4-520 Memorandum for General Bissell, September 22, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 22, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Bissell

September 22, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret1

I have read carefully your memorandum of the 20th of September regarding an investigation of the manner in which certain Top Secret communications were handled; also the memorandum to you of the investigation of this same matter, signed Carter W. Clarke.2

To the best of my recollection, so far as I had personal familiarity with the matters represented, the statements appear to be correct, except as follows:

On page 6 in the 8th line is a reference to my having arrived in the War Department a short time before 11:25 E.S.T., the time at which Colonel Bratton reported to my office.3 My recollection is that I arrived about 10:45 A.M. and that the secret communication referred to was on my desk and I began reading it at that time. However, I must say I may be wrong about this.

Further, the statements do not make clear that the Top Secret Army No. 25850 instructing the Japanese Ambassador to present the Japanese reply (Top Secret Army No. 25843) to the Department of State at 1:00 P.M. Washington time that afternoon, was not seen by me until I had read through the lengthy Top Secret Army No. 25843, some parts of it several times.4

Further, my recollection of the incident is rather clear that there was no debate regarding the importance of the 1:00 o’clock Washington hour. Everyone agreed immediately to the probable importance of this item.5

Further, there was also the immediate agreement of all concerned that all commanders on the Japanese front should be advised in the matter. The investigation implies that there was some debate about this.6

Finally, the statement is in error when it states or implies that I called Admiral Stark a second time.7 Following my first telephone message and his statement that he thought it inadvisable to send another warning to the field commanders, I drafted the message as actually sent, lacking the final sentence. My memory is very clear on this portion of the affair. I was in the act of delivering the pencil copy of the message when Admiral Stark called me and asked if I had sent a message. I told him I had prepared one and it was just being taken to the message center. He then requested that the sentence be added instructing each Army commander to inform his Naval opposite. I added this sentence in pencil and immediately started the message on its way to the message center.8

There is still another error in that the statement omits the fact that after Colonel Bratton’s second return from the message center, I being not satisfied with the information he described, had him return a third time and this time he was accompanied by Colonel Bundy. It may be that Colonel Bundy also accompanied him on the second trip. I know that he did on the third.9

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. This document was marked “For General Bissell’s Eye Only.” Major General Clayton Bissell was the assistant chief of staff for Intelligence (G-2).

2. Bissell had sent Marshall a summary and a copy of an eight-page report by Colonel Carter W. Clarke, deputy chief of the Military Intelligence Service, concerning the results of an investigation conducted September 14-16, 1944, by Clarke’s service on the handling of certain key MAGIC intercepts shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack. (Bissell Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, September 20, 1944, and Clarke Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, September 20, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Pearl Harbor Investigation Records, Col. Root’s Papers].) Marshall’s comments concern Clarke’s memorandum.

3. In December 1941, Colonel Rufus S. Bratton had been chief of G-2’s Far East Section and chief of the Intelligence Group; he was responsible for the delivery of MAGIC intercepts to the select list of officials authorized to see them. Marshall had recalled Bratton from France, where he had been commanding officer of the Special Troops at Third Army headquarters since March 1944, in order to testify before the board.

4. Document 25843 is the fourteen-part Japanese message of December 6-7, 1941. Document 25850 was received on the morning of December 7 and reads: “Will the Ambassador please submit to the United States Government (if possible to the Secretary of State) our reply to the United States at 1:00 p.m. on the 7th, your time.” Both documents are printed in Pearl Harbor Attack. pt. 33 (Proceedings of the Navy Court of Inquiry), pp. 1380-85.

5. The sentence Marshall cites included the statement that on the morning of December 7, 1941, “the Chief of Staff asked all officers present for an expression of opinion as to the meaning or significance” of the 1:00 P.M. timing mentioned in document 25850.

6. Clarke’s report states that Brigadier General Sherman Miles, then head of G-2, had urged that the commanders in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, and the West Coast be informed about the timing of the Japanese reply to the most recent United States negotiating position and that the commanders be on alert.

7. After writing his message to the four affected commanders, the report states, “Gen. Marshall again got Adm. Stark on the telephone” and read the message to him.

8. This message is printed in Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-003 [3: 7].

9. Colonel Charles W. Bundy was then chief of the War Plans Division’s Plans Group. Marshall’s message was filed in the War Department’s Message Center at 6:30 A.M. Honolulu time (eighty minutes prior to the arrival of the first wave of Japanese planes); it was delivered to the message center at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, at least seventy minutes after the attack began. The War Department asserted that the message was received at 11:45 A.M. (Winterbottem to Sarnoff, December 23, 1941, The SHAFR Newsletter 26 [June 1995]: 19-21.)

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. 599-601.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 4-520

Rights: Public Information