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Memorandum for General Gerow
January 2, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Communications to England and to the Far East.
I had Colonel Sadtler in this morning to talk over the question brought up by the Prime Minister yesterday at the White House in connection with the establishment of telephonic communication between him and the President and the Chiefs of Staff Committee.1 Sadtler tells me that there is no telephone service by cable and that telephone by radio with a mixer can only be considered as private—not secret.
He further tells me that there is a direct cable line between the State Department here and our Embassy in London, to which the War and Navy Departments have feeder lines. The use of such communication involves coding the message and decoding it on reception, which hardly meets the Prime Minister’s desire.
I also discussed with Colonel Sadtler the question of communications to Australia and the Far East in general. He tells me that General Brereton has coding and decoding machines in Australia; Magruder has one in Chungking, MacArthur has one at Fort Mills, and the Navy have similar machines (but tuned differently from the Army machines,) at Fort Mills with Admiral Hart and he thinks also in Australia.2
He tells me that we have direct cable connection with Australia via the Fanning Islands and that the RCA [Radio Corporation of America] is giving improved direct service via Seattle to Melbourne.
I told him to submit a detailed memorandum on this subject,3 but I am telling you this to avoid duplication of effort. You are at liberty to make any changes in this proceeding that seem desirable.
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. Colonel Otis K. Sadtler (U.S.M.A., 1913) was assigned to the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. According to notes taken at the January 1 plenary session at the White House by Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow, acting assistant chief of staff, War Plans Division: “The President suggested that two scrambled wires between the United States and London be provided so that the President and the Prime Minister could talk directly and secretly and also the Chiefs of the United States and British Staffs. The President and the Prime Minister wanted this possibility investigated.” (Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, p. 155.) These “scrambler” radiotelephones were installed and Roosevelt and Churchill used them, but the Germans unscrambled the conversations within a few hours. (George Raynor Thompson, et al., The Signal Corps: The Test, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1957], p. 445n; Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 1: xx.)
2. Major General Lewis H. Brereton (U.S.N.A., 1911) was chief of the Far East Air Force; his headquarters was at Batchelor Field near Port Darwin, Australia. Fort Mills was MacArthur’s headquarters on Corregidor. Admiral Thomas C. Hart was commander of the Asiatic Fleet, and in January and February he commanded Allied naval forces in the Far East.
3. Sadtler warned that “these voice radio signals can be intercepted, recorded and deciphered regardless of privacy equipment employed.” (Sadtler Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, January 2, 1942, NA/RG 165 [WPD, 4402-144].)
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. 45-46.