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Memorandum for the Director of War Mobilization1
July 10, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
Personal and Confidential
Dear Justice Byrnes:
The U.S. Chiefs of Staff have been aware for a long time of a serious disadvantage under which they labor in their dealings with the British Chiefs of Staff. Superficially at least, the great advantage on the British side has been the fact that they are connected up with other branches of their Government through an elaborate but most closely knit Secretariat. On our side there is no such animal and we suffer accordingly. The British therefore present a solid front of all officials and committees. We cannot muster such strength.
General Deane2 is the Secretary for the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and the senior Secretary for the Combined Chiefs of Staff; there is a British Secretary with the Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Deane stands alone in his relation to matters in Washington except for the War and Navy Departments. On the British side their man, a Brigadier,3 is connected up for purposes of liaison and control with practically every branch of the British Government in an automatic manner. I am of the opinion that a great deal of our difficulty in composing military effort with production and civil life economy flows from the fact that we have no well-integrated system which is at work on the job day and night.4
The British Cabinet has a Secretary who keeps carefully recorded minutes of the meetings. He automatically circulates through the Secretariat I have been referring to, such portions as pertain to their respective affairs. For example, should the British Cabinet take up a matter relating to the military effort and reach any conclusion, that conclusion goes automatically and immediately to the Secretary of the British Chiefs of Staff as well as to other secretaries whose chiefs or committees are concerned, and it reaches the British Secretary of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington within a few hours.
On the contrary, not only are our various agencies not carefully correlated but sometimes a day or more will elapse before the specific agency, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, for example, is made aware of the important conclusions arrived at or the problem which is being considered and which deeply affects them. Important radios will sometimes be unknown to us for a considerable period of time because there is not an automatic procedure set up. Discussions with the British, officials or committees, bearing directly on Chiefs of Staff business, will take place here and there in Washington without correlation or later report of commitments.
There is also the continuing danger of misunderstandings. After Cabinet meetings Mr. Stimson invariably makes some pencil notes and dictates a memorandum which is circulated over here, with relation to any matters that may concern the War Department. Possibly Mr. Knox does the same thing in the Navy Department. However, we have had cases where their impressions varied as to just what the President desired.
I will give you another more recent example. When I have been in town I have always endeavored to see that General Deane was present at the White House whenever there was a meeting of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff with the President. The other day the President hurriedly called a meeting at which neither King nor I was present. General McNarney represented me and Admiral Edwards represented Admiral King. A vastly important issue was discussed having to do with a proposed operation, The Joint Planners of the Army and Navy were put to work on this by General McNarney and Admiral Edwards, and a meeting was held by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff to consider the proposed plan. It there developed for the first time that Admiral Leahy and General Arnold thought the President had said one thing and Admiral Edwards and General McNarney thought he had said another. Three days of intricate planning had been given to the problem, all of which we found, on inquiry by Admiral Leahy of the President, was based on a false foundation. In this instance the result was merely delay but in other instances the result has been much more serious.
In brief, what is needed is some organization of the secretaries of the various committees of the Government. We have tried to approach something like this by having General Deane invite secretaries of other groups to a meal with him to make them aware of each other’s problems and to offer information but that is hardly a superficial treatment of the problem. The proposal which I sketch here is equally superficial and would require very careful thought and integration to be workable.
I am unburdening myself to you for the reason that I have just received a report on the British system prepared by General Sir Hastings Ismay who is the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and occupies the position of senior military officer of their Secretariat, or War Cabinet Office as they term it. I have known Ismay for a year or more and very intimately. In an endeavor to fit our systems into a working relation I asked him to sketch out the British system for me, because we are always in trouble when we come to match men on committees or in the matter of references to committees. He has just sent me his outline in which I think you will be interested, but I ask you to read paragraphs 9 and 10 of the principal paper and especially paragraphs 9 to 15 of Annex “C”. The latter has a direct relation to the complications under which you are now laboring.5
This is a rather delicate matter for me to discuss and to circulate in the form of a British paper, because it could be charged that I was proposing not only a War Cabinet but a fundamental constitutional alteration in the matter of Cabinet responsibility to the Congress, etc., which is remote from my purpose. I am interested solely in some form of a Secretariat for keeping all these groups in Washington in an automatic relationship one with the other. Because of the embarrassment and damage I would suffer if my purpose in acquiring this British information were misinterpreted I am asking you please not to circulate Ismay’s paper or make any reference to the fact that I have brought this matter to your personal attention.
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 Office of War Mobilization had recently been established (by Executive Order 9347 of May 27, 1943) to develop unified programs and to establish policies for the maximum use of the country’s resources; it was also charged with unification of the activities of all federal government agencies and departments concerned with military or civilian supplies, materials, and products. Former Supreme Court Justice James F. Byrnes was director of the office, which was located in the White House.
2. Brigadier General John R. Deane.
3. Harold Redman.
4. For a previous expression of Marshall’s concern regarding U.S. government coordination, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #394 [3: 423-24].
5. During their May 27 flight from Botwood, Newfoundland, to Gibraltar, Ismay had promised to send Marshall “a note on the machinery of Government” in Britain. Five weeks later, Ismay sent a lengthy “Note on the Working of the Central Executive Government of Great Britain and of the War Cabinet Office” with a supplementary note (Annex C) giving detailed information on the principal committees. Paragraphs 9 and 10 of the chief paper discussed the War Cabinet Office’s characteristics (“half Civil and half Military”) and the crucial importance of a unified secretariat. Paragraphs 9 to 13 of the supplemental note discussed the Lord President’s Committee (“the most important focus of civil Government under the War Cabinet”), which was “responsible for keeping a continuous watch over Home Front questions and the general trend of economic development,” and which handled numerous domestic policy questions. Paragraph 14 described the Allied Supplies Executive, and paragraph 15 the Committee on Reconstruction Problems. (Ismay to Marshall, July 3, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected])
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. 50-52.