3-443 Memorandum for the Joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff, December 7, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 7, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Joint U.S. Chiefs of Staff

December 7, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Operation in Burma, March 1943.

1. During the past two months General Stilwell in China has secured the authority of the Generalissimo to proceed with reorganization of the Chinese fighting forces which justifies the hope that he can launch an effective operation in March to open up a land supply route into China connecting Ledo with Myitkyina and Bhamo thence to Wanting on the Burma Road (Tab A).1 A British operation is now under way to seize Akyab, which will be followed by a thrust toward the Chindwin river by a British corps in February.

2. General Stilwell now has 32,000 Chinese troops, armed with American weapons, undergoing special training under a keen instructor staff of American officers at Ramgarh in India. The Chinese commanders have been carefully selected and all will have American officers alongside them. The Generalissimo is reorganizing his forces in Yunnan by consolidating three divisions into one, both as to equipment and men, and is carefully selecting leaders. American officers will also be with each regimental and higher unit of this force which will total about 100,000 men.

3. The Chinese soldier will fight, has no nerves, and requires a minimum of food, clothing and similar supplies. He can endure long marches over difficult country. The forces above referred to would operate for the first time in Chinese history with reasonably trained men as to weapons, with artillery support, air coverage, communications, and an organized supply system. Under these circumstances it is believed that they will give a good account of themselves.

4. The opening up of the supply route referred to will permit the rapid build-up of air operations out of China. Already the bombing attacks, with very light U.S. casualties, have done damage out of all proportion to the numbers of planes involved. In this connection, our air operations from China have been materially assisted by the very excellent Chinese air warning service. If an increase in the number of our bombers and fighters is made possible by better facilities for transporting gasoline, bombs, and maintenance equipment, it is believed that a highly destructive campaign against the Japanese can be launched; that operations over the China Sea can probably be undertaken with excellent results against cargo shipping, and that there is a good probability of finding bases for bombing raids against Japan proper. Such air operations should have a tremendous psychological effect on India, China, and the Russian forces on the Siberian front. They should seriously complicate the Japanese situation in the South and Southwest Pacific.

5. In the further presentation of this matter I am assuming that Tunisia and Tripoli are in our hands, and that no major land operation is to be undertaken in the African-European theater before the summer of 1943.2

6. Requirements.

General Stilwell has the normal arms and equipment for his infantry and artillery. He lacks road-building machinery and engineers, limited medical service, communications troops.

These deficiencies require that 63,000 measured cargo tons3 and 5,000 to 6,000 men be shipped from the United States during January and February, the bulk in January. The problem is to secure the necessary shipping.

The importance of this operation has now become so great, in my opinion, that the cargo vessels should be taken from Lend-Lease or similar commitments. The troop lift will have to come from Army and Navy shipping.4

7. There is attached an analysis of the various possibilities as well as a suggested Memorandum for the President on the subject.5

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. Not printed.

2. Marshall’s memorandum was incorporated into J.C.S. document 162 and was discussed at the meeting of December 8. According to the minutes, Marshall “said that the decision on whether or not operations could be undertaken in Burma in 1943 were dependent upon whether it was decided to undertake action against Sardinia in the spring of 1943. If this latter operation were selected, the shipping involved, coupled with the attrition to be expected, would complicate the transportation of troops for a Burma campaign.” (Supplementary Minutes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, December 8, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, JCS Minutes].)

3. A measured cargo ton (also called a ship ton) was forty cubic feet.

4. For further developments on this subject, see Marshall Memorandum for General Somervell, General Handy, December 10, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-447 [3: 479-80].

5. The memorandum for the president restated the information presented in the document printed here and was to be signed by Admiral William D. Leahy as chief of staff to the commander in chief. The Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed to dispatch the memorandum to the president and to refer J.C.S. 162 to the Joint Staff Planners and the Joint Strategic Survey Committee for urgent study. (Ibid. The memorandum to the president is in NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 10, Item 54].)

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. 475-477.

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