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Memorandum for Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division [Eisenhower]
March 3, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
In the opinion of Admiral King the operations of German submarines close in shore have been facilitated by night illumination of the cities and towns along the seacoast. The submarine operator is given a silhouette of the vessel against the lighted background referred to.
Under the circumstances, it would appear desirable to require blackouts, first of all in the cities actually on the coast, and possibly later in cities which are close by, such as Jacksonville.
This matter should be immediately considered and a directive prepared as well as a news release on the subject. I will speak to General Drum on the telephone and have him start an investigation and recommendation as to what the terms of the order should be.1
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. Axis submarines sank eighty-two ships off the East Coast during the first four months of 1942, inflicting heavy losses of fuel oil and munitions. Assistant Secretary of War for Air Robert A. Lovett had also noticed the coastal lights and on March 2 had recommended a blackout of the entire East Coast. Generals Drum, McNair, and Eisenhower opposed this initial comprehensive blackout. After further study, Eisenhower informed the chief of staff that few sinkings occurred along illuminated stretches of coastline. Navy officers told the War Plans Division that coastal lights assisted submarine navigation more than offensive operations. Eisenhower recommended that the Office of Civilian Defense request coastal communities to dim their lights. Blackouts were applied only to specific areas where lights would silhouette coastal shipping. (Samuel Eliot Morison, The Battle of the Atlantic, September 1939-May 1943, a volume in the History of United States Naval Operations in World War 11 [Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1947], p. 198; Notes on War Council, March 2 and 16, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Secretary of War Conferences File]; Eisenhower Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, March 9, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 384.31].)
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. 119-120.