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Memorandum for Field Marshal Sir John Dill
February 28, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
Reading the Prime Minister’s last messages to the President I have become more disturbed over the cumulative disposition to misjudge Stilwell.1 I think quite the contrary should be the case. We have leaned over backwards in the matter and he has refrained from communicating with me. Certainly Mountbatten cannot expect more. Meanwhile, as you know, pressures have gone quite the other way.
I hope the British Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister can get clear in their minds that their criticism of Stilwell is a criticism of a man who wants to fight—which should be about the most easily forgiven delinquency on our side in this war. I have been debating writing to Mountbatten direct and even to the Prime Minister because I am getting fed up, where the reluctances have been on the other side from the start.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 February 24, President Roosevelt reiterated the United States position regarding the role of China in the Pacific war in a message—which was most likely prepared by Marshall’s staff—that General Marshall had sent to Admiral Leahy at the president’s request. (Marshall to Leahy, February 24, 1944, and attached Proposed Message from the President to the Drime Minister, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Roosevelt reminded Churchill of the need to increase Allied strategic air strength in China and thus to increase supplies into China, the need to take Myitkyina, and the need for an active British commitment in Burma. “I am gravely concerned over the recent trends in strategy that favor an operation toward Sumatra and Malaya in the future rather than to face the immediate obstacles that confront us in Burma,” Roosevelt informed the prime minister. “Lucrative as a successful CULVERIN might be, there appears much more to be gained by employing all the resources we now have available in an all-out drive into upper Burma.” Churchill responded on February 25 that “nothing will be withdrawn or withheld from the operations in North Burma for the sake of CULVERIN.” Stilwell, the prime minister wrote, had been “giving a wrong impression both of the position in the South East Asia Theatre and of the views of Mountbatten.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 755-56, 759.)
Admiral Mountbatten had already placed the blame on Stilwell for the War Department’s position which supported northern Burma operations. When Sir John Dill sent a copy of Mountbatten’s message complaining about Stilwell’s representatives meeting in Washington before Wedemeyer presented his proposal, Marshall replied that Mountbatten was mistaken. “The latter part of [Mountbatten’s] message indicates that the U. S. Chiefs of Staff based their position on General Stilwell’s arguments and the representations of members of his staff now in Washington,” replied Marshall. “This was not the case. Actually the U. S. view was formulated prior to the receipt of Stilwell’s comments or the arrival of his staff officers.” (Mountbatten to British Chiefs of Staff, February 21, 1944, attached to Dill to Marshall, February 22, 1944, and Marshall to Dill, February 23, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected]. For further discussion, see Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, pp. 162-63, 171-72, and Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, pp. 438-39.)
2. See Marshall to Stilwell, March 1, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-273 [4: 321-23].
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. 318-319.