3-080 Memorandum for Admiral King, January 29, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 29, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Admiral King

January 29, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Attached message from General Wavell regarding Restrictions

on use of Submarines for supplies to Philippines.1

In principle General Wavell is correct in the view he expresses. However, there are three very important factors in this matter which must not be lost sight of.

In general the national forces of each Government in the ABDA are responsible for their own supplies. If circumstances require the use of combat elements for purpose of supply that is within the jurisdiction of the Government concerned. Of course such a decision must be weighed against combat requirements of the theater at the time.

The great moral effect on MacArthur’s troops of receiving occasional small shipments of critical items is undoubtedly of tremendous importance to the continuation of his defense.

The continuance of General MacArthur’s resistance is a highly important factor in the development of the resistance of General Wavell’s united forces to the Japanese assault on the Malay Barrier.2 MacArthur is containing a large number of Japanese soldiers, together with the planes and ships necessary to their maintenance. In other words, the supply of small quantities of critical items to MacArthur by submarine contributes to the success of our operations in the ABDA area in a much greater measure than would the availability of the submarine for combat.

As you know, we are making strenuous efforts to organize blockade running on an extensive scale, both into Mindanao and Luzon. Vessels are now under way for this purpose and others are being secured as rapidly as possible. Should this prove successful, the problem of supply by submarine will largely disappear. However, under present conditions, I think it is important that small shipments of supplies reach MacArthur by submarine or otherwise every ten days or two weeks.

May I have your comments?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. The Combined Chiefs of Staff received a message from Wavell’s headquarters on January 25: “Since using submarines for transportation to and from Philippines always directly reduces the opposition which can be brought against the enemy at sea in their theatre, I strongly urge that such diversion of forces be kept to a minimum.” (NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 2, Item 1i].) Eisenhower wrote a reply which Marshall did not use; see Papers of DDE, 1: 82.

2. The expression “Malay Barrier” was used at this time to mean the defensive line against Japan supposed to have been formed by the Malay Peninsula and the southern arc of the Netherlands Indies (i.e., Sumatra, Java, and the Lesser Sunda Islands). But the latter was less a barrier against Japanese expansion than the object of it.

3. King replied immediately: “General Wavell’s dispatch is entirely too restrictive as to use of submarines for getting vital supplies into the Philippines. I agree—fully—with the points made in your memo to me of this date with emphasis on the morale factor as well as the containing factor.” (King Memorandum for General Marshall, January 29, 1942, NA /RG 165 [WPD, 4560-9].) Ten submarines made an attempt to reach the Philippines with supplies: five in February, two in March, two in April, and one in May. Several of these were diverted or unable to unload completely. (Morton, Fall of the Philippines, pp. 399-400.)

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. 87-88.

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