4-139 Memorandum for General Handy, October 20, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 20, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Handy

October 20, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


Colonel Truman Smith1 in talking to me about the Balkans said that really the most important thing now was to make some effort to compose, at least temporarily, the differences between the various guerrilla bands; that it was probable rather than merely possible, that they would neutralize each other. On the other hand if for the moment at least they would strive together, along with the supplies that probably now can be given them by plane and by boat, great things might be achieved to embarrass the Germans on their Mediterranean front.

I commented that apparently we needed another Lawrence of Arabia and he thought that that was exactly the point; some man to go in there in the effort to influence these people for the time being. Offhand I proposed that we might send General Donovan. He has been there before and was supposedly partially responsible at least for the Yugoslavs entering the war against the Germans. You may remember that he left Yugoslavia just as the campaign began. I don’t believe he can do us any harm and being a fearless and aggressive character he might do some good.2

I spoke of this to Admiral Leahy and he thought it was a fine idea and that we should go ahead and do it. I added that it would certainly have to be coordinated with the British, that we must not send somebody in there without even telling them. He called me up a little while ago to say that the President was in favor of sending Donovan in and that he saw no necessity for informing the British.

I explained again to Admiral Leahy that we could not do it that way and he agreed. It is now up to me to prepare a message either for Dill from the U.S. Chiefs of Staff to be transmitted to London for quick acquiescence, or for the President to the Prime Minister.

Have some of your bloodhounds take a flyer at this this afternoon.3

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. Marshall had chosen Smith, an expert on the German military who was working as a special consultant for G-2, to become a staff member in the headquarters Marshall expected to establish in London when he became Supreme Allied Commander. (Berlin Alert: The Memoirs and Reports of Truman Smith, ed. Robert Hessen [Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 1984], p. 39.)

2. William J. Donovan had visited the Mediterranean in January and February 1941, accompanied by Vivian Dykes, director of plans in the British War Office. Donovan had talked with Yugoslav leaders on January 23 and 24. (Establishing the Anglo-American Alliance: The Second World War Diaries of Brigadier Vivian Dykes, ed. Alex Danchev [London: Brassey’s (UK), 1990], pp. 40-41.) The British had encouraged the anti-German coup in Yugoslavia that occurred on March 27, 1941, two days after the government there had signed the Tripartite Pact. (F. H. Hinsley et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations, volume 1, part 1, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1984], pp. 369-70.) The German army invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Developments in Yugoslavia during 1943 are described ibid., vol. 3, pt. 1, pp. 137-58.

3. Handy returned an Operations Division draft message that day that embodied Marshall’s ideas and stated: “If we decide to send him [Donovan] in, all agencies of ours now working in the Balkans should be placed under his direction and the resources we put into this effort should be at his disposal.” (Handy Memorandum for General Marshall, October 20, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) This message, with minor changes, was sent by the president to the prime minister on October 22. Churchill replied on the twenty-third that the British had in Yugoslavia “about eighty separate missions” working under capable men of long experience. “I have great admiration for Donovan, but I do not see any centre in the Balkans from which he could grip the situation.” Roosevelt did not press the issue. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 549, 553-54.)

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. 161-162.

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