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Memorandum for General Eisenhower
February 5, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
With regard to the indiscreet telephoning by General Patch’s Chief of Staff, include in the message to General Barnes,1 in Australia, something of the following general import:
The Naval Intelligence Service picked up and transcribed a telephone conversation from Colonel Sebree, General Patch’s Chief of Staff, then in Panama, with Colonel Walker of the War Department General Staff.2 Information involved movement of convoys, the loss of a U.S. submarine and what amounted to a criticism of the Caribbean Defense command. This telephonic reference to convoy movements imperiled not only the lives of the members of the convoy, but jeopardized the shipping concerned and the future employment of the troops involved. Information regarding the loss of a U.S. submarine will be of definite value to the enemy. You are directed to bring this to the attention of General Patch for his information as to this serious indiscretion of his Chief of Staff, with instructions to investigate the matter and to take appropriate action.3 You will then report to the War Department results of the foregoing instructions.4
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. Julian F. Barnes, who had been promoted to major general on January 19, was commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in Australia between January 27 and February 25, 1942. Brigadier General Alexander M. Patch, commanding general of the New Caledonia task force, had selected Colonel Edmund B. Sebree (U.S.M.A., 1919), a member of the Personnel Division, General Staff, to be his chief of staff.
2. Colonel James H. Walker (U.S.M.A., 1920) was a member of the Personnel Division, General Staff.
3. Sebree’s career was not damaged by the incident. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 18 and made assistant division commander of the Americal Division on September 1, 1942.
4. A few days after this message was sent, all commanders whose headquarters were equipped with “scrambler” telephones received the following letter signed by the chief of staff: “There has been a lack of appreciation in the higher command and staff echelons of the necessity for secrecy in communicating confidential information. Instances have been noted where commanders or staff officers were not familiar with the degree of protection provided by the different means of communication available. There appears to be a general belief that the ‘scrambler’ device on the telephone insures secrecy. It does provide a certain amount of privacy but not secrecy. Conversations may readily be intercepted by agencies using the proper equipment. I wish you would take the necessary steps to make certain that all persons under your command who have access to secret information be made to realize the serious results of any negligence in safeguarding it. I wish you to limit the use of the `scrambler’ telephone at your headquarters to your principal staff officers.” (Marshall to Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, February 11, 1942, NA /RG 165 [OCS, 18250-197].)
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), p. 98.