5-065 Memorandum for General Hull, March 19, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 19, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Hull

March 19, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

I had a two-hour discussion with Admiral King on the Pacific.1 I am inclined to think that he will accept the Army command proposal, but I found that he was still concerned over the question of whether or not we were opposing Nimitz’ control of the Ryukyu operation and the Chusan operation. I told him this was not the case, that we were in accord with them.2 There were other points of detail that came up which moved me to make this suggestion to Admiral King: that instead of redrafting the directive to include these special matters we make a statement in the minutes regarding these various matters, that statement to be furnished theater commanders concerned.

For example, that the minutes covering the action on the directives should have a paragraph reading about as follows:

In the interpretation of the directives now being issued regarding command and operations in the Pacific, the following is to be understood by all concerned:

That the actual offensive operations in seizing holdings in the Ryukyus will be under CINCPOA;

That if an operation is undertaken on the China coast it will likewise be under CINCPOA;

That once the landings have been made good in the Ryukyus and construction of the air strips and similar measures gotten well under way, the control of this area will pass to CINCJAP;3

That the 20th Air Force will continue to operate under JCS directions until the time has come for the concentration of all efforts against the Japanese homeland, when it will pass to the control of CINCJAP, etc. etc.

Please have someone attempt such a minute.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. General Marshall and Admiral Ernest J. King held a meeting at 2:00 P.M. on March 19, 1945. (GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Engagement and Visitor Records].) On February 26 General Marshall had presented the army’s plan for command in the Pacific to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for consideration. “All Army forces in the Southwest Pacific and Pacific Ocean Areas should be placed under a single Army commander. At the same time, all elements of the Navy should come under direct command of a single Navy commander. Each of the two commanders, cooperating intimately under operational directives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should plan and conduct his own service’s part in the Pacific war. The command of specific major operations should continue to be prescribed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” To avoid disruption, the existing area boundaries and responsibilities should remain unchanged for the present. “However, the two commanders should be directed to work toward the eventual objective of each having under his own control (subject only to the coordination authority of the area commander) all resources of his own service no matter where located and to recommend progressive adjustments accordingly.” (Memorandum [OPD staff-drafted] by the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Command in the Pacific [J.C.S. 1259], attached to Lieutenant Colonel Florence T. Newsome Memorandum for the Secretariat, Joint Chiefs of Staff, February 26, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OPD, 384 TS, Case 1].)

2. The continuing question of unity of command in the Pacific surfaced as plans for the invasion of Japan, within Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s geographical authority as the commander in chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas, grew closer. Army staff planners believed that U.S. Army forces and resources would be more efficiently employed during the final assault on Japan if placed under the control of General Douglas MacArthur. (Louis Morton, Strategy and Command: The First Two Years, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1962], p. 249. Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943-1945, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1968], pp. 579-84. For previous correspondence with MacArthur regarding Pacific command, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-613 [4: 701].)

“To King, Leahy, Nimitz, and naval officers in general, it had always seemed that the defeat of Japan could be accomplished by sea and air power alone, without the necessity of actual invasion of the Japanese home islands by ground troops,” wrote Admiral King after the war. “In 1942, 1943, and 1944, while the attention of most of the Allied political and military leaders was concentrated on Europe, and while the war against Japan was left largely to King to manage with what forces he could muster, the Pacific war had proceeded largely upon this assumption. With the approaching victory in Europe a larger amount of attention was concentrated on the Pacific by people who had not previously been too greatly concerned with the problems of that war. . . . Upon Marshall’s insistence, which also reflected MacArthur’s views, the Joint Chiefs had prepared plans for landings in Kyushu and eventually in the Tokyo plain. King and Leahy did not like the idea, but as unanimous decisions were necessary in the Joint Chiefs meetings, they reluctantly acquiesced.” (Ernest J. King and Walter Muir Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record [New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1952], p. 598.)

3. Admiral King insisted on unified command by proposing that a third Pacific area be established for the Japanese home islands with a commander in chief, Japan Area (CINCJAPA) to plan and execute the final invasion. On March 8 the Joint Chiefs of Staff met in closed session to consider a memorandum and directive presented by Admiral King, in which he proposed that the Japan area be “delimited by the shoreline perimeter (and adjacent coastal waters) enclosing the islands of Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu, Hokkaido, and the other islands and waters included therein. . . . The prospective Commander in Chief, Japan Area, will be assigned duty also as Commanding General, Army Forces Pacific Theater (ComGenPac), in which capacity he will have administrative responsibility (command) for all U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific Theater.” (King Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 8, 1945, NA/RG 165 [ABC, 323.31 POA, Section 3-A (1-29-42)]. Coakley and Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943-1945, p. 581.)

4. For further discussion of command in the Pacific, see Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, March 22, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-067 [5: 94-97].

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. 91-92.

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