5-021 Memorandum for General Handy, General Henry, January 16, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 16, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Handy, General Henry1

January 16, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Joint letter from Admiral King and myself to the President.

At a meeting this morning in the President’s office with the Chairmen and senior members of the Senate and House Military Committees at which Justice Byrnes, Admiral King and I were present, the following was agreed:2

That a concentrated effort would be made immediately to expedite the passage of the bill now in hearings before the House Military Committee on manpower.3

That the President would not send a message to Congress at this time (though he was prepared to do so if desired).

That the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations should address a joint letter to the President on the urgent necessity of legislation to improve the personnel replacement situation and greatly to increase production of munitions including shipping and the repair of naval shipping.

That the President would forward this letter to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Military Committees with his comments on the urgency for action.

Admiral King and I have hastily agreed to a joint letter in the following general form.

An introductory paragraph stating the urgency of action.

A paragraph by me briefly outlining the Army requirements for personnel and for munitions.

A paragraph by Admiral King containing a similar presentation from the naval side and including also the ship repair and general construction requirements.

A final paragraph summarizing the foregoing, if that seems to be desirable.

Admiral King is designating an officer to represent him in working on this letter and I am designating General Henry. It is necessary that the letter be completed this afternoon in time to be signed and sent to the White House, the earlier the better.

I am rapidly sketching below a rough idea of the opening paragraph and the paragraph for which I am responsible.

“As the agents directly responsible to you for conduct of military operations we feel that it is our duty to report to you the urgent necessity for immediate action to improve the situation as to the provision of increasing numbers of young and vigorous replacements for the Army and Navy and greatly to increase the production of certain critical items of munitions together with an increase in the rate of ship construction and provisions for rapid repairs to damaged shipping.

“The losses sustained by the Army in the past two months have by reason of the severity of the weather and of the fighting on the European fronts been considerably greater than the estimates of last September. The losses or wastage of armament and equipment have for the same reasons and especially the recent German offensive, exceeded estimates. The Army must provide 600,000 replacements of one kind or another for overseas theaters before June 30. It must maintain a load of approximately 900,000 individuals in training as replacements throughout this period. It must make good the losses in equipment recently sustained and the increasing wastage of equipment due to offensive operations under winter conditions in Europe. There must also be provided the equipment for eight French divisions and for the accumulation of a reserve in equipment which does not exist at the present time.

(Final paragraph)

“You are intimately familiar, Mr. President, with the vast importance of regaining the offensive on the Western Front and pressing it, together with operations against the Japanese, with increasing momentum in the months to come. We feel that the United States should make every conceivable effort to permit the Armed Forces to carry out your instructions to this effect.”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. Major General Stephen G. Henry served as head of the War Department’s Personnel Division.

2. On the morning of January 16, President Roosevelt met with General Marshall, Admiral Ernest J. King, Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion James F. Byrnes, Congressmen Andrew J. May and Walter G. Andrews of the House Military Affairs Committee, and Senators Elbert D. Thomas and Warren R. Austin of the Senate Military Affairs Committee to discuss national service legislation. (McCarthy Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, January 10, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

3. Congressman Andrew J. May and Senator Josiah W. Bailey had introduced bills requiring that men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five stay on or transfer to war jobs. While the May-Bailey bill was weaker than the Austin-Wadsworth national service bill, the War Department was convinced that it was the best they could get at the time. (Byron Fairchild and Jonathan Grossman, The Army and Industrial Manpower, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], pp. 225-30, 237-40.)

4. On January 17 President Roosevelt wrote Congressman Andrew J. May, chair of the House Military Affairs Committee, urging passage of work-or-fight legislation that would make effective use of the four million men classified as 4-F for the war effort. “While this bill is not a complete national service law, it will go far to secure the effective employment in the war effort of all registrants under the Selective Service Law between the ages of 18 and 45,” wrote the president. “While there may be some differences of opinion on the details of the bill, prompt action now is much more important in the war effort than the perfecting of detail.” Roosevelt called for total utilization of manpower on the home front. (Roosevelt to May, January 17, 1945, NA/RG 107 [SW Safe, National Service Act].) Roosevelt enclosed the final version of the letter from Marshall and King, which was edited slightly and the Navy prepared two paragraphs calling for additional naval personnel replacements and a need for additional facilities and civilian labor to build and repair ships. “The Army must provide 600,000 replacements for overseas theaters before June 30, and, together with the Navy, will require a total of 900,000 inductions by June 30. . . . It is estimated that 700,000 industrial workers must be added to the force producing Army and Navy munitions and to supporting industries in the next six months if our urgent needs are to be met.” (Marshall and King to Roosevelt, January 16, 1945, ibid.)

On February 1 the House of Representatives passed the May bill. The Senate proved more of a challenge as labor and industrial leaders united to challenge War Department manpower figures. The Senate passed a weakened substitute measure (O’Mahoney-Kilgore) instead of the originally proposed legislation. (Fairchild and Grossman, Army and Industrial Manpower, pp. 240-45.)

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. 30-32.

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