4-089 Memorandum for the Joint New Weapons Committee, August 27, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 27, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Joint New Weapons Committee1

August 27, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


The Japanese technique in resisting our advances through jungle country is based on the sacrifice of the individual who is prepared to impose the maximum of delay. Recently defensive lines have been discovered consisting of a single Japanese soldier in each fox hole, in many cases provided with two machine guns. Where there has been time to develop head cover the process of elimination becomes all the more difficult.

In our jungle warfare we have to balance the decision for a rapid advance involving heavy casualties for the moment against the decision to proceed more carefully and possibly incur very heavy losses from malaria, dysenteries and jungle debilitation in general.

It is very important that we find some method of destroying or dispersing the Japanese infantry employed in the jungle without the long delays now suffered. It is also important that these methods include means which are readily transportable over jungle trails and that will not require a long manufacturing process before they can be shipped to the theater. Superficially I have had in mind the development of a rocket or bomb from our trench mortars which would explode well off the ground and spray a considerable area, with fragments, phosphorus or some other content. The present trench mortar shell, I understand, while the best weapon in the possession of the troops, nevertheless has the limitation of explosion on contact and therefore harmless to the enemy in fox holes unless a direct hit is secured.

I understand that General Kenney in the Southwest Pacific has introduced the use of parachute bombs over jungle positions which has caused devastating results both by blast and by fragments.2 However, while a much heavier projectile can be delivered in this manner it has limited application because of the difficulty of bringing it to the exact spot desired at the moment required. The development of rockets to be fired from landing craft or DUKW’s3 is going forward but here again these find little application within the jungle.

It is very important that we provide the troops now engaged in such operations at the earliest possible moment with a better means of facilitating their offensives. Quite possibly it may be that a temporary expedient can be introduced while a distinctive new type of ammunition or weapon is being developed. There is great need for speed of action.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. This memorandum was sent to Brigadier General Raymond G. Moses, assistant chief of staff, G-4, who was the army representative on the committee. According to Vannevar Bush, who served as chairman, the Joint New Weapons Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “was set up originally because Secretary Stimson felt that there was a need for machinery to correlate the work of the services and civilians. . . . In spite of its somewhat grandiose name, J.N.W. did not accomplish much in the way of resolving differences between services. . . . Its subcommittees did a great deal to bring civilian and military thinking together on tough problems.” (Vannevar Bush, Pieces of the Action [New York: William Morrow and Company, 1970], pp. 51-52.)

2. Lieutenant General George C. Kenney had been commander of all of the Southwest Pacific Area’s air forces since September 1942. He had introduced the parachute fragmentation bomb into combat in New Guinea beginning on September 12, 1942. (George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports: A Personal History of the Pacific War [New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949], pp. 12-13, 93-94.)

3. The “duck” was a 2.5-ton amphibious truck used for ferrying troops or cargo between ships and shore.

4. For further developments, see Marshall to MacArthur, September 14, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-108 [4: 125-26].

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. 99-100.

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