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Memorandum for the President1
December 25, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Utilization of U.S. Forces in Australia.
1. U.S. combat troops, now in Australia and expected there at approximate dates indicated:
a. Now present:
18 pursuit planes
52 dive bombers
Elements of 2 regiments of 75 mm artillery. (28 of its 48 guns are present. The 20 others are on a slow boat which left Samoa Dec. 18.) Only 500 rounds of 75 mm ammunition available until about January 8, when 5,000 rds will arrive at Brisbane.
b. Expected soon:
(1) 55 pursuit planes and crews (about Jan. 8).
(2) To begin arriving in theater on or about Jan. 3; three heavy bombers per day until a total of eighty is assembled. These planes are now directed to report to General MacArthur for orders upon arrival at Bangalore. For operations of the immediate future, there is an adequate number of 500 lb. and smaller bombs, as well as 56 – 1000 lb. bombs on the convoy now proceeding from Brisbane to Port Darwin. Already at Darwin are 560 of the 500 lb. type, with 260 at Port Moresby.
(3) 55 pursuit and crews, about Jan. 16.
(4) 70 pursuit planes and crews, about Jan. 18. (It is possible that capacity of ship will be found to be 40 planes.)
(5) A pursuit group, complete as to material, including 80 planes, will leave San Diego on the Kitty Hawk about Jan. 10. Additional ships will be necessary for the personnel.
Dates at which there can arrive in Australia necessary ground crews and maintenance facilities for all the planes listed in the first three shipments are still uncertain. But, including the pilots sent from Philippine Islands to Australia, and with maximum help from Australian sources, all planes can temporarily operate usefully pending the arrival of necessary maintenance units. Including planes already arrived or en route, the U.S. Air Corps has already allocated a grand total of 333 pursuit planes for shipment to Australia. The above represents the maximum capacity of ships now available.
2. All U.S. forces in Australia are to be commanded by Major General George H. Brett. General Brett has been under orders to take his instructions from General MacArthur. However, the situation in the Philippines apparently has changed to an extent that makes it improbable that pursuit plane reinforcements can be forwarded to General MacArthur. Therefore the following instructions were sent General Brett at Chungking December 24th A.M.:
PROCEED AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE TO AUSTRALIA TO ASSUME COMMAND OF U.S. ARMY INTERESTS IN THAT REGION. REPORT ARRIVAL AND FOLLOW IMMEDIATELY WITH A PRELIMINARY RECOMMENDATION OF ACTION TO BE TAKEN IN VIEW OF SITUATION IN PHILIPPINES AT THAT TIME. MARSHALL
3. It is intended that General Brett’s status with regard to subordination to General MacArthur will be settled in the light of the situation in the Philippines at the time of his arrival in Australia.2
4. The United States and British Chiefs of Staff jointly recommend:
a. That immediate request be made upon Australian, British and Dutch authorities to render maximum assistance to the U.S. Commander in Australia in the preparation of his air elements for combat, and in the establishment and protection of the necessary bases, with a view to the immediate entry of these air forces into action.
b. That the responsible British and American Commanders be directed to make preliminary arrangements for effective combat cooperation between other forces of the Associated Powers and the U.S. Air Force in the Southwestern Pacific. Preliminary plans for early support of Singapore to be initiated at once.
5. The current U.S. Air Corps objective in the southwestern Pacific, exclusive of China and Russia, is:
2 Heavy Groups—80 planes
2 Medium Groups—114 planes
6 Pursuit Groups—480 planes
Necessary base and auxiliary units.
This strength can be attained as rapidly as shipping facilities permit.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 8, Book 1, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. A version of this document with minor editorial differences is printed in Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, pp. 269-71. Photographs of a draft showing Marshall’s extensive editorial changes are reproduced in Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, pp. 89-94.
2. On December 12, U.S. troops aboard a convoy originally scheduled to reinforce the Philippines were constituted as Task Force South Pacific, placed under the senior army officer in the convoy (Brigadier General Julian F. Barnes) and directed to proceed to Brisbane, Australia. The War Department issued instructions on December 17 creating the U.S. Army Forces in Australia—Major General George H. Brett commanding—as a subcommand of MacArthur’s U.S. Army Forces in the Far East.
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. 37-39.