4-580 Memorandum for the Assistant Secretary of War, November 14, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 14, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Assistant Secretary of War

November 14, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear McCloy:

At JCS lunch today Admiral Leahy stated, with regard to his conversation with you yesterday, I believe, that he had taken up with the President the memorandum of the Secretaries of War and Navy to the Joint Chiefs of Staff—copy attached, and that the President had declined to approve it.1 I assume that this information will come to you in more formal fashion. However, I wanted to give you without delay a summary of our discussion of the matter at luncheon today.

It seemed to us, particularly in view of the President’s action, that the first step to meet the desire of the Secretaries of War and Navy would be to create a businesslike organization which would insure that the group composed of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Secretary of the Navy2—and possibly the Secretary of the Treasury, could act effectively in all matters having a political rather than a purely military aspect. This group, in effect, would then refer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff their proposed directives or action for comment regarding the military implications. To make this a practical working proposition, having in mind the conditions that now exist, it appeared to us that if for such purposes the Secretary of State could be prevailed upon to designate a particular individual on a lower level than Mr. Stettinius to act as working secretary for the Cabinet group and he had under him a joint working committee to prepare the necessary studies or propositions to implement the desires of the three Cabinet officers concerned, then the problem of handling political questions would be largely solved.

We thought, for example, that Mr. Dunn would be an ideal person, and of sufficient prestige to act as secretary for this small Cabinet committee.3 Admiral Leahy suggested that the Chiefs of Staff might well detail a military representative to be an ex-officio member of the working committee. But it would be very important that the working committee be pure workers rather than men occupied with many other interests and more inclined to discuss rather than to laboriously develop ways and means.

I pass this on to you as an immediate comment regarding this business, and shall be glad to talk to you about it.4

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. The memorandum noted that given the growing number of political problems coming before the Joint Chiefs of Staff (e.g., occupation policies), the military needed to coordinate its views with other government agencies, particularly with the Department of State. The J.C.S. was considering establishing a Joint Civil Affairs Committee, and the memorandum recommended that this be done promptly and that representatives of the service secretaries and the secretary of state be made members. The memorandum further recommended expanding this associate membership to other J.C.S. committees when they considered “problems having aspects as to which the views of the Secretaries might profitably be taken into account at the planning stage.” Finally, whenever the heads of government departments desired the armed services’ view on political or military matters, they would communicate with the service secretaries, who would ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff for guidance. (Stimson and Forrestal Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, no date, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. High-level civil-military coordination in the United States government was an old problem. The Standing Liaison Committee (under secretary of state plus the army chief of staff and the chief of naval operations) had operated between 1938 and 1941, achieving some success in Latin American policy. This committee was displaced in early 1941 when Secretaries Hull, Stimson, and Knox agreed informally to meet weekly (the State-War-Navy Committee). The problem was that for various institutional and personality reasons, the State Department found itself increasingly on the sidelines after Pearl Harbor. (On the history of civil-military coordination prior to Marshall’s memorandum, see Walter Millis, Arms and the State: Civil-Military Elements in National Policy [New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1958], pt. 1, and Ray S. Cline, Washington Command Post: The Operations Division, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1951], chap. 16.)

3. James Clement Dunn, a Foreign Service officer since 1920, was the adviser on political relations to the secretary of state with reference to European affairs. He became assistant secretary of state for European, Far Eastern, and Near Eastern and African affairs on December 20.

4. The official Operations Division history states: “The crisis in Washington staff work on German surrender and occupation pointed the way to the major development of World War 11 in administrative procedures for handling politico-military affairs, the creation of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC). This committee, with its standing subcommittees for particular areas and important topics, finally provided a basis for interdepartmental staff work that brought foreign policy formulation into close connection with joint committee work and JCS deliberations.” The committee was established in December 1944 with three civilian members, each holding the position of assistant secretary in his own agency. (Cline, Washington Command Post, p. 326.) The interaction between U.S. government organization and the policy-making process regarding the occupation of Germany is discussed in Paul Y. Hammond, “Directives for the Occupation of Germany: The Washington Controversy,” in Harold Stein, ed., American Civil-Military Decisions: A Book of Case Studies (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 1963), pp. 311-464.

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. 663-664.

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