4-200 Memorandum for Justice Byrnes, January 5, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 5, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Justice Byrnes

January 5, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


The following information will probably be of interest to you.

An analysis of the intercepts on the Axis propaganda campaign, commencing with the coal strike issue from May 1st to 5th and the 26th of June to July 1st—the last dates in connection with the Smith-Connally Bill and the Detroit race riots1—indicate that the enemy objectives in commenting on U. S. labor troubles have taken the following lines:

To stress Axis unity and strongly contrast it with U. S. disunity, picturing the Allies as weakening, and to discourage occupied areas as to the possibility of Allied help.

To portray President Roosevelt as out of favor with the settled elements in the United States and to ridicule him as the “tool of Jews and communists.”

To present the United States as a place of social unrest and insecurity, with the four freedoms meaningless.

To indicate a division between the United States and Great Britain because the U. S. was falling down on production and U. S. workers were demanding and getting more than British workers.

Today, from our most secret and absolutely authentic source (which must not be mentioned to anyone) we find instructions to Axis propagandist representatives in the U. S. and Latin America to forego any comments regarding the current hullabaloo over a “high Government official” and the rail and steel workers. Nothing is to be done that would crystalize feeling in this country in support of the “high Government official.”2 Three different instructions of this nature have been issued.

It is to be understood from the foregoing that these instructions have nothing to do with propaganda that is being poured into Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria, and the Balkan Peninsula generally.

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. In reaction to the United Mine Workers striking in May 1943 and other workers’ strikes, Congress passed in June the War Labor Disputes Act, known as the Smith-Connally Act, over President Roosevelt’s veto. The legislation called for unions to give thirty days’ notice before striking, empowered the president to seize a war industries plant shut down because of a strike, and prohibited strikes in plants seized by the government. (Byron Fairchild and Jonathan Grossman, The Army and Industrial Manpower, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], pp. 78-79.) For information on the June 1943 Detroit riot, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, June 28, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-028 [4: 37].

2. Concerning the strike threats, see note 1, Marshall to King, December 29, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-185 [4: 214]. Stimson suspected that the strike had only been postponed. He talked with Marshall on December 31 and recorded that the chief of staff “was very explosive on the subject of the effects the railroad strike and the taking over of the railroads by the Government would have on German propaganda. He said he thought that it would protract the war by six months and it came out for the first time that he had told me, his hopes that we might have a collapse of Germany this spring, largely through the operation of our propaganda in the Balkans and in the satellite Axis countries. Now he thinks that is all gone with the wind.” James F. Byrnes, director of the Office of War Mobilization, requested that Marshall call an off-the-record press conference that same afternoon, at which time “he gave them a blast on the same subject.” (December 27, 29, and 31, 1943, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 45: 153-54, 164-65, 172].) The chief of staff’s remarks were publicized, although initially attributed to an unnamed “high Washington official.” Soon Marshall was identified as the “high official” who had stated in the press conference that the “taking over of the railroads by the Army and the walkout in the steel mills may have prolonged the war against Germany by six months, causing hundreds of thousands of needless casualties.” Labor leaders—such as William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor—challenged Marshall to prove that the labor disputes had strengthened enemy propaganda. (Washington Post, January 4, 1944, pp. 1, 2; New York Times, January 4, 1944, pp. 13.) For a related theme, see the last paragraph of Marshall’s Remarks at American Legion Dinner, February 3, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-226 [4: 265].

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. 234-235.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 4-200

Rights: Public Information