4-149 Memorandum for General Surles, October 28, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 28, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Surles

October 28, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]

Subject: Creel’s article for Collier’s.1

Page 2. The “log” is not a pile of radiograms and cables. It is a record of them.

Also on Page 2. Handy’s morning visit includes not only General Strong and General Hull, but General Arnold. Further, I should like Handy referred to as Chief of Operations rather than as Assistant Chief of Staff for operations. In effect he is my Chief of Staff for the various theaters and not an Assistant Chief of Staff of the General Staff.2

Page 3. The 22,000 men incident is a miscue. The point was this: Prior to and including the period of the retreat to the El Alamein line we were under pressure to help out with both materiel and troops in the Middle East. The shortage in troop lift transports and the long voyage around South Africa combined to make it impossible to both put troops, in any quantity, into the Middle East, and at the same time build up the harbors, depots, etc., on the Persian Gulf and the railroad and truck lines leading north into Russia for which a large crew of technical men was required. Therefore the decision had to be made to accept one or the other hazard.

Also on Page 3. is the expression “At the time Rommel drove Montgomery back”. Montgomery arrived after the British were established on the El Alamein line.3

Page 4. His example of my encyclopedic knowledge with relation to the establishment of an air route across the Pacific is not correct. Arnold went into the details of this and I merely approved. Everybody knew it had to be Christmas or Canton Island or both—Fiji and New Caledonia.

Also on Page 4. I prefer that the incident of the relief of the officer at Attu be omitted—and the relief was actually directed in the theater; we confirming it here. The same applies to Salerno.4

Page 5. Lieutenant General, not “Major General” McNarney. Also, General Arnold is omitted from this group.5

Also on Page 5. It is unfair to characterize the War Department in the early period of the emergency in the manner done here. It amounts to a great reflection on General Pershing, on General MacArthur, and General Craig, not to mention others.6

Page 8. The incident in the Philippines which Hagood first referred to, relating to General Bell, took place ten years after my first tour in the Philippines, though I was still a lieutenant at the time.7

Page 9. Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, 1st Div., and not “Assistant Chief of Operations”.

Last line on Page 9: I was appointed Aide to General Pershing May 1, 1919, in France. General Pershing returned to the States in September of that year.

The foregoing comments are the result of a very hasty scanning of the paper. It seems a little sticky to me, rather an overdose of building me up. In my talk with Creel I tried to make only one point and that was that having gone to France with the first convoy and not come back until the last, September, 1919, having been placed throughout this period where I could observe the development of our AEF Army from a complete state of unpreparedness to its final action—writing the order for the first American raid, for the first American offensive (Cantigny) and the order for the cessation of hostilities by the First Army, and later being personally associated with General Pershing in his meetings with Foch and Petain, and other matters—in all this, I had an unusual opportunity to observe the difficulties, the defects, and the tragic results of not only unpreparedness but complications of Allied cooperation, or lack of cooperation. That from this experience, aside from my formal military education, I have endeavored to avoid the disadvantageous circumstances under which the AEF in France was built up and operated. This applies to the organization of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, unity of command in the theaters, selection of leaders, training, logistical preparations, and the actual operation of the War Department itself in relation to the theaters.8

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. Journalist George Creel, who had been chairman of the Committee on Public Information during World War I, had a forty-five-minute interview with Marshall on the afternoon of October 14. Marshall’s comments concern the draft manuscript of Creel’s essay that was published as “Marshall—Democratic General,” Collier’s 112 (December 18, 1943): 11-12, 81-82.

2. Creel’s published version describes a typical workday for Marshall: “On reaching his desk, the Chief of Staff gives first attention to the ‘log,’ meaning the high lights of the radiograms and cables that have come in overnight. The progress of the war on all fronts, the demands of our own generals and the appeals of allies, each convinced that his own need is the most pressing. After digesting the log, he clears his desk of immediate personal matters, dictating in a clear, pleasant voice that never stops to fumble for a word. This done, he is ready for Major General Thomas T. Handy, Chief of Operations, General Henry H. Arnold, boss of the Army Air Forces, and Major General George Strong, head of Military Intelligence.” (Ibid., p. 12.)

3. In giving an example of Marshall’s decision-making ability, Creel’s published version stated: “Before and during the British retreat to El Alamein, General Marshall was under terrific pressure to help out in the Middle East. At the same time, it was urgent that we build depots, lay railroad tracks and make harbor improvements in the Persian Gulf, providing a shorter, swifter, safer way for Russian supplies than the deadly Murmansk route. Without hesitation, General Marshall stripped the home front of equipment, but refused to stop the flow of men and material to the Persian Gulf. The decision was justified by events. Our tanks and guns, bombers and fighters, enabled the British to drive Rommel back, and the Persian Gulf route contributed in no small measure to the sudden halt of the German thrust in Russia.” (Ibid.)

4. As published, this section reads: “Naturally a kindly man, he is as cold as a lizard when it comes to incompetence. Theater commanders are under orders to shift and demote as their judgment suggests, and already there are instances where high officers have been removed in the heat of battle. Here, in General Marshall’s own words, is what he expects of his leaders: ‘Military skill, physical stamina, strength of character and flexibility of mind. Not only for the day but for the duration. The success or failure of a campaign, and the welfare of innumerable lives, are dependent on decisions made by commanders. It is not enough for them to be good. They’ve got to stay good.'” (Ibid.)

5. Further describing Marshall’s daily routine, Creel noted: “Usually, however, the morning huddle [see note 2] is over in an hour or two, and then it is the turn of the ‘home-front team’ composed of Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, Lieutenant General Brehon Somervell, Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair and the omnipresent Hap Arnold. In these four men lies the secret of General Marshall’s orderly, unhurried days.” (Ibid.)

6. In describing the state of War Department organization on September 1, 1939, and Marshall’s 1942 reorganization, Creel’s published version stated that when Marshall became chief of staff: “The Army was more thoroughly bureaucratized than any other department of government, and that’s saying a lot. . . . Ancient prejudices made for jealousies and rivalries, every branch being convinced of its superior importance, with hidebound conservatives frowning on mechanization and resisting any enlargement of the air branch.” (Ibid.)

7. Concerning Marshall’s early career, Creel’s published version said: “Serving in the Philippines, he enthused General Franklin Bell to the point of prophesying that Lieutenant Marshall might well become `the greatest military genius since Stonewall Jackson.”‘ (Ibid., p. 11.) One of Marshall’s former superiors, Johnson Hagood, had quoted Philippine Department commander J. Franklin Bell’s praise of Marshall’s handling of the 1914 Batangas maneuvers. (Hagood, “Soldier,” Saturday Evening Post 212 [July 15, 1939]: 25, 62. On the 1914 maneuvers, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-063-1-068 [1: 76-84].)

8. Perhaps in response to Marshall’s comments in this paragraph, Creel wrote at the end of his description of a typical Marshall day: “Another important part of the Marshall day involves co-ordination. In the first World War, he saw Allied armies brought to the edge of disaster time after time by lack of a unified command. Out of this bitter memory, one of his first insistences was the creation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to assure complete coordination of America’s war effort.” (Creel, “Marshall,” p. 81.)

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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 171-173.

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