2-265 Memorandum for General Watson, September 17, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 17, 1940

Memorandum for General Watson1

September 17, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Daily the War Department is receiving numerous requests from individual members of Congress for detailed information on the procurement of arms and munitions, reports on the comparative status of military equipment, and on various specific dates. Each request requires research and careful checking and some of them have involved one or more officers and several clerks for two or three days, to the delay of War Department business.2

Much of the information requested is of a confidential or secret nature, and reports recently given in confidence have been made public to favorite individuals of the Press, with results that are confusing to the public and highly detrimental to the War Department in its relation to the Press generally.

The War Department is in an embarrassing situation in this matter for the reason that each refusal to give out such information creates an antagonism which may be of considerable importance in connection with the passage of necessary legislation. There is no question but what the time has come when we cannot continue to do business in this particular matter in the uncoordinated and uncontrolled fashion that it is now being done. The War Department would like to have all such requests for information cleared through the Chairmen of the military committees of the Senate and House, and the Department directed to furnish information on the status of arms and equipment only when requested by these Committee Chairmen.

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. Brigadier General Edwin M. Watson was President Roosevelt’s secretary and military aide. Marshall drafted this document, but it was signed by Major Walter B. Smith.

2. Orlando Ward, secretary of the General Staff, recorded one instance of such congressional requests in his diary: “Sen [Harry F.] Byrd wanted some detailed data on tanks and planes under order in order to throw dead cats. The[y] fiddle while Rome is getting ready to burn.” (August 27, 1940, photocopy in GCMRL/Research File.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 313-314.

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