4-095 Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, September 1, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 1, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 [Strong], Assistant Chief of Staff, OPD [Handy]

September 1, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


In Quebec the Prime Minister had quite a talk with me regarding the selection of code designations for operations such as OVERLORD, etc.1 He takes serious exception to the choices made. It is well known that he likes to settle some of these matters himself and there arises a conflict between the aptness of the choice and the security requirements.

However, the Minister makes this point which I think is sound: he referred to the importance, the gallantry displayed, and the heavy losses suffered in the Ploesti raid, and then he remarked that he thought it was almost a crime to have such an operation as that characterized as “SOAPSUDS”. He mentioned other designations which he felt were unnecessarily unfortunate and he recited a series of categories in which we could find appropriate names.2

Please have this looked into, and promptly, because he will probably bring it up to me while he is here on the present visit.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. On December 3, 1941, to prevent duplication and confusion in the use of code words, Marshall and King approved the adoption of the British-prepared Inter-Services Code-Word Index for the U.S. military. Each nation was allocated blocks of words from the index for its exclusive use, and all code words had to be taken from those blocks. Control of the code-word system for the United States rested with the J.C.S. from March 16, 1942, to February 24, 1943, when this authority was transferred to Joint Security Control. (Hull Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, September 2, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 311.55 (September 1, 1943)].)

2. On June 26, Churchill had protested as “inappropriate” the designation Operation SOAPSUDS for the planned Ploesti area air raids (carried out on August 1). The operation was redesignated TIDALWAVE. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Warren F. Kimball, 3 vols. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 2: 280-81.) On August 8, the prime minister had written to General Ismay criticizing the “many unsuitable names” on the list for operations in which large numbers of men would become casualties. He desired that code words implying boastful, despondent, frivolous, or commonplace sentiments be replaced with such proper names as “heroes of antiquity, figures from Greek and Roman mythology, the constellations and stars, famous racehorses, names of British and American war heroes” among others. (Winston S. Churchill, Closing the Ring, a volume in The Second World War [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951], p. 662.)

3. The Operations Division replied that part of the problem was an increasingly severe shortage of new code names on the list allocated to the United States. Marshall approved the division’s recommendations that henceforth names for projected U.S. operations be approved by the J.C.S. Secretariat and that the British be requested to revise their book of code words. (Hull Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, September 2, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 311.55 (September 1, 1943)].) Following the Quebec Conference, Churchill remained in Canada for a week. He arrived in Washington on September 1, attended numerous meetings there, and gave a speech at Harvard University prior to departing for Britain on September 12. (Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 118-42.)

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. 109-110.

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