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Memorandum for the President
December 29, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
It is suggested that as soon as a preliminary decision is reached as to the delimitation of the Southwest Pacific theater, and in agreement with the British and Dutch authorities, a communication in substance as follows, be dispatched to Chiang Kai-shek:
1. In order to insure immediate coordination and cooperation in our common effort against the enemy, there is being established a supreme commander for all British, Dutch and American forces in the Southwest Pacific theater which includes southwest Burma.
2. The advisability of a similar command of activities of the Associated Powers in the Chinese theater appears evident. This theater we suggest, should include northeast Burma and such portion of Thailand and Indo-China as may become accessible to troops of the Associated Powers. In agreement with the representatives of the British and Dutch Governments, I desire to suggest that you should undertake to exercise such command over all forces of the Associated Powers which are now, or may in the future be operating in the Chinese theater.1
It is our thought that, in order to make such command effective, a joint planning staff should at once be organized consisting of representatives of the British, Dutch, American and Chinese Governments. If you consider it practicable and Russia agrees, a Russian representative might well be included. This staff should function under your supreme command.
The commander of the Southwest Pacific theater and the commander of the British forces in India would be directed to maintain the closest liaison with your headquarters. A mutual exchange of liaison officers between the three headquarters would be desirable.
Such arrangements would enable your counsel and influence to be given effect in the formulation of the general strategy for the conduct of the war in all theaters. Your views in this matter will be greatly appreciated by me.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. As a result of his meeting with the British Chiefs of Staff, Marshall crossed out the two references to Burma and added “initially” to the second sentence of the paragraph numbered 2: “This theater we suggest, should initially include . . . .” Marshall then sent the document to Harry Hopkins with a handwritten note at the top: “Dear Harry: The Chiefs of Staff informally or rather tentatively accepted the following. The British desired to submit it by wire to the Prime Minister.” Churchill was then in Ottawa to speak to the Canadian Parliament.
2. Prior to having the message transmitted, President Roosevelt changed the word “associated” to “united” each time it appeared and dropped the paragraph numbers. A facsimile of this document as marked up by Marshall and the president is printed in Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, pp. 283-84. Burma was ultimately included in the ABDA Command because the British feared that omitting it would encourage Chiang Kai-shek to assert his authority there. (Gwyer, Grand Strategy, 3 [pt. 1]: 377.) Chiang’s acceptance of Roosevelt’s suggestion is printed in Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, pp. 303-4.
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. 42-43.