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Memorandum for the President
October 10, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Mr. Hopkins communicated your desire to dispatch this evening a favorable reply to the request from Mr. Stalin for an immediate increase of the flow of combat aircraft from the United States to Russia.1
I have had the Air Corps staff carefully reexamine our commitments to see if it appears practicable to find additional planes for Russia. I find that any immediate increase beyond the 212 airplanes per month now scheduled for Russia could only be managed by a reduction of planes urgently needed for our units in combat theaters, or to curtail seriously the planes for TORCH. That operation will undoubtedly be the most effective aid within our power which we can extend to Russia at this time.
The coastal defense units referred to as a possible source for aircraft are actually operational training units. Furthermore, their planes are not suitable for an active theater. Also these units only have 50% of their planes and they have a combat mission, limited though it may be, in defense of coastal installations against a possible trick carrier air raid.
The only way to make additional aircraft available for Russia will be to reduce the number of units now committed to our active combat theaters. For example, we can make available 25 fighter airplanes per month by a reduction of one fighter group in an active theater. We can add 13 medium or light bombardment airplanes per month by a reduction of one bombardment group in an active combat theater.2
While it does not answer Mr. Stalin’s specific request for an immediate increase of medium or light bombers and fighters, he can be told that we are rushing the organization of a heavy bombardment group for the Caucasus by drafts on groups actually in active operations. Also that our heavy bombers are lending direct assistance to Russia by current operations over the continent, a message tonight reporting that our bombers over France yesterday destroyed 56 fighters certainly, probably destroyed 26 and damaged 20, with a loss to us of four.
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. In a message from Stalin to Roosevelt dated October 7, the Soviet leader appealed for a significant increase in the number of fighter planes allocated under the current lend-lease protocol. He desired five hundred planes per month, especially P-39s and not P-40s, as the latter were “not up to the mark in the fight against modern German fighter planes.” These were necessary to offset a German air superiority in the Stalingrad area of at least two to one. (Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers, 1942, 7 vols. [Washington: GPO, 1956-63], 3: 730-31.) Hopkins communicated to Marshall the president’s desire “that Stalin be answered in the affirmative. Not, of course, in terms of 500 planes a month, which the President realizes is impossible, but he would like to be able to say to Stalin that over and above all of our protocol commitments we could and would send him at the earliest possible moment 300 additional airplanes, preferably at the rate of 100 a month and beginning immediately. Stalin has requested fighters and in addition to fighters he would welcome B-25’s and/or transports. The President told me that he was quite prepared to see some of our coast defense fighter planes be sent to Russia at once.” (Hopkins to Marshall, October 10, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. On October 12 Roosevelt told Stalin that while he could not promise any immediate increase in P-39 shipments, he would increase production so that the Soviet Union could receive more. He also promised to increase the October shipments to 276 combat planes. (Foreign Relations, 1942, 3: 733-34.) In subsequent messages, the president agreed to increased allocations and shipments of certain other items Stalin had requested. (Ibid., pp. 734-35.)
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. 392-393.