5-169 Memorandum for General Hull, July 3, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 3, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Hull

July 3, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

The matter of gas was again discussed today but it was decided to delay the matter a little longer.1 Admiral King felt that we should not make an early decision in regard to the further production of gas. He regarded that as a more urgent issue than the one of ocean tonnage.2 I had in mind taking this up in the form of a paper as to production before my departure.3


As I noted on the draft of my proposal this morning this was discussed. Leahy is in favor of our point of view and of course Arnold. King was surprised at the reference to the directive of 1942. The whole question will be gone into on a regular basis, McFarland having been given the paper.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. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had held a luncheon on this day; as usual, no notes were taken. Twice in the early years of U.S. participation in the war, President Roosevelt had stated publicly that the United States would not initiate gas warfare but would retaliate against use by the Axis. Consequently, the U.S. Army had accumulated a large inventory of chemical weapons by 1945. Moreover, by this time Marshall and others were reconsidering the idea of initiating limited gas warfare. On May 29 Marshall told Stimson that the army might use mustard gas, for example, on the last pockets of Japanese resistance during operations—“just drench and sicken them so that the fight would be taken out of them.” (See McCloy Memorandum of Conversation, May 29, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-147 [5: 206].) On June 14, Marshall had given Admirals King and Leahy a War Department memorandum on “U.S. Chemical Warfare Policy.” (Brooks E. Kleber and Dale Birdsell, The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals in Combat, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1966], pp. 652-57; Allen and Polmar, Code-Name Downfall, pp. 176-78.)

2. Replying to Leahy’s response to “U.S. Chemical Warfare Policy,” Marshall observed that since U.S. forces were close to Japan, they had the capability of using gas without casualties to friendly populations. “The result is a greatly increased requirement for gas munitions if we are to be prepared to use the huge capabilities, principally in the air, which we have to deliver these munitions. Because of the very considerable requirements in service troops, storage facilities, port capacity and shipping involved in providing a forward stockage equal to our recent greatly increased capabilities, there is a serious question in my mind that a military justification exists for moving this stockage forward, principally to the Marianas and Ryukyus, unless we are contemplating its use on other than a retaliatory basis.” (Marshall Memorandum for Admiral Leahy, June 21, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

3. Marshall was scheduled to depart on the morning of July 4 with Admiral King for the annual Governors’ Conference at Mackinac Island, Michigan. He delivered some off-the-record remarks at lunch. That evening he stayed with his sister, Marie Singer, at Pike Run Country Club near Greensburg, Pennsylvania, before returning to Washington, D.C., on the evening of July 5.

4. The question of turning over control of Okinawa to MacArthur for use as the headquarters for the Kyushu invasion was not settled until the Potsdam Conference. See note 3, Marshall to MacArthur, July 19, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-173 [5: 245-46].

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. 237-238.


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