3-196 Memorandum for the President, May 16, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 16, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

May 16, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Aircraft situation in the United Nations.

1. The Army Air Forces cannot be equipped, trained and maintained during the remainder of 1942, nor can air forces be provided for both the initiation of an offensive in Europe and a strategic defensive in the Pacific, under the aircraft allocations provided by the Arnold-Portal Agreement. An immediate reallocation is necessary.1

2. The situation under which the Arnold-Portal agreement was reached has greatly altered. The strategical situation and the United States commitments in the Pacific Theatre have not only changed materially, but until very recently the War Department did not have detailed information on British production, allocations and reserves. Furthermore, we were unaware of the British basis of calculation on reserves and attrition, which we now learn exceed our basis for calculating such requirements by an average of approximately 100 per cent.

3. The conception of the United States as the Arsenal of the Democracies had two purposes:

a. The initial provision of essential materials of war for the nations opposing the Axis.

b. The creation of a war potential which, if the United States entered the war, could and would be retained for the creation of necessary American armed forces. The United States is now at war. It requires the aircraft production that it has created.

4. In order to correct the situation outlined above, it is recommended that the present schedule of deliveries from United States production for all types of combat airplanes to Great Britain, be amended as follows:

Army Types

June 1942 — 50% of each type, except Martin 187 (light bombers), be reallocated to the United States.

July 1942 — 75% of each type, except Martin 187 (light bombers), be reallocated to the United States.

August 1942 — thereafter 100% of each type, be reallocated to the United States; provided further:

That the entire United States production of Martin 187 (light bombers), remain allocated to Great Britain, and

That the eleven American equipped pursuit squadrons in the Middle East on April 1, 1942 be furnished 20% monthly attrition replacements on initial equipment.

That the United States fulfill its present aircraft commitments to Russia (protocol to June 30, 1942; deliveries to be completed about August 15);2 that thereafter the allotments to Russia will be determined by the rate of attrition being suffered in the British-American air offensive over the European Continent, provided that a monthly average minimum of 50 United States pursuit, 50 light and 12 medium bombers will be guaranteed by the United States. It will also be understood that the British allocation to Russia will be maintained in general accordance with the foregoing policy, and that the United States will make no objection to the allocation by Russia of United States planes to Great Britain on a trade basis, to effect a better standardization of types or to facilitate transfers.

That both Great Britain and the United States be responsible for the equipment and replacements for their own combat units, except in the Pacific theatre where the United States agrees to maintain and repair existing British Commonwealth units now equipped with American aircraft, and except in the Middle East as provided above.

That the allocation of aircraft to other nations be kept to the absolute minimum in order to concentrate adequate forces in the decisive theatres.

Navy Types

(The following is included with the concurrence of Admiral King.)

June through December 31, 1942 — 33% of all flying boats be reallocated to the United States.

June through December 31, 1942 — 100% of all torpedo bombers be reallocated to the United States.

5. This recommended reallocation will:

Permit by January 1, 1943, the British program to be met to the extent of 81% of total aircraft requirements, and the United States program by 54% (The Target programs of both nations up to January 1, 1943 are approximately the same).

Permit the building of essential United States Air Forces and would still permit a thirty-four per cent expansion for the Royal Air Force by January 1, 1943.

Permit increased efficiency and simplicity, since each Nation will utilize its own aircraft.

Permit the great combat crew resources and training capabilities of the United States to be fully employed.

Enable American Air Forces to meet their combat and training requirements.

Result in the early provision of the required combined offensive airforces in the vital theater.

Enable Great Britain to maintain present United States equipped units in the Middle East with 150% reserve, and provide attrition replacements.

Enable a larger number of combat units to be employed offensively. The American policy of maintaining more moderate reserves will result in submitting the bulk of American aircraft to combat units.

I recommend that this subject be discussed with you by the Joint Chiefs of Staff—on Monday, May 18th, if practicable.3

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. According to the Arnold-Portal Agreement signed January 13, 1942, the United States would allocate 5,078 bombers, 4,050 pursuit planes, 402 observation planes, and 852 transports to Britain from 1942 aircraft production. In February the pact became the basis for future production planning in the United States. (The terms of the agreement, with monthly allocations for 1942, are in Craven and Cate, eds., Plans and Early Operations, pp. 248-49.)

2. On the first Soviet lend-lease protocol, see Memorandum for the President, April 27, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-168 [3: 172-74].

3. Field Marshal Dill, who feared that substantial reductions in aircraft allocations to Britain would jeopardize the defense of India and the Middle East, strongly objected to Marshall’s reallocation. Nevertheless, the chief of staff sent the memorandum to King with the request that King, if he concurred, forward it to the president. King countersigned the memorandum and sent it to the White House on the afternoon of May 16. (Dill to Marshall, May 10 and 15, 1942, and Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, May 16, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, 452.13.) Arnold and Rear Admiral Towers accompanied Eisenhower and other war planners to London in late May to negotiate a specific agreement on aircraft allocation. (See Marshall to Stark, May 20, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-200 [3: 206-7].) Portal, Arnold, and Towers reached a compromise agreement that would allow the Army Air Forces to concentrate planes for a European air offensive. Meanwhile throughout May, United States political and military leaders drafted a second protocol to govern lend-lease to the Soviets after August 15. In conversations with Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav M. Molotov in Washington in late May and early June, the president did not reduce airplane allocations to the Soviet Union, as Marshall desired. But most significantly, in words Marshall considered “too strong,” Roosevelt committed the United States to “creating a second front in Europe in 1942″—a commitment that threatened BOLERO, which aimed at a 1943 invasion. (Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941-1942, pp. 229-32; Craven and Cate, eds., Plans and Early Operations, pp. 566-70; Foreign Relations, 1942, 3: 593-94.)

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. 200-203.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 3-196

Rights: Public Information