2-490 Memorandum for Admiral Stark, June 20, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 20, 1941

Memorandum for Admiral Stark

June 20, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Betty:

I have gone over your draft in the priority matter and had it analyzed by our procurement people, and their findings formally checked and approved by the Under Secretary of War.1

Mr. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air, maintains that the President intended by his directive to the Secretary of War to place the machine tools and plant equipment for the entire 4-engine land and seaplane bombing program (500 planes per month) in A-1-a priority and their production in A-1-b priority. Incidentally, the Navy 2-engine patrol plane program is also advanced from the A-1-c category to the A-1-b category to place it on a parity with the 4-engine bomber program. At the moment, I see no other way of solving the present impasse except to submit these airplane schedules to the President for his consideration and decision.

With reference to the ship program, we had hoped that the Army proposal of June 2d would be considered as a fair compromise, having in view the requirements of the British. Experience over the past nine months with Army ordnance procurement efforts has proved conclusively that Naval ordnance and Army ordnance items are of such a character that both services compete extensively for the same productive capacity in management and in plant facilities. The officers who have gone into the details of this matter, and who fully understand its implications, are unanimous in the belief that an agreement to the present Navy proposal on ordnance items will result in

(1), a serious delay in the production of Army items required for the British, and

(2), a still further delay in our immediate need for adequate quantities of equipment and ammunition for the equipment of task forces, outlying base forces, the Panama Canal defense project, and the training of the present forces. (I am very seriously embarrassed from the morale point of view by the continuation of a really seriously inadequate amount of materiel for the training of the troops, whose impatience grows with their military development. This will become glaring, I fear, as the large maneuvers develop this summer). The Ordnance procurement officers call attention to the fact that the plants producing Army equipment, which now lack only a few essential tools to achieve balanced production lines, would be required to delay still longer before getting into quantity production. They also express the opinion that an agreement to the Navy proposal will result in piling up equipment and ammunition before the ships for which they are intended are ready.

In handling this matter of priorities, I personally get into deep water regarding the technical possibilities of the various proposals, but my predicament as to the equipment of our task forces, the inability to do what you would like to have done in the Philippines, and the very serious situation in which I am becoming involved regarding the present troop development in the United States is a matter of the deepest concern to me. I cannot escape the fact that our situation as to ordnance material is tragic in the light of possible requirements of the next six months, and the present demands which I am unable to meet. I have done my best to find a way out to help you in your dilemma, and am sorry that I must stand on the proposal of June 2d.2

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 April 22, 1941, the navy proposed that certain programs, such as their long-range shipbuilding project, be elevated to a higher priority. On June 2 the army advanced a compromise. Army planners recognized the strategic importance of the naval programs and agreed to a higher priority for certain construction and repair projects. A second navy proposal on June 16 recommended elevation of their bomber and patrol plane programs to a higher priority level also. The War Department’s procurement experts recommended to Marshall that he “take an inflexible stand” against the navy’s second proposal. They argued that the navy program would produce ordnance, equipment, and aircraft before their ships were ready and that the revised priorities would hinder the army’s 1941 mobilization. Their final recommendation was to maintain the June 2 army compromise and any presidential amendments. (Charles Hines Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 18, 1941, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 19603-20].)

2. On July 15, 1941, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox proposed that all production priorities be set jointly by both services. In assessing this recommendation, War Plans Division suggested that priorities be established by the Joint Army and Navy Munitions Board, to be reviewed and approved by the Joint Board. (Gerow Memorandum for Deputy Chief of Staff [Major General Moore], July 21, 1941, NA/RG 165 OCS, 19603-21-B].) To adjust priority conflicts between the military services as well as between the military and civilian sectors, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8875 on August 28, 1941, establishing within the Office of Production Management a Supply Priorities and Allocations Board. This policy group was composed of the chief executive officers of the principal agencies concerned with resource and production allocations.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 543-544.

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