3-163 Memorandum for the Deputy Chief of Staff [McNarney], April 21, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 21, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Deputy Chief of Staff [McNarney]1

April 21, 1942 Washington, D.C.


In London, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Chief of the newly organized Commando Force, brought to me personally a man who is deeply interested in the development of a motorsled.2

The idea is, with which Mountbatten is warmly in accord, that a considerable area in Europe, especially in Norway and certain Passes out of Italy into Germany are covered with snow for considerable periods of the year varying from 60 days up to 250. If a snow vehicle, armored, carrying adequate guns and a small crew can be developed, it is possible that it may be used to considerable effect against critical points. They have in mind establishing a glacier base from the air in Norway, from which they could operate against the critical hydroelectric plants on which Germany depends to get out valuable ores. They have in mind the use of these vehicles in sudden raids so as to force German troop concentrations in a wasteful manner in rear of coastal garrisons.3

The civilian concerned is to come to this country in the near future, and I would like arrangements to be made for taking him in charge and giving him an opportunity to explain his views and go into the matter of their possible development. He will probably be accompanied by one other civilian. Their feeling is that the development of these vehicles must be carried out in this country because of the inability of industry to manage such a matter hurriedly in England. The sleds should be available next fall. The numbers involved will be determined later but would not exceed 2,000 and probably not more than 500 or 600 as a beginning—which should not mean a serious complications of priorities.4

The civilian concerned is a great admirer of Stefansson.5 It might be that Stefansson could take him in toe, but it is necessary that some particular officer of ours be designated to go into the matter.

The civilian concerned is a very odd-looking individual, but talks well and may have an important contribution to make.

G. C. M.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 381 War Plans, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. This memorandum was also addressed to the heads of the Operations Division (Eisenhower), G-3 (Bull), and G-4 (Moses).

2. During Marshall’s London visit, Mountbatten had interested the chief of staff in Combined Operations’ PLOUGH project, the development of materiel, troop organization and training, and planning for operations in snow. Geoffrey Pyke, director of Programs for Combined Operations and originator of PLOUGH, was an expert on European climate and unconventional warfare techniques. He had persuaded Mountbatten to develop a tracked cargo carrier for alpine operations. (Mountbatten to Marshall, April 24, 1942, NA / RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 1, Item 41; Robert D. Burhans, The First Special Service Force: A War History of the North Americans, 1942-1944 [Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947], pp. 1-5, 20.)

3. The important Norwegian and Italian power stations dropped mountain reservoir water through penstocks or pipelines to the generating plants in the valleys below. The Combined Operations staff planned to destroy these valley plants by inserting explosive charges into the pipes. (Ibid., p. 4.)

4. Pyke soon arrived with Brigadier N. W. Duncan, director of Research, Combined Operations, and Duncan’s assistant, Major E. A. M. Wedderburn. In the remaining months of 1942, the War Department, in conjunction with Combined Operations Headquarters and the Studebaker Corporation, developed the T-15 “Weasel” cargo carrier and instituted training of the First Special Service Force. (Ibid., pp. 4-38.)

5. Canadian-born Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson was a consultant for the War Department on cold weather operations.

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. 166-167.

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