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Memorandum for General Handy
March 20, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
Justice Byrnes called me up this morning with regard to the 12:00 o’clock closing hour for certain types of cafes and the fact that the Eighth and Ninth Service Commands have issued orders on the subject of military personnel checking in, at 12:00 o’clock, I believe, in the Eighth Service Command and at 1:00 o’clock in the Ninth Service Command.
Justice Byrnes was hopeful that we would establish uniform instructions in regard to this matter which is now the subject of so much debate in the press. Confidentially he stated that Mayor LaGuardia’s action in New York was contrary to that of his Board of aldermen or supervisors, and that it would be very helpful to him if the Army was consistent in its support of the presidential desire. He suggested that possibly we might issue instructions that Army personnel would not patronize any of the entertainment establishments placed under the ban of the 12:00 o’clock curfew. He felt that there was no objection whatever to their going about their pleasures after 12:00 o’clock so long as they did not patronize the particular establishments which the Government desires closed at that hour.1
Will you figure out what might be done in the matter. I think that some action should be taken during the day.2
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. Effective February 26, Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion James F. Byrnes had requested that all places of entertainment close by midnight each day, “primarily to save coal consumed in heating and in providing electricity.” (New York Times, February 20, 1945, p. 1.) On March 18 New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia extended the curfew by one hour. Byrnes repudiated the 1:00 A.M. curfew, and he asked for the “full cooperation of all local officials and of the public in support of this request.” He insisted that it was “one of a series of conservation measures designed to save coal, manpower and transportation at a crucial period in the war. We cannot expect to obtain voluntary savings in the home unless we take other measures to convince the public that such savings are necessary. We must convince our fighting forces that the home front is prepared to sacrifice for their support.” (Ibid., March 19, 1945, p. 1; March 20, 1945, pp. 1 and 15.) Byrnes recalled that Mayor La Guardia telephoned him and “talked as if New York City would secede from the Union if its night clubs were forced to shut down so early.” (Byrnes, All in One Lifetime, pp. 250-51.)
2. On March 20 a letter regarding curfew instructions was dispatched over the chief of staff’s signature to military personnel in the Military District of Washington, and the commanding generals of all the continental Service Commands were telephoned with regard to the curfew. (Lieutenant Colonel F. Gorham Brigham, Jr., Memorandum for Miss Nason, March 21, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 353.8].) All military personnel were advised of the following: “The Director of War Mobilization has requested that patrons of all places of entertainment leave such places in time to permit closing at twelve o’clock midnight. Places of entertainment include night clubs, sport arenas, theaters, dance halls, road houses, saloons, bars and other similar enterprises, whether public or private, excluding restaurants engaged exclusively in serving food. The purpose of this request is to conserve coal, electricity, transportation, manpower, etc., to facilitate the war effort.” (Marshall Memorandum for All Military Personnel of the Five War Department Groups, March 20, 1945, ibid.)
Byrnes resigned his position effective April 2, having no intention to remain in the post to supervise reconversion. With victory in Europe “not far distant” he believed that the person to direct the reconversion program should now assume the office.
In his quarterly report, Byrnes recommended removal of the curfew after V-E Day, and his successor Fred M. Vinson (experienced congressman and judge who most recently served as head of the Federal Loan Agency and the Office of Economic Stabilization) lifted the midnight entertainment curfew on May 9. (New York Times, April 3, 1945, p. 1; May 10, 1945, p. 1. James F. Byrnes, Speaking Frankly [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1947], pp. 46-48.) See Marshall to Byrnes, April 4, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-086 [5: 119].
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 92-93.