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Memorandum for Colonel Park1
from Colonel McCarthy
August 1, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
General Marshall requests that the following message be transmitted from him to Admiral Leahy as quickly as possible:2
“MacArthur advises me that President discussed with him ‘The reestablishment in effect of ABDA area under British control’.3
“Is President aware that British Chiefs of Staff stated several times on their own initiative that their proposed operations into the Netherlands East Indies from Australian bases were to be under command of General MacArthur.
“Whether or not this presents any confusion in revival of ABDA status I do not know, but it seems to me that it does.
“We did not question the British in the matter. They made the statement several times that their Navy, Air and Ground troops operating in Australia would be under MacArthur’s command.”4
By direction of the Chief of Staff:
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. Colonel Richard Park, Jr. (U.S.M.A., 1933), a member of the War Department General Staff, had been a military aide to the president since 1943.
2. Admiral Leahy had accompanied President Roosevelt to Hawaii. (See Marshall to Richardson, July 20, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-459 [4: 528-29].) At the time Marshall’s message was dispatched, the president’s party was aboard the cruiser Baltimore heading for Alaska. (William D. Leahy, I Was There: The Personal Story of the Chief of Staff to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Based on His Notes and Diaries Made at the Time [London: Victor Gollancz, 1950], p. 297.)
3. Concerning his July 26-28 conferences with President Roosevelt in Hawaii, MacArthur wrote: “The basic subjects discussed .. were the question of the possibility of bypassing Luzon and, second, that of the reestablishment in effect of the ABDA [American-British-Dutch-Australian] area under British control. . . . My own views in opposition to both of these propositions were expressed at length.” (MacArthur to Marshall, Radio No. C-15589, August 1, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-IN-496)].) Concerning MacArthur’s views, see note 1, Marshall to MacArthur, June 24, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-422 [4: 494-95].
Since early 1944, Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff had been anxious for British and Commonwealth forces to undertake an offensive in the southwestern Pacific. Debate regarding the proper axis of the proposed advance began in the spring and continued into the summer, but all plans were predicated upon using Australia as a base and thrusting into parts of the Netherlands Indies and North Borneo with the ultimate intention of recapturing Malaya and joining with the United States in the drive on Japan. The problem of command in the Pacific was raised by the British during the June visit of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to London. The short-lived A.B.D.A. Command under General Sir Archibald Wavell had been responsible to the Combined Chiefs of Staff until its demise in late February 1942. Thereafter the Pacific had become an area of United States responsibility, and the Southwest Pacific Area and the various Pacific Ocean area commands had reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The British Chiefs of Staff desired that British and Commonwealth forces in the region be placed under British commanders subordinate to MacArthur, who would be supreme commander and thus would report to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. The British internal debate regarding strategic operations in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea area was still going on at the end of July, although increasingly it seemed that the main British ground effort would be in Burma while the Royal Navy would assist MacArthur. (John Ehrman, Grand Strategy, volume 5, August 1943-September 1944, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1956], pp. 481-85, 498-99.)
4. Leahy replied: “I believe the President is fully informed as to the present British attitude toward the Command in the Southwest Pacific Area.” (Park Memorandum for the Secretary of the General Staff, August 4, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
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. 539-541.