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Memorandum for the President
November 26, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Japanese Convoy Movement towards Indo-China.1
About a month and a half ago we learned through Magic that the Japanese Government informed the Vichy Government that they proposed to move approximately 50,000 troops into Indo-China in addition to the 40,000 already there by previous agreement.
Today information has accumulated to the effect that a convoy of from ten to thirty ships, some of 10,000 tons displacement, has been assembled near the mouth of the Yangtse River below Shanghai. This could mean a force as great as 50,000, but more probably a smaller number. Included in this ship concentration was at least one landing-boat carrier. The deck-load of one vessel contained heavy bridge equipment. Later reports indicate that this movement is already under way and ships have been seen south of Formosa.
The officers concerned, in the Military Intelligence Division, feel that unless we receive other information, this is more or less a normal movement, that is, a logical follow-up of their previous notification to the Vichy Government.
I will keep you informed of any other information in this particular field.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. This document—drafted by Marshall for Secretary Stimson’s signature—apparently followed a G-2 report on the subject that Stimson had sent to the president that morning. When informed of the military convoy, the secretary recorded, President Roosevelt “fairly blew up,” because “it was an evidence of bad faith on the part of the Japanese that while they were negotiating for an entire truce—an entire withdrawal—they should be sending this expedition down there to Indo-China.” (November 26, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 36: 50-51].)
2. Marshall returned to the Carolina maneuvers shortly after dictating this memorandum and did not return to Washington until the evening of November 27. Meanwhile, the talks with Japan had broken down and President Roosevelt directed that the military send warning messages to the commanders most likely to be immediately affected by hostilities. Drafted in the War Plans Division and sent, bearing Marshall’s name, to the commanding generals in the Philippines, Panama, Hawaii, and San Francisco, the War Department’s message began: “Negotiations with Japan appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment.” The navy’s more pointed message began: “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning.” (Gerow Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, November 27, 1941, NA/RG 165 [WPD, 4544-13]; November 27, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 36: 53-54]; Watson, Chief of Staff pp. 505-9; both messages are quoted on p. 508.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 686.