3-197 Memorandum for General Somervell and General Eisenhower, May 16, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 16, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Somervell and General Eisenhower

May 16, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


The President held a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House yesterday afternoon, at which I was present. There were Admiral King, Admiral Robinson, two other Admirals and a Naval Captain, the Naval Aide, Admiral Land, a Mr. Vickery, Donald Nelson and Harry Hopkins.1

The subject of the discussion was the memorandum to the President of May 14, 1942, submitted by General Somervell and Admiral Home on the subject of landing craft for BOLERO operations. There was a great deal of discussion about the various complications and delays involved in the manufacture of 200 ATL’s and 300 Giant Y’s.2

It appears that the engine shortage could be met by the reallocation of some 2400 General Motors Diesel engines for tanks; that the delays to major ship construction would probably obviate a feared shortage in steel-plating; that the serious bottle-necks in delays would flow from the fact that these landing craft would have to be constructed in many of the Naval ship yards which were now occupied to the full with Naval projects. The problem would be to provide the space, the work-shops and the men, if the time factor was to be met. Work now under way would have to be set aside and room made for the special landing craft construction.

While a detailed decision was not reached, in principle it was agreed that there should be no delay in antisubmarine construction; that work on carriers should be continued without delay, except that possibly some of the heavier fleet carriers would be delayed; that certain light cruisers, I believe, would not be delayed.

The President did not indicate the next steps to be taken, other than the fact that work must be gotten under way as quickly as possible. I imagine that the matter had best be brought up before the U.S. Chiefs of Staff meeting Monday in the form of the memorandum submitted by General Somervell and Admiral Horne, where the Naval appreciation of the meeting of yesterday afternoon can be ascertained and a decision made as to procedure.3

G. C. M.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department and Records Administration (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), 381 BOLERO, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. Vice Admiral Samuel M. Robinson (U.S.N.A., 1903) was chief of the navy’s Bureau of Ships. Rear Admiral Emory S. Land was head of both the War Shipping Administration and the Maritime Commission. Howard L. Vickery (U.S.N.A., 1915) was vice-chairman of the Maritime Commission. Donald M. Nelson chaired the War Production Board.

2. Frederick J. Horne had been named vice-chief of naval operations and promoted to vice admiral on March 12, 1942. Somervell and Home gave the president a comprehensive study of the landing craft issue. They estimated that only twenty-one thousand men—a fraction of the planned invasion force—could be landed in Europe with craft available by September 1942. For an April 1943 landing of seventy-seven thousand men, an additional 765 craft would have to be constructed. To achieve that goal, according to the Somervell-Horne memorandum, the president would have to give landing craft the highest production priority. (Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1941, p. 193.) ATL was the navy designation for tank landing craft; a Giant Y was a large infantry landing craft.

3. The Joint Chiefs of Staff placed responsibility for landing craft production in the navy’s hands. Hampered by high priority programs such as destroyer escort production—necessitated by the German submarine threat—landing craft received top priority only briefly in the summer of 1942. New strategic developments quickly altered industrial priorities set by these early BOLERO plans. (Ibid., pp. 193-94.)

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. 203-204.

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