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Memorandum for General Eisenhower
May 8, 1942 Washington, D.C.
Day before yesterday a message was received from Patch regarding the Free French complications in New Caledonia. Yesterday another message came requesting authority from us to take positive action to meet the situation.1
I sent an urgent memorandum to the White House with copies of the two messages yesterday afternoon. Also while at Bolling Field to meet the President of Peru, I brought the matter to the personal attention of Mr. Sumner Welles and later in the evening sent him copies of the two messages. At the same time copies were sent to Sir John Dill, with request that he get his government in London to bring up the matter with De Gaulle. Last night at the White House I told Admiral King of what had happened, and the thought occurred to me at the time that this issue really is his. In other words, under the terms of our agreement, the executive control for the South Pacific Theater is in his hands.
Therefore, I wish a summary of what I have done to be prepared immediately for him, and copies of the messages sent him. Also inform him that in the future such matters of general policy in the South Pacific Theater will be immediately transmitted to him for action.2
G. C. M.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), 336.2 New Caledonia, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. Prior to the outcome of the Coral Sea engagement, French military representatives in New Caledonia feared that Japan would target that island’s airfields, that the United States had insufficient forces to defend the island, and that Major General Alexander M. Patch, commanding general of United States units, was attempting to take over the island. Civilian officials challenged the authority of Free French provisional government leader General Charles de Gaulle’s military representative on the island, who promptly exiled the political leaders. Patch, who opposed the exile, refused to assist the French military officials in imposing order. (Patch to The Adjutant General, May 6 and 7, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OPD, 336.2 New Caledonia].)
2. Eisenhower drafted a memorandum for King and a radio to Patch (signed by Marshall) advising Patch that Admiral Nimitz—commander in chief of the Pacific Ocean Area—held operational control over New Caledonia. Under British pressure, de Gaulle urged both Americans and Free French in New Caledonia to cooperate. In the wake of the Coral Sea battle more cordial relations ensued. (Papers of DDE, 1: 287-89.)
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. 190-191.