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Memorandum for General Watson1
November 20, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
Yesterday afternoon I explained to the President the status of the delivery of heavy bombers to the British. Every day we are being probed by the press and radio commentators regarding this matter. The question is, in my opinion, do we worry along until there is a leak with additional embarrassments, or can something be said at the present time in the way of a “lead-up” to a deeply interested public—and a critical Congress.
I wish you would ascertain from the President whether I might not make the following reference to the matter if questioned on the subject today at a press conference I am due to have.
In reply to these questions regarding the release of heavy bombers to the British Government, I will say that we have arranged to give them priority on the delivery of about 26 heavy four-engine [B-24] bombers, in exchange for which the British Government have released to us enough engines to equip 41 Flying Fortresses [B-17-C] which had either been delivered to us without engines or would be delivered before the end of December. Our own engine deliveries will suffice for the future.
Furthermore, we are in the process of negotiating a satisfactory basis of exchange for the release of 20 Flying Fortresses completely equipped, except as to the Norden bombsight. If this can be arranged we feel that it will be a great advantage to test of this particular type of heavy bomber prior to final commitments by us for the manufacture of more of this type.2
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. Edwin M. Watson had been promoted to major general effective October 1, 1940.
2. Marshall’s press conference statement was quoted in the New York Times on November 21, pp. 1, 14. The following day an editorial in that paper observed: “The American people know by now that Great Britain is fighting for their security as well as for her own. The transaction is to be justified only on the ground that the greatest possible help for Great Britain is the soundest possible defense for ourselves.” (November 22, 1940, p. 22.)
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. 352-353.