5-434 Memorandum for My File, February 12, 1948

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 12, 1948

Subject: China

Memorandum for My File

February 12, 1948 Washington, D.C.

The attached is the code arranged by me with Eisenhower on his visit to Nanking in May (?) or June (?) 1946. He brought to me Mr. Truman’s request that I accept the position of Secretary of State about July 1, 1946, as Mr. Byrnes would have to quit due to heart ailment.

My reply, via Eisenhower, was yes, but I could not—to be fair—leave China before September 1946 as it appeared that an agreement was about to be reached between Government and Communists and if effected I must remain a few months to see it well under way. I suggested that I be nominated and confirmed, but that I be permitted to delay acceptance until departure.

The code was set up to permit Eisenhower to notify me of the President’s approval or disapproval of my proposal without any other individual being aware of what we were communicating about.1

Eisenhower sent me, by this code, word that the President approved.2 I heard nothing further of the matter until January 1947.3

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. The four-word code was: “Pinehurst” = Secretary of State; “Agent” = James Byrnes; “Courier” = President Truman (at the time he wrote this memorandum, Marshall recalled the word for president as being “Owner”); “Agreement” = Confirmation.

2. A radio message from Eisenhower dated June 4 said: “I sent you a letter on the Pinehurst proposition. Courier was more than pleased to have my report and believes that if the conditions he anticipates should actually arise the suggested timing and sequence of steps can be arranged without difficulty.” In a letter dated May 28, Eisenhower said that he had explained “your position in detail. He [Truman] expressed great satisfaction, saying `This gives me a wonderful ace in the hole because I have been terribly worried.’ He seemed to be of the opinion that, provided the matter should finally come to a head, he could arrange for the appointment and confirmation, leaving formal swearing in for a later date.” (The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, ed. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., et al., 21 vols. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970-2001], 7: 1102-3, 1085.)

3. In a 1954 letter to Washington Evening Star columnist Constantine Brown, Marshall wrote: “Nothing further happened, and I was not nominated. I made no inquiries and, as the Fall of the year came without action, I assumed that the matter had been dropped. . . . I received no written or cabled mention of my possible appointment as Secretary of State until January 1947.” (Marshall to Brown, November 17, 1954, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Retirement, Chronological].)

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 547.

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