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Memorandum for General Handy
July 19, 1944 Washington, D.C.
I should like you to talk to the retired officers today at the conclusion of Colonel Proctor’s presentation.1 Please give them a brief survey of your, or our, view of how the war is going in the various theaters, particularly in Italy and in OVERLORD. Tell them as much as you can in regard to OVERLORD, that is, build-up in strength, problem of breaking into the open country, storm interference, etc., having in mind weighing the hazards of disclosing too much information against the advantage of having a number of older officers in Washington sufficiently well informed regarding the general situation to help us by their influence on the civilians with whom they talk, club and hotel gossip, etc.
I have felt in talking to these officers, though of course I have never given any such idea to them, that it was very important to have them fairly well informed as to the situation so that we in the War Department would not suffer from the influence on prominent civilians in Washington of the ill-based views of retired general officers, some of great distinction in the public mind. Up to the present time I think we have profited greatly by these conferences in that these men felt they were taken into the picture, and I have heard reports from various sources that they have unconsciously exerted a considerable influence in their strong support of the wisdom of the War Department in its conduct of the war. I have followed the same procedure in dealing with a selected group of men from the press and radio, and I believe have saved us many a headache of strong ill-advised public opinion.2
G. C. M.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staff (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), 201 Handy, Thomas T. [Section 1], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. Lieutenant Colonel William G. Proctor (U.S.M.A., 1935) was a member of the Operations Division’s Current Group, which collected and disseminated the latest information regarding operations. Beginning shortly after the North African landings (TORCH), Marshall had initiated the practice of holding occasional War Department briefings and film showings for retired army general officers in the Washington, D.C., area.
2. Marshall had held occasional off-the-record press conferences with ten to twenty selected reporters and news commentators since before the United States entered the war. (For example, see his November 15, 1941, meeting in Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-602 [2: 676-81].) The reporters who regularly covered the War Department were displeased with the infrequency of Marshall’s on-the-record press conferences, however, and in late October 1944 they began drafting a memorandum of complaint. (Frank McCarthy Memorandum for General Surles, October 24, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 000.71].)
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. 526-527.