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4-276 Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, March 2, 1944

1944
   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 2, 1944

Subject: World War II


Memorandum for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations

March 2, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

Secret

Upon receipt of your memorandum of 1 March, the necessary action was taken to clear with Admiral Leahy the message to General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz, as well as the directive to the Joint Staff Planners and the Joint Logistics Committee.1

We must take every measure necessary to maintain the momentum of our drive against the Japanese forces. The extension of our operations in the Central Pacific to include the occupation of Eniwetok, the raids against Truk and the Marianas, as well as the occupation of Los Negros Island (all at comparatively small cost), must have been highly discouraging and confusing to the enemy.

With reference to your proposed directive to Admiral Nimitz: We are now in a position, I think, to make a more specific decision as to the next operation in both the Central and Southwest Pacific areas. This is very important since any directive to be effective must make available the required means. Therefore, I would prefer that the views and recommendations of Admiral Nimitz should be obtained, while he is in Washington, before the directive for further major operations in his area is issued.

If Nimitz feels that Truk can be by-passed, it should be possible to make otherwise available immediately some of the forces now held up for the seizure of Truk.2 The early seizure of a foothold on Manus Island will probably make it possible with the means already allocated, to advance the Hansa Bay operation to the same date as the Kavieng operation. Under these circumstances the release of certain amphibious equipment from the Truk allotment would make possible an advancement of almost six weeks in the dates for the Humboldt Bay or Palau or Marianas operation.

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. See the previous document (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-275 [4: 324-26]).

2. Admiral Nimitz conferred with Admiral King in Washington on March 6, and he suggested to King that it would be “necessary to neutralize the Marianas and Truk.” Air attacks on Truk in mid-February had indicated that the Japanese base was “considerably weaker than had been supposed and might well be neutralized rather than captured.” (Ernest J. King and Walter Muir Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record [New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1952], pp. 535-37.)

During the March 11 meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Nimitz presented his views in person, while Lieutenant General Richard K. Sutherland represented General MacArthur. Nimitz saw no need in occupying Kavieng because the enemy forces in New Ireland and New Britain were now immobilized and the Kavieng airfield was “practically inoperative.” He said that carriers were being positioned for air strikes on Truk and on the Palaus; and he emphasized the necessity of controlling the Marianas, Carolines, and Palaus in any plan. Nimitz was not in favor of any naval base in southern Mindanao, and “he would take the fleet into this area only as a last resort. The close proximity of large land masses offers too great an opportunity for enemy attacks by submarines and land based air.” (Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, March 11, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)

Sutherland supported an operation against Kavieng. He advocated bypassing Truk to the south, occupying Mindanao by November 1944; he insisted that if Truk was not bypassed, the Allies would lose six to nine months in Pacific war fighting. Sutherland “questioned whether Admiral Nimitz could mount an amphibious attack against Formosa without adequate land based air support.” (Ibid.) The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a directive to MacArthur and Nimitz on March 12, 1944, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-286 [4: 336-38].

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. 326-327.

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