5-136 Memorandum for General Somervell, May 15, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 15, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Somervell

May 15, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]


At the JCS meeting today Admiral Leahy talked at considerable length of the pressure being exerted on Judge Vinson regarding civilian production, and Judge Vinson’s situation in not yet knowing exactly what the Army production requirements would be for the war in the Pacific.1 I explained to Admiral Leahy that until we had completed our taking of stock in the European Theater we were unable to give a definite reply. His point of view was that the pressure was going to be so great that some decision of some kind would have to be made almost immediately.

On my return to the office Judge Vinson called me up and asked if he could talk to me this afternoon or tomorrow. I put him off until tomorrow.

Please let me have by 10:00 o’clock tomorrow a statement in the matter that can guide me in my discussion with Judge Vinson, particularly if there are any items regarding which we can give him at least a partial decision at the present time, such as bombs and octane gas, for example. Have we the data to give him the requirements in summer clothing, for example, this being related to the cotton cloth situation.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. Frederick M. Vinson was director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

2. General Brehon B. Somervell, chief of Army Service Forces, replied that Vinson’s office had been provided with the War Department’s requirements insofar as they could be computed with available data on the strategic situation and troop basis. “It is well to remember that the reduction in Army personnel during the coming year will be only 5 percent. In other words, the average man-years during the past year amount to 8,100,000 whereas the budget for the next fiscal year is computed on the basis of 7,700,000. Men will continue to eat, wear clothes, travel and get sick. Many of the procurement items will remain much the same wherever the troops are.” (Somervell Memorandum for General Marshall, May 15, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

The army’s requirements for cotton textiles, food, and shoes had been reviewed by various agencies and approved by them, reported General Somervell. “The production of cotton textiles was 11,200,000,000 yards in 1942. It has dropped to only 9,200,000,000 yards in 1944. The Army is at present taking about 20 percent of this smaller figure. If Judge Vinson’s office and the War Production Board can increase production to what it was two years ago, the stringency in cotton textiles would be removed. Instead, the pressures are being put on the Army to reduce its requirements.” Yet the army’s cotton textiles requirements had been reviewed by the Truman Committee, the Inspector General, and the War Production Board and approved. “Our requirements for cotton textiles disclose the fact that troops are to be deployed through the United States and to the tropics, and since these troops from the European Theater have not been equipped with cotton, this will make these demands for the one-front war greater than for the two-front war,” reported Somervell. The army’s food requirements had been “scanned and rescanned with the War Food Administration” and approved. “Our shoe requirements have likewise been screened thoroughly with the War Production Board and have been reduced to a point where our stocks will be, in the opinion of the Quartermaster General, dangerously low,” reported Somervell. “I concur in the opinion that we should have more but I am willing to take the risk we are taking because of the unquestioned civilian need.” (Ibid.)

The air forces’ bomb program had been reduced to the “available capacities” and its requirements for high octane gas reduced to “within the capabilities of existing facilities.” Somervell concluded, “It appears that Judge Vinson wants to know enough about the plans in the Pacific to convince himself that the Army which is planned for the next year is not in excess of needs and that full utilization is being made of available resources in Europe, and that the remaining program is properly phased into the deployment schedule.” (Ibid.)

On May 22 Vinson reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff his concern over domestic labor unrest and said the people “were in a unique position due to lack of information in regard to the war status after VE Day, matters of reconversion, unemployment, and the distribution of food.” (Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Heads of Civilian War Agencies Meeting, May 22, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].) “General Marshall pointed out that to save lives in the war against Japan it was planned to be more prodigal in the use of troops and aircraft crews as reserves and replacements. An extra regiment for each division of troops will improve a man’s chances thirty five percent. B-29’s should have 2.5 crews, instead of 1.3 crews as they have at present.” The chief of staff “said that we cannot speculate on the Russians coming in or on the Japs quitting, and that production must be kept up.” (Ibid.)

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. 190-191.

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