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Memorandum for General Somervell
February 18, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
In the discussion with the President yesterday he brought up the question of endeavoring to move troops into New Caledonia (he first talked about Fiji), without the delays involved in uniting them with their organizational equipment in Australia.
Admiral King spoke of the fact that ships being convoyed from the West Coast, which had this materiel aboard, would join up with the convoy containing the New Caledonia force which sailed from New York the latter part of January.
I wish you would have someone look into the possibilities in this matter. If it should so happen that certain ships contained all the organizational equipment for the New Caledonia force, they might be broken off from the united convoy along with the ships containing the New Caledonia troops, and proceed direct to the latter island. I very much doubt if this is the case; also I imagine that on these same ships would be materiel vital to the situation in Australia.
It may be that some adjustment can be managed in connection with the 41st Division movement from the West Coast. That unit might be given New Caledonia as its destination, though this would probably involve even more delay.
Please look into this so that I can make some reply to the President.1
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. Somervell’s reply (Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, February 18, 1942, NA /RG 165 [OCS, 21381-1) was communicated to the president on February 23: (1) troops arriving in New Caledonia had to be prepared to fight immediately and thus had to be “combat loaded,” (i.e., loaded in units with most of their equipment at hand), but none of the army’s transports were suitable for this; (2) the seven-transport convoy that left New York Harbor on January 23 carried twenty-one thousand troops (some of whom were to remain in Australia), but their equipment was being sent in eleven unescorted cargo ships from West Coast ports between February 12 and March 10; (3) in Australia troops and equipment would be sorted, reassembled, and reloaded for New Caledonia. “In brief, the voyage is being made to New Caledonia via Australia in order to utilize to the utmost the available capacity of shipping; this at a sacrifice of speed. I fear we will have to submit in part to these conditions until the shipping program has developed to such an extent that cargo space is no longer the limiting factor.” (Marshall Memorandum for the President, February 23, 1942, ibid.) The task force arrived in New Caledonia on March 12.
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. 106-107.