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Memorandum for General Eisenhower1
May 12 , 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
With reference to the attached communication from the Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, of May 12th: Admiral King,, General Arnold, Admiral Towers and I discussed this matter this afternoon following the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting.2 We decided that as the limiting date is May 25th the most immediate strengthening of the situation in the South Pacific could be met by the organization from planes en route from Hawaii to Australia of provisional squadrons for station for the time being at Fiji, Noumea, New Caledonia and Tongatabu, also possibly Efate. This will have to be done, though there may be strong protests from Australia, by having General Emmons3 provide the provisional squadron leadership and completion of ferrying crews to a combat basis without withdrawal of personnel from Australia, and that the whole procedure be on the basis of a temporary measure until the Japanese have shown their hand.
Involved in this would be two squadrons to a total of about sixteen 4-engine bombers and two squadrons of medium bombers. These last were already due from the planes being ferried over the Pacific.
General Arnold is working on this. Keep in touch with him. What I am particularly concerned with is that the instructions do not stir up a lot of repercussion from Australia.
I wish you also would have an immediate check made to see what we can do towards getting some more antiaircraft weapons into the South Pacific. I am fearful that our heavy planes would be destroyed on the ground through lack of antiaircraft and lack of detectors. Bolero need not embarrass us in this matter, as we must obtain antiaircraft from the British in any event for that operation.
Also check up on what can be done to expedite antiaircraft detectors [i.e., radar sets] for Alaska. Admiral King said Colonel Knox had commented on the heavy protection around the Bremerton Navy Yard provided by two regiments antiaircraft and fifty barrage balloons. Considering the capital ships and carriers being repaired at Bremerton it is important that this place be well protected. However, with regard to possible “retaliation” measures I am equally concerned regarding the Boeing district and the Consolidated district at San Diego and for San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Navy thinks that so far as surface operations are concerned, the Japanese could operate more safely on the San Francisco front than they could off Seattle.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. This is a corrected copy of the May 12 memorandum incorporating changes in paragraphs two and five, which was sent the following day to Eisenhower. (Memorandum for General Eisenhower, May 13, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. In his memorandum, King evaluated the results of the battle of the Coral Sea and assessed losses on both sides. He contrasted Nimitz’s two-carrier navy—only Hornet and Enterprise were available for operations—to Yamamoto’s superior Combined Fleet—with between six and eight carriers in home waters, by navy estimates. King informed Marshall that the Japanese were training for a major offensive against an unknown target in early June. King guessed that the Japanese would resume their offensive in the southwest Pacific and recommended that the army base additional air units in New Caledonia and Fiji. (King Memorandum to Chief of Staff, May 12, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book 5].)
3. Major General Delos C. Emmons had been commanding general of the Hawaiian Department since December 17, 1941.
4. Eisenhower responded with a program for reinforcing the South Pacific, which became the basis for the chief of staff’s reply to King on May 13, 1942. (Papers of DDE, 1: 299-300; Memorandum for Admiral King, May 13, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 10, Item 67a].) Before this program could be implemented, signals intelligence and cryptanalysis revealed that the Japanese targets were Midway Island and the Aleutian Islands.
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. 197-199.