4-550 Memorandum for General Handy, General Hull, October 20, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 20, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Handy, General Hull

October 20, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

At the meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff today there was a discussion of the proximity fuze matter.1 In my comments I related that to what I considered an undecided question, that is, whether or not we should conduct the war in France during the next two and a half months on the basis of playing everything for a conclusion. That would have a bearing on our decisions as to proximity fuzes. It would have a decided bearing on the choice of strategical air targets. It had a definite bearing on my proposal for the forwarding of infantry regiments.

If we are to make an all-out effort to close out the war in Europe before the heavy winter weather sets in, that would govern decisions in a number of related matters, to three of which I have referred above. It also would relate to operations in practically every portion of the world.

The consensus of those present was that this appeared to be a proper subject for a directive to Eisenhower from the Combined Chiefs of Staff. I was therefore requested to have such a directive drawn, which should be in the form of expressing a general policy, and which would govern the combined Chiefs of Staff as well as General Eisenhower.

I think such a statement of policy should be in general terms with possibly an illustration or two in order clearly to convey our meaning. Will you please have this worked on as a matter of urgency in order that I can submit the draft first to the U.S. Chiefs of Staff by circulation and then in a similar manner to the British Mission for transmission to London.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. Research on a radio proximity or VT (variable time) fuze had begun in Great Britain in 1939, but the version the Allies used in World War II was developed in the United States. The fuze worked by emitting a continuous radio signal that was reflected back when near a target, causing the fuze to detonate. To prevent the enemy from acquiring a dud and devising their own VT fuzes or effective countermeasures, use was initially restricted to Pacific naval actions. It was first used in the European theater in the summer of 1944 to help defend England against the V-1. See Ralph B. Baldwin, The Deadly Fuze: The Secret Weapon of World War II (San Rafael, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1980).

On October 21, Eisenhower’s headquarters was notified that antiaircraft use of the VT fuze was permitted “providing that such use is limited to engagement of targets over the sea or over land areas under our control where duds cannot be recovered by the enemy.” (Combined Chiefs of Staff to S.H.A.E.F., Radio No. WARX-50116, October 21, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-50116)].) The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the immediate use of ammunition fitted with VT fuzes, as this would release 1,380,000 rounds of medium and heavy artillery shells. “This is the only additional ammunition we can call forth immediately to meet this emergency,” Marshall told Dill. (Marshall to Dill, October 24, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. See Marshall Draft C.C.S. Message to Eisenhower, October 23, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-552 [4: 636-37]. Meanwhile, John E. Hull drafted a message to Eisenhower for Marshall’s signature saying: “The CCS are now considering the issuance, at an early date, of a directive for an all out effort to end the war in Europe before 1945, accepting by this decision the extraordinary measures which would be required. Such measures would include the use of the strategic air forces to get the maximum immediate tactical advantage from use of our air power, expedited movement and employment of units, and the use of the proximity fuze.” Specifically rejected was the suggestion from Eisenhower’s headquarters that the flow of infantry units to the theater not be increased. Marshall added at the end of Hull’s draft: “Be frank with me. I will accept your decision.” (Marshall to Eisenhower, October 21, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) On October 23, Eisenhower replied to Hull’s message that the heavy bomber was not suited for tactical air strikes and that port and transportation facilities precluded the handling of the heavy equipment of the divisions being scheduled under the expedited unit flow. “Our logistical problem has become so acute that all our plans have made Antwerp a sine qua non to the waging of our final all-out battle.” (Papers of DDE, 4: 2247-48.)

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. 634-635.

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