3-310 Memorandum for General Surles, September 2, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 2, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Surles

September 2, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


I have read through the attached article on the High Command by Mr. Davenport. Generally it seems all right, from their point of view.1 However, I think the second sentence of the main paragraph on page 12 in regard to the Solomons is rather unfortunate—though this is not very important.2 On page 14, second paragraph, the article follows the President’s press statement that Admiral Leahy’s function was purely one of liaison.3

Whatever the President may have said at that time—that is not the case today. He is the senior Chief of Staff. He is Chief of Staff to the President, presides over the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and at the meetings of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. His position is far more important than that of a liaison agent. Confidentially, of course, I have built him up to a certain extent in his position, but nevertheless that is the basis on which he is working at the present time. He heads up an organization which consists of General Smith and his administrative force, the Joint Strategic Committee, the Joint Intelligence Committee, the Joint Planners, the group which proposes allocations of materiel, the group proposing allocations of shipping, and the group which deals with raw materials through Operations Division.4

Just to what extent any of this should go into the article I don’t know. I give you the foregoing for your information.5

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. John Davenport, a member of the Board of Editors of Fortune magazine, had written an essay examining weaknesses in the nation’s war production and military command systems, which he thought compared unfavorably to those in Germany. The military had made some progress through the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Combined Chiefs of Staff committees, he wrote, but efficient coordination and unity of command were still lacking, particularly in the Pacific and in control of air forces. Moreover, damaging interservice and interallied rivalries had not been eliminated, but he observed: “To date Marshall has shown himself relatively disinterested in the struggle for power between the Army and the Navy, the British and the U.S. That is one mark of a great staff man.” He recommended that President Roosevelt create a single head of all military forces and a small war cabinet. (“Unified Command,” Fortune 26 [October 1942]: 78-81, 218, 220, 222, 224.)

2. Surles, head of the Bureau of Public Relations, may have succeeded in modifying Davenport’s essay at this point in his discussion of the problems of service rivalry and unity of command. The mention of the operations in the Solomons, as printed, reads: “Nor is division by theatre so easy as it sounds. The attack on the Solomons went off like clockwork under Admiral Ghormley operating out of New Zealand. But the Solomons happen to lie just at the border of Admiral Ghormley’s zone and that of General MacArthur, and MacArthur’s planes were needed. The solution was friendly ‘cooperation’ rather than true unity of command, and the situation in the southwest Pacific is something less than perfect and may cause trouble.” (Ibid., pp. 218, 220.)

3. Davenport called Leahy’s status “ambiguous,” his function “purely one of liaison,” and said of his role: “at best he is a go-between, depending on diplomacy for his influence.” (Ibid., p. 220.) President Roosevelt had announced at his July 21 press conference that Admiral Leahy would be chief of staff to the commander in chief. When reporters persisted in asking for a description of the admiral’s duties, the president replied: “Whatever’s necessary from the point of view of the Commander in Chief. Now, as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t go guessing around about things, in assigning more importance to this than it really deserves. . . . I should be helped to save [time], by somebody else doing an awful lot of legwork, and indexing work, and summarizing work, and at the same time somebody in whose judgment I have got a good deal of real confidence.” (The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942 volume, ed. Samuel I. Rosenman [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950], p. 302.)

4. For Marshall’s original conception of Leahy’s role, see note 6, Marshall to Eisenhower, July 30, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-263 [3: 283-85].

5. For an additional comment on the Davenport essay, see Marshall Memorandum for General Surles, September 4, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-314 [3: 344].

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. 338-339.

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