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Memorandum for the President1
February 28, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
SUBJECT: Food Relief for Belgium and Liberated Holland.
General Eisenhower informed us in his message (SCAF 210) that a serious situation exists in the 21st Army Group (Montgomery’s command) area by reason of retarded deliveries of civilian supplies and urgently requested that 100,000 tons of food be made available immediately from UK stocks for the 21st Army Group.2
In an exchange of messages between the Combined Chiefs of Staff and General Eisenhower it developed that a total of 109,000 tons of supplies were required. Provision has already been made for approximately half of this.3 The problem of meeting the remaining 69,000 tons is now being considered in London. If the 69,000 tons are taken from the stockpile now being held in England against Dutch requirements, which is the probable course, it will be necessary to secure replacement from the UK stockpile in order to protect Eisenhower against anticipated Dutch needs.
It is recommended that you communicate with the Prime Minister and there is attached a draft of such a message.4
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. General Marshall drafted this memorandum sent over Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson’s signature.
2. On February 14 General Eisenhower notified the Combined Chiefs of Staff that he regarded “the situation produced in Belgium and Holland by the lag in the arrival of civil affairs ships as being sufficiently serious to warrant civil affairs requirements being treated as a matter of operational urgency.” Unless the program of importing food was carried out as scheduled, Eisenhower warned, “the civil population will gradually receive less and less food, and the result will be increasing unrest, civil disturbances, and disorders in the rear areas of 21st Army Group.” (Papers of DDE, 4: 2477-79.) SCAF designates cables from the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, to the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
3. The Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed the situation was serious and called for the immediate release of fifty-five thousand tons of foodstuffs from stocks in the United Kingdom. (CCS to SHAEF, Radio No. FACS-143, February 23, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-42289)].)
4. President Roosevelt sent the message as drafted to Prime Minister Churchill on February 28. “I hope you will see your way clear to have the U.K. agree to replace the Dutch B-2 stockpile to the extent required to protect SCAEF against anticipated Dutch civilian supply needs,” wrote Roosevelt. On March 2 Churchill replied, “We cannot meet certain items at all because we have no stocks available. . . . I want to impress upon you that we shall require immediate replacement of a large part of these food stuffs, and the provision of ships to carry them.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Warren F. Kimball, 3 vols. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 3: 540-41.) Both leaders agreed that the foodstuff supply problem must be fully explored. “Meanwhile situation in North West Europe is so serious,” wrote Churchill on March 16, “that I must ask you at any rate provisionally pending forthcoming discussions, to arrange for the outstanding balance of Eisenhower’s stated requirements to be found by U.S.A.” (Ibid., pp. 559-60, 570.)
Meanwhile, on January 20, 1945, the president had appointed Samuel I. Rosenman to undertake a mission to northwest Europe to examine and report the steps to be taken with respect to the flow of vital supplies other than munitions. Looking ahead to postwar concerns, Roosevelt also wanted “to ascertain what the needs of these countries will be for supplies and services to repair the destruction and devastation of the war and to build some of the economic foundations of peace in terms of possible credits or other financial assistance at hand or through recommendations for appropriate legislation.” Rosenman submitted his report on April 26 to recently sworn-in President Harry S. Truman. (Report to the President of the United States by Samuel I. Rosenman on Civilian Supplies for the Liberated Areas of Northwest Europe [Washington: GPO, 1945]; Roosevelt to Rosenman, p. 13.) Rosenman recalled his conference with Churchill at Chequers at around 2:15 A.M. “Churchill, prompted now and then by Lord Cherwell, his economist, poured onto me statistics of foodstuffs shipped to England, shipped out of England and consumed in England—all to prove that it would be cruel for the United States to divert a substantial amount of the food in the British Isles to the Continent. Armed with the statistics I had gathered during my weeks of study, I did my best to cope with his arguments at that late hour,” wrote Rosenman. “I was armed also with firsthand knowledge of the tragic suffering of the people in the cities of France, Belgium and Holland. While there was an adequate supply of foodstuffs in many of the rural areas of western Europe, the lack of fuel and transportation and the instability of the currency had almost stopped the flow of food from the country into the cities.” (Samuel I. Rosenman, Working with Roosevelt [New York: Da Capo Press, 1972], pp. 542-45.)
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 61-62.