3-168 Memorandum for the President, April 27, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 27, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

April 27, 1942 Washington, D.C.


Subject: Transport airplanes for Russia.

Successful execution of the European invasion plan that I recently presented, in your name, to the authorities in London involves the employment of large numbers of highly trained parachutists and air-borne troops. Consequently the availability of transport planes becomes a question of the most critical importance, not only with respect to the operational phases of the plan but also as it affects the program of intensive training, which must begin immediately.

To supply transport planes to Russia at this time will directly endanger success of the invasion plan.1 In London I found that a principal reason for original British reluctance to agree to an invasion of Europe in 1942 was the fact, in their opinion, that essential materiel means could not be made available in time. They were especially concerned as to availability of landing craft and transport planes. Under this latter item my memorandum listed U.S. allocations of only 200 transport planes during the coming summer, with approximately an additional 200 to be in England by late fall. This number was wholly inadequate, but I was able to secure their acquiescence to the general plan by pointing out that, in addition to the approximately four hundred airplanes specifically promised, the United States possesses, in its commercial airlines, an immediately available reserve in this critical item.

The figures given to the British were calculated by charging against all planes allocated to the United States our firm commitments to other countries and our minimum requirements for other purposes. They did not involve an allotment for Russia since the War Department had previously reported that it was impracticable to include this item in the new protocol for Russia. The Army’s minimum requirements, in exact figures, include 389 planes to arrive in England by late fall, 284 for the Ferry Command, 111 for training of parachute and air-borne troops, and 196 to supply and maintain air operations in Australia, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Alaska. To this total of 980 must be added a modest figure for attrition, making an aggregate requirement of 1150 transport planes. We have on hand 111, of which 57 are in the Far East and 54 are doing all the transport work in this hemisphere and providing only 10 for the training of 3,000 parachute troops. Immediate expansion in the training program is mandatory.

Without undertaking additional commitments and obligations, our total assets, including all U.S. allocations from new production, will leave us with a clear shortage of 379 transport airplanes. This exceeds the total number now operating on commercial lines by approximately 129.

I therefore submit two urgent recommendations:

First:That we undertake no commitment involving the provision of transport airplanes for Russia.

Second:That all transport planes of the U.S. Commercial airlines be immediately earmarked for Army use. They may be continued on their present status until required for military operations.2

Quite obviously it is essential to keep up the flow of materiel resources to Russia. I believe we should strive to increase shipments in every practicable way and, subject to your approval, intend to increase the aggregate of such transfers to the maximum permitted by the availability of munitions and by possibilities in transportation. I have in mind, particularly, the hope of providing the Russians with greater strength in mechanized items. But the greatest service to Russia will be a landing on the European continent in 1942, and we must not jeopardize that operation or risk the sacrifice of the troops engaged by scattering the vital materiel required for what we know will be a hazardous undertaking.3

I have not made a point of our serious lack of transport planes and parachute troops in Panama for the prompt suppression of revolutions or Fifth Column enterprises threatening the Canal, nor a similar and very serious lack of such planes in Alaska to meet the possibilities of isolated infiltrations in that vast region.

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers, President’s Secretary’s File, Safe, Marshall, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. The First (Moscow) Protocol, signed on October 1, 1941, governed American and British lend-lease deliveries through August 15, 1942. The two countries agreed to send the Soviets a minimum of eighteen hundred aircraft by July 1942, allocating roughly 40 percent of all lend-lease materiel to the Soviets after December 1941. Roosevelt had made fulfillment of the First Protocol the highest priority of the War Shipping Administration, but German submarines exacted a staggering toll of Allied shipping. Harry L. Hopkins, special assistant to the president supervising the Defense Aid Program, worked assiduously to facilitate aid to the Soviets. The Soviets had made their request for transport planes to Hopkins, thus Marshall sent this document to him, for the president. (Craven and Cate, eds., Plans and Early Operations, pp. 133-34; Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948], p. 544; April 25, 1942, Yale/ H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 38: 144]; Marshall to Hopkins, April 27, 1942, FDRL/ F. D. Roosevelt Papers [PS F, Safe, Marshall].) The chief of staff wrote a similar memorandum to King, who had approved the Munitions Assignments Board’s proposal to reduce other transport allocations to make planes available for the Soviet Union. (Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, April 27, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43, 400.3295 USSR].)

2. In his reply to Marshall, Roosevelt requested more information on commercial aircraft available for military service. The president observed that “the old expression ‘pigs is pigs’ should be translated into the modern term ‘planes is planes’. No matter what planes are in civilian hands at the present time, they are available for Army and Navy use, and the Army and Navy say they are short of planes.” (Roosevelt Memorandum for the Secretary of War and the Chief of Staff, May 5, 1942, FDRL/F. D. Roosevelt Papers [PSF, Safe, Marshall].)

3. After presidential approval, Marshall sent similar letters to Ambassador Maxim M. Litvinov of the Soviet Union (signed by Hopkins) and Britain’s Air Marshal Portal, explaining United States policy on air transport allocation. (Marshall [signed Hopkins] to Litvinov, May 4, 1942, and Marshall to Portal, May 8, 1942, GCMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

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. 172-174.

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