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Memorandum for Admiral King1
July 29, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Release of the 1st or 3d Marine Divisions for Operations in the Central Pacific.
The 1st Marine Division has been especially equipped and trained for its role in the CARTWHEEL operation and specifically in the ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore assault on western New Britain commencing December 1st as part of Operation 3.2 The 1st Cavalry Divison, which will arrive in the Southwest Pacific about August 1st, will be employed in Operation 2 (the capture of Lae, Finschhafen, Madang), starting in September. As a reserve for Operation 3, the 24th Infantry Division arrives in Australia in September, the first element having already departed Hawaii. In view of the shipping situation and the training of divisions it does not appear practicable to move another Army division to the Southwest Pacific to replace the 1st Marine Division in time for Operation 3, therefore its withdrawal would seriously disrupt the plans for the movement into New Britain.
The 3d Marine Division in the South Pacific is to be used together with the 25th Army Division for the operation in the Buin-Faisi area commencing 15 October. Since the 2d Marine Division will be transferred to the Central Pacific and the Army divisions now employed in current operations in New Georgia will require rehabilitation it apparently is not possible to replace the 3d Marine Division in time to initiate the Buin-Faisi operation on schedule. In other words, if the 3d Marine Division is withdrawn, the Buin-Faisi operation would have to be seriously delayed or cancelled. This in turn would adversely affect the operations against western New Britain, as well as adversely affect the air situation for us in the operation against Lae and to the westward in New Guinea.
The directive for the Central Pacific operation calls for the “2d Marine Division and one Army division to be designated later * * * .” The 27th Division, now on Oahu, is the only Division, Army or Marine, which can be so designated without serious dislocation of an already critical shipping situation. This division has been in Hawaii for over a year and is a well trained division with excellent leaders. All of the advanced training facilities of Oahu, including jungle, shore-to-shore and some mockup ship-to-shore facilities, are now available for special intensive training of the 27th in preparation for an amphibious operation. The ship-to-shore training can be augmented by use of some of the APs and AKs now being assembled for the operation.3 The present target date for the operation will allow a minimum of three months of concentrated training which should result in a well coordinated unit at the peak of condition.
However desirable from the Navy point of view to employ only Marine divisions in this operation it is my opinion that both the undoubtedly bad effect on the CARTWHEEL operation and the waste of shipping far outweigh the anticipated advantages.
If the use of the 27th Division for the Gilbert operations is agreeable to you we will take necessary steps to initiate its training without delay.4
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Project Decimal File 1941-43, 381 South Pacific (7-26-43), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. This document was drafted in the Operations Division but extensively edited by Marshall.
2. Operation CARTWHEEL was divided into six suboperations: three (A, B, and C) in Admiral Halsey’s South Pacific Area, and three (1, 2, and 3) in General MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Area. Operations 1 (occupation of and airfield construction on Woodlark and Kiriwina islands) and A (landings in the New Georgia island group) had commenced on June 30, 1943. Operation 2 was aimed at seizing control of New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula and Markham Valley in order to dominate the seas off western New Britain, Operation 3 was intended to secure the western half of New Britain. Operation B would complete the capture of New Georgia and the Japanese bases at Faisi in the Shortland Islands and Buin in southern Bougainville. Operation C aimed to seize the Japanese base at Kieta on the east coast of Bougainville and neutralize the airfields on Buka Island. All phases of CARTWHEEL were expected to take eight months. (Miller, CARTWHEEL, pp. 26-28.)
3. AK was the navy’s designation for cargo ship, and AP stood for personnel transport ship.
4. Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Richard S. Edwards replied: “The designation of the 27th Division for the Gilbert Operations, as proposed in your memorandum of July 29 is agreeable, and Admiral Nimitz is being advised to that effect.” (Edwards Memorandum for General Marshall, July 31, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43, 381 South Pacific (7-26-43)].) See Marshall’s comments on training the Twenty-seventh Infantry Division in Marshall to Richardson, August 5, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-072 [4: 80-81].
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. 73-74.