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Memorandum for the President1
March 13, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
Subject: Acceptance of decoration from the
Soviet Government by General Marshall
Last week the Russian Ambassador called on Mr. Stettinius and expressed the desire of the Russian Government to confer on General Marshall the ORDER OF SUVOROV, First Class. This is their highest military order, and has only been bestowed once on a non-Russian, the case being General Eisenhower. Admiral Giffen and General Spaatz received this order in the Second Class, and a number of other U. S. officers received it in the Third Class.2
Mr. Stettinius informed the Russian Ambassador that the matter of acceptance of decorations had been under study and that he would consult with the Secretary of War.
The following regarding the acceptance of decorations by Americans bears on this case. General Marshall secured an informal agreement with Sir John Dill that during active hostilities no decorations would be exchanged between officers on duty in the War Department or British officers here or in the British War Office, and that the conferring of decorations on field commanders would be at the discretion of the Government concerned. Several complications arose under this arrangement due to the transfer of officers, and it was decided best to reduce the informal agreement to written form. Preliminary to that, representatives of the State, War and Navy Departments drafted a policy (attached) which has not been formally passed upon by the departments.
In addition to the foregoing, General Marshall had issued certain other orders regarding decorations. All Military Attaches were instructed that if there was any mention by the local government authorities regarding the bestowal of a decoration on General Marshall, they were to state that for a number of reasons he would not be free to accept such an honor and they were to be explicit in explaining the embarrassment that would inevitably flow from the acceptance of decorations from countries soliciting Lend-Lease materiel. He also issued instructions that officers concerned with allotment of Lend-Lease materiel would not be permitted to accept decorations from the nations with whose representatives they were dealing in these matters.
It is understood that Mr. Harriman had been requested to use his best endeavors to discourage the Soviet Government from the bestowing of an award on any U. S. officer pending clarification of our policy. However he was not successful in the case of General Marshall and the present situation has developed.
As this matter somewhat concerns the general relations with the Soviet Government, I would like to have your views or instructions.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. This document was signed by Secretary of War Stimson.
2. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., was under secretary of state. Rear Admiral Robert C. Giffen (U.S.N.A., 1907) was commander of the Pacific task force that participated in missions resulting in occupation of Guadalcanal, Kiska, Attu, and the Gilbert and Marshall islands. Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz was commanding general of the U.S. Army Strategic Air Force in Europe.
3. “I do not want to offend the Russian Government and Harriman has tried to defer the matter unsuccessfully,” President Roosevelt replied. He suggested that Secretary Stimson explain to Dill the delicacy of the situation. “If Dill thinks that General Marshall should go ahead and receive it, I personally think he should do it.” (Roosevelt Memorandum for the Secretary of War, March 14, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Dill informed the British Chiefs of Staff that in his opinion it would be “impossible for Marshall to refuse this Soviet decoration and his acceptance would not be taken ill by us nor would it affect our working agreement as regards not swapping decorations as between office workers.” The British chiefs of Staff agreed with Dill that to refuse would “almost certainly give offence” to Marshal Stalin. (Dill to British Chiefs of Staff, March 18, 1944, and British Chiefs of Staff to Dill, March 20, 1944, NA/RG 107 [SW Safe, Great Britain].) Secretary of State Cordell Hull informed Ambassador Andrei A. Gromyko that Marshall would be pleased to accept the Soviet decoration. The Soviet government announced on March 24 that General Marshall was awarded the Order of Suvorov “for his outstanding military ability and services in the leadership of the American armed forces in the struggle against the common enemy of the Soviet Union and the United States.” (Hull to Stimson, March 22, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected]; New York Times, March 25, 1944, p. 6.) See Marshall Remarks on Acceptance of the Order of Suvorov, June 5, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-399 [4: 469-70].
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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 339-340.