4-195 Memorandum for the President, August 11, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 11, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

August 11, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret

Following are two messages, one from General Spaatz on Guam, Commander of the Strategical Air Forces, and the other just sent by me to General Spaatz. I think they are self-explanatory.

From General Spaatz:

“Weather conditions during the past twenty-four hours influenced me to withhold any large scale operations under conditions which now exist. Not knowing the extent to which area bombing may complicate the situation, am for the present limiting our operations to attacks on military targets visually or under very favorable blind bombing conditions. Unless I hear from you otherwise, will continue this policy until it is determined whether or not Japan offer is acceptable. It is significant that our weather airplane over Tokio today received no antiaircraft fire. This is unusual.”

To General Spaatz:

“Reference your message of August 11, you were quoted in the press with the statement that `The Superforts are not flying today’, which has been accepted generally as positive indication that bombing of Japan had been terminated, also that Halsey’s fleet had ceased attacks. This presents very delicate and critical problem to the President. Resumption of bombing would appear to indicate that preliminary negotiations had fallen through, giving rise to a storm of publicity and confusing views. Until I can reach the President and Secretary of War in about an hour do not dispatch any more missions but carry out these instructions in such a manner as absolutely to avoid any news item leaking out from Guam, Saipan or Okinawa. Please make no further press comments of any kind until given release from here.”1


Until I hear from you direct or from the Secretary of War, the temporary stay of bombing by the Strategical Air Forces will continue. No instructions have been sent to General MacArthur whose operations are continuing. I assume that Admiral Halsey’s operations are continuing.

Copies of this message are being sent immediately to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War.2

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. The news report was in error; no instructions had been issued to cease military operations. (Telephone conversation of August 13, 9:00 A.M., between Major General John E. Hull [assistant chief of staff for Operations] and Vice Admiral Charles M. Cooke, Jr. [assistant chief of staff for Plans], NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 17, Item 35A].) Admiral William F. Halsey had been commander of the Third Fleet since June 1944.

2. On the cover sheet to the copy of this memorandum that Marshall sent to Secretary Stimson on August 11, he wrote: “Note – 10:40 A.M. The President telephoned me that he approved of action indicated in next to last par.—bombing by strategical air force is to [be] discontinued until he, the President, directs otherwise. I have so advised S/W. G. C. M.”

Shortly after the Truman-Marshall telephone conversation, the State Department told the War Department that President Truman wanted the B-29s to fly a leaflet mission over Japan, informing the Japanese people of their government’s offer of surrender and the four-power reply. (Pasco Memorandum for the Military Aide to the President [Brigadier General Harry H. Vaughan], August 11, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) The mission was flown on the morning of August 14; five million leaflets were dropped on Japanese cities giving the full texts of the Japanese acceptance of surrender and the U.S. reply. Heretofore, these negotiations had been kept from the Japanese public, and some leaders in Tokyo feared that they would spawn a military coup d’

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