3-394 Memorandum for Mr. Hopkins, November 4, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 4, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Mr. Hopkins

November 4, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]

Most Confidential

Dear Harry:

Things have gone along all right recently in connection with our various important planning, decisions, and operations, but it has required a tremendous amount of impromptu coordination, and frequently by me personally. I am afraid a continuation of this procedure will sooner or later get us into serious trouble but I am embarrassed as to how to go about its correction.

You are familiar with the British coordinating system which works from the top with Brigadier Hollis in the Cabinet meeting; he telegraphs almost immediately to Dykes here in Washington of anything in that meeting that should be brought to the attention of the British group in Washington.1

We, on the contrary, may or may not get the essential parts of such meetings. Mr. Stimson, as a rule, dictates a memorandum when he returns from a meeting. But he is not a recording secretary with no other thought on his mind but the recording of the important decisions or similar matters. I pick these up out of his memorandum and endeavor to give them force and effect so far as they pertain to the Army, and also when they merge into affairs of the Joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff.

Further, the President at times sees Admiral Leahy, Admiral King, Arnold, or me and then the problem is, who summarizes what has occurred and provides a check to see that the necessary instructions are sent around. I have often done this on my own initiative and later would find that someone else had been similarly active.

I think it would be importantly helpful if you could have the President, as a first and very simple adjustment, ask for General Deane to accompany the U.S. Chiefs of Staff when we go as a group to talk to him, or to accompany Admiral Leahy, Admiral King, General Arnold, or me, in the case of important conversations when a decision is to be made. Then the record will be kept straight and everybody will know what he should know and can proceed to business. Otherwise the procedure merely makes a routine secretary out of a high official who may or may not attend to the necessary dissemination of information.

As an example of what I am getting at, yesterday we had a very important and urgent issue up regarding TORCH as to the French and Murphy.2 I kept the record more or less straight by putting McCarthy at Hyde Park. I distributed the information among all concerned here and kept things coordinated until the final action was taken and messages gotten off to Eisenhower and Murphy. The point is, I was doing this more or less on my own initiative.

You are familiar with the troubles we get into when we are not aware of what has happened between the President and the Prime Minister, except as we learn of it though the British here who are immediately informed of every detail. Furthermore, we may get into very serious difficulties in not knowing the nature of the President’s revisions of the drafts of messages we submit to him. All of these things may easily lead to tragic consequences.

Might not the President during this emergency have some official, civil or otherwise, act as a secretary of Cabinet meetings so far as concerns anything related to the war effort, to make certain that details supposedly decided on are not left in the air or subject to a varying interpretation.

I am getting into very delicate ground here but this is an important business and something should be done to organize it on a sound basis. I should take this up directly with Admiral Leahy and I will talk to him about it, but frankly, I know you are more familiar with these matters than he has yet had time to become, and I think you have a better opportunity to exert the necessary influence towards their correction, which I realize is going to be a difficult business. I must tell you that Admiral Leahy’s contact with the President and chairmanship of the Chiefs of Staff have steadily and already greatly improved matters, and have relieved me of many burdens and difficulties.

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. Since 1939 Brigadier Leslie C. Hollis had been the senior assistant secretary in the office of the War Cabinet. Brigadier Vivian Dykes was British secretary of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. For Dykes’s diaries of his relations with the U.S. military, December 1940 to November 1942, see Establishing the Anglo-American Alliance: The Second World War Diaries of Brigadier Vivian Dykes, ed. Alex Danchev [London: Brassey’s (UK), 1990].)

2. As Marshall had dictated this memorandum on November 3, “yesterday” was November 2, the day Eisenhower notified the chief of staff that he had received an urgent message from Robert D. Murphy in North Africa recommending—at the insistence of French generals Henri Giraud and Charles E. Mast—that the TORCH landings be delayed for two weeks so that the pro-Allied French could prepare. Eisenhower stated that Murphy’s recommendation was “inconceivable,” and asked Marshall to have the president tell Murphy this immediately. Marshall concurred and sent Major Frank McCarthy to the president’s home in Hyde Park, New York, with copies of the messages and the War Department’s recommendations. Roosevelt agreed with Eisenhower, and Murphy was so informed. (This correspondence is in NA/RG 165 [OCS, 381 TORCH (11-2-42)); see also Papers of DDE, 1: 651.)

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. 423-424.

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