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Memorandum for General Handy
September 8, 1942 Washington, D.C.
Please get word to Colonel Ritchie1 that I would like him to look into the Naval contention that our bombers operating from Moresby and Milne Bay are flying at such high altitudes that they are not rendering the assistance to the Navy so urgently needed at the present time, that is, bombing Naval craft. Of course the Naval contention is that bombing from 20,000 feet or higher seldom produces hits on a moving ship.
Judging from what the Flying Fortresses are doing over France and Germany in resisting fighter attack, it would seem that our Fortresses in the Southwest Pacific might on occasion bomb from a lower level against favorable ship targets. However Ritchie is an Air man and he will know how to approach this problem.2
There is also the question of the non-use of dive bombers from the Milne Bay fields against the Japanese ship concentrations within a hundred miles. Cooke3 says he has been told that the Army states they cannot use these planes without too heavy casualties, and yet the Navy is using them against ships. What is the problem here? Have Ritchie inquire into this.
G. C. M.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), 452.1 Pacific Theater of Operations, Section I, Case 13, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. Colonel William L. Ritchie (U.S.M.A., 1925), an airman, was chief of the Operations Division’s Southwest Pacific Area Section. He was being sent on a tour of inspection to that region with a mandate to discuss army-navy agreements on Pacific command structure, general Allied war strategy, and current operations. (Marshall to MacArthur, September 7, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. After visiting Papua and United States bases in northern Queensland, Ritchie reported: “The answer to the high and low level ship bombing is that our heavy bombardiers could not hit anything from any altitude, principally because they lacked necessary training. I will have much for General Arnold on this. Corrective measures in both training and tactics are being vigorously initiated. They are now going after shipping with a vengeance.” (Ritchie to Marshall, Radio No. C-547, September 21, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 2, Item 1i].) Major General George C. Kenney, commanding general of the Southwest Pacific Area’s Fifth Air Force, recorded in his memoirs that he told Lieutenant General Arnold, who was also visiting the region in late September: “the kids coming here from the States were green as grass. They were not getting enough gunnery, acrobatics, formation flying, or night flying.” (George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War [New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949], p. 112.) As a result of his trip, Arnold became convinced that “there was a general campaign in the Navy against high-altitude bombing, and it apparently went from top to bottom, although our high-altitude B-17s had made plenty of hits and had, on occasions, turned back Japanese movements headed toward Guadalcanal and toward New Guinea.” Arnold describes his trip, his perceptions of the navy’s attitude toward the army and air forces, and his own conclusions about the effectiveness of army aircraft in Global Mission (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949), pp. 338-49, quote on p. 343.
3. Rear Admiral Charles M. Cooke, Jr., was navy assistant chief of staff for plans.
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 351-352.