3-561 Memorandum for Field Marshal Sir John Dill, March 20, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 20, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Field Marshal Sir John Dill

March 20, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Dill:

I am sending you most confidentially a memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. McCloy, to General Eisenhower which I think you will find very interesting. I have not asked Mr. McCloy’s permission and therefore ask you to treat this as for your eye only.

I think McCloy actually was more or less responsible for Giraud’s recent statement; in fact, from what I have learned I am quite sure that he caused Giraud to make an immediate decision regarding the Nuremberg laws and put Monnet at the job of bringing the thing to a head in a few days.1

After his visit in Algiers he went to the front and spent almost two weeks there, seeing more of conditions than any officer from here that I know of, actually getting on the real front and going quite a distance into No Man’s Land. He talked to large numbers of officers and to a good many of the men. He arrived there the night after the loss of Kasserine Pass. Therefore the reactions he encountered are all the more interesting.

I should like you to give a careful reading to his paragraph 16.2

Faithfully yours,

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. General Henri Giraud, civil and military commander of the French garrison in North Africa, announced on March 14, 1943, that he was declaring void all laws passed after June 22, 1940, in effect repudiating Vichy governmental organization in French North Africa. In particular, he eliminated the “Nuremberg laws” regarding the status of Jewish people and other elements of society deemed unacceptable by the German government. (New York Times, March 15, 1943, p. 4.) Giraud’s government on March 17 restored pre-1940 political rights to Free Masons, trade unions, and the resident Jewish population. (Newsweek 21 [March 29, 19431: 40.)

Jean Monnet, who had been a member of the British Supply Council in Washington, D.C., was political adviser to Giraud in Algiers. For Robert Murphy’s opinion of Monnet and his role in de Gaulle’s rise to power in Algiers, see Robert Murphy, Diplomat Among Warriors (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1964), pp. 178-82.

2. Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy wrote a memorandum for Eisenhower on March 8, 1943, containing his observations during a recent visit to the Tunisian front. McCloy detected “a slowly growing sense of confidence on the front as to their ability to withstand the enemy, not so much confidence as to their ability to tear the enemy apart themselves.” He pointed to organizational difficulties at the unit level and along the supply lines, which to him “seemed not to be any too solid.” The assistant secretary stated that American units were rank heavy and suggested promotions be temporarily curtailed. He believed that North African experience demonstrated that the U.S. Army had devoted too little energy to mining and countermining during training. McCloy found “strong evidence of ‘mine consciousness’” and “universal belief that our mines were not strong enough.” The “perennial bug” was spare parts, and McCloy observed that more motorcycles and cub aircraft were needed to improve communication activity. The air command in North Africa suggested to McCloy that replacements, not entire new units, were needed. He noted that the air force personnel were “an untidy bunch” and failed to maintain proper saluting discipline.

The assistant secretary considered present American hospital organizations too large for efficient field service. He noted that medical officers were concerned over the number of “neurosis” cases. McCloy also detected confusion over the respective duties of the Red Cross and the Army Special Services. He suggested to Eisenhower that the thirty thousand tons of supplies intended for civilian use was just as important in many respects as military supplies, and that supply officers apparently forgot this on occasion. He mentioned that the Nuremberg laws with regard to the French colonial possessions in Africa were about to be rescinded, and McCloy anticipated that this would have great publicity value.

In paragraph 16 the assistant secretary stated that the French troops in Africa were a great underdeveloped military asset, and although undoubtedly some “dispirited” or perhaps disaffected French officers were present, it would be advantageous to employ French troops in any future operations in or near France. McCloy spoke of the danger to the forthcoming invasion of Europe from a European perspective if the Allied army had solely an Anglo-Saxon character. He admonished Eisenhower to add a French flag to his headquarters and add French officers to his staff.

In conclusion, McCloy expressed his confidence in Eisenhower’s ability to withstand a long, tiring struggle to oust the Germans from North Africa. He compared Eisenhower to the conqueror of Carthage, suggesting that someday the American general would be known as “Eisenhower Africanus.” (McCloy Memorandum for General Eisenhower, March 8, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

For information on why McCloy was sent to North Africa, see Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, February 1, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-492 [3: 524-25].

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. 597-598.

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