appears to be a general acceptance that Luzon must be the stepping stone. There is no agreement, however, as to the way in which this shall be done. The present decision, which was largely for planning purposes only, of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, calls for an advance along two axes in the Pacific but does not carry through to the final establishment on the China coast. I therefore believe that a new directive is called for and my suggestion is that we issue instructions to the Strategic Survey Committee along the lines of the attached draft.

General Arnold concurs with me in the foregoing.

The point you raise about MacArthur’s staff organization I will cover in a separate memorandum.2





It is desired that you consider as a matter of urgency the broad question of Pacific strategy and advise the Chiefs of Staff as to the general line of action which should be pursued. Your report should include your views on the following:

a. What geographical objectives should be seized, and in what order.

b. What axis or axes of advance appear to offer the best chance for the earliest conclusion of the war in the Pacific.

In calculations as to the means available you will assume that reinforcements following a cessation of hostilities in the European theatre will not commence to be available in the Pacific in operational readiness before December 31, 1944.3

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. On Tuesday, February 8, 1944, at the Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting, Major General Richard K. Sutherland and Rear Admiral Forrest P. Sherman—respectively MacArthur’s and Nimitz’s chief of staff—had presented their respective headquarters’ plans for operations in the Pacific. (Supplementary Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, February 8, 1944, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)

2. For further discussion of staff organization in the various theaters, see Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, April 10, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-338 [4: 393-94].

3. Admiral King replied on February 11 that Admiral Halsey should not command a joint Allied naval force directly answering to General MacArthur’s command. King insisted that General MacArthur “assumes, among other things, that because certain South Pacific forces under Admiral Halsey have been operationally under his command for the RABAUL campaign, he is entitled to have them allocated to him, with which I cannot agree on such grounds.” He quoted directives arrived at during the December 1943 Allied conference at Cairo, which called for a two-pronged offensive in the Pacific with mutually supporting Allied offensives along the New Guinea-Netherlands Indies-Philippine Islands axis and along the Marshall-Caroline-Mariana island groups. King again pointed out that at Cairo it had been agreed that the Central Pacific would have priority if conflicts in timing and allocation of resources existed. It was his belief that strategic direction already included capture of the Carolines and Marianas with the intention of mounting very long range strategic bombing operations against Japan. King agreed that the entire discussion should be referred to the Joint Strategic Survey Committee, and he also suggested that a list of C.C.S. papers pertaining to Pacific operations be added to Marshall’s proposed directive. (King to Marshall, February 11, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, ABC 384 Pacific (6-28-43)].) For further information, see Marshall Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, March 1, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-275 [4: 324-26].

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. 280-282.

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