4-367 Memorandum for Mr. Bundy, April 23, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 23, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Mr. Bundy1

April 23, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

I have gone over the first draft of the Secretary’s statement to be made before the Committee on Post-war Planning, copy attached. I have no suggestions to make except the following:

I believe you could clarify a little better the latter part of paragraph 7.2 What I have in mind is that the Secretary might well endeavor to impress on the Committee the importance of arriving at a conclusion regarding the fundamental matter of consolidation. Once that is decided, even though not to be carried out until after the termination of hostilities—at least in the European theater—it is made far easier to settle questions of duplications. Many could readily be resolved once there is agreement on the fundamentals of the organization, and in effect we would gradually reach a point where the final consolidation would be almost painless.

Another point he might present, which I think should be greatly stressed is this: The dangers of such a hearing are that the committee becomes involved in details, trying to settle a multitude of vexing problems all of which relate purely to details. Opposition to the consolidation will be based, I imagine in many instances, on fear regarding details. For example, the naval people fearful of their air being taken from them, or the Marine Corps fearful that it may be subjected to serious emasculation; our air people fearful that they will not get all the air they think they should have, etc., etc. If the Secretary could make clear to the committee the inadvisability of concerning themselves for a long time to come as to details and addressing their attention to the fundamentals of a proper organization, the whole matter could be handled much more simply.

In my opinion, once the fundamental basis of organization is agreed upon everything else is a detail readily solved having in mind that there will be but one Secretary, that all debates will be within the family, and at least the machinery we propose has a basis for orderly negotiations with all the facts on the table. I have taken some space to express these thoughts not intending that the Secretary should so elaborate, but I do think that the ideas should be put forward by him in order early in the game to give the committee a better basis of departure than they would normally have if left to their own devices.3

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. Harvey H. Bundy was special assistant to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson.

2. Secretary Stimson insisted that “the creation of a single department of the armed forces is essential if our nation is to adequately and most effectively carry on its wars under modern conditions and under the necessary limitations of our manpower and our resources.” In paragraph seven of the draft, however, he wrote: “I do not believe that any such fundamental reorganization could take place at a critical period in this war without difficulties, dangers, and complications which would more than offset its advantages. We are now in the midst of great battles and, while we should continually plan for the best organization of battle forces, we should so time any actual changes in organization at the higher levels as to ensure that no slowing down of operations in the field will take place. Otherwise such changes made hastily might result in temporary disorganization and would be far too much of a strain on the men and machinery involved, particularly as they are now operating in high gear. You cannot radically change a great military organization at a critical moment of war any more than you could change the engine of an airplane while it was in flight.” The latter part of paragraph seven of the draft stated: “On the other hand changes in the lower levels involving consolidations of authority and planning can be made even now and this has taken place already, as I have pointed out, in the separate theaters of operation. If it should be virtually decided upon that a similar combination at the top into a single department of armed services would be ultimately effected, knowledge of this would probably make possible many further avoidances of duplication.” (First draft of Statement by the Secretary of War Before the Committee on Post-War Planning, April 25, 1944, NA/RG 107 [SW Office, Special Assistant Bundy]. For related information, see Marshall Memorandums for the Secretary of War, April 17 and 22, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-358 [4: 419-21] and #4-363 [4: 426-27].)

3. On April 25 Secretary Stimson read his prepared statement before the Woodrum Committee. “It seemed to take very well,” Stimson recorded in his diary. “I argued for a decision as speedy as possible on the central question as to whether there should be one department after the war for the land, air and navy forces, and I argued strongly in favor of that, giving the reasons why it was peremptory in the present condition of modern warfare and the size of our population. We are reaching the end of our manpower now under our present organization. That was the main point I made. I told them that the shortage did not occur from any lack of cooperation between the personnel of the military leaders. It was not the human element that produced these duplications and troubles but the organization itself and that was inevitable. Cooperation between military forces could never be as effective as combination. That was the text of my statement.” (April 25, 1944, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 46: 203].) Secretary Stimson’s statement is printed in House Select Committee on Post-war Military Policy, Proposal to Establish a Single Department of Armed Forces, 78th Cong., 2d sess., 1944, pp. 29-33.

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. 431-433.

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