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Memorandum for the Record by
Colonel Charles W. Bundy
November 1, 1941 Washington, D.C.
Subject: Immediate Aid to China.
1. I took the War Plans memorandum on the above subject, dated November 1, 1941, to General Marshall about 9:30 a.m. on this date.
2. General Marshall read it very carefully, went over the situation on the map, and entered into quite a discussion concerning General Magruder after I had pointed out General Magruder’s suggestions at the end of the radiogram.
3. He stated he knew Magruder very well and that he blamed himself somewhat for not calling in Magruder before he left and cautioning Magruder against his weaknesses. He stated that he knew Magruder when he was in China before, and General Marshall was himself in China. When the Japanese were about to advance on Nanking, Magruder, from his sympathy with the Chinese and from his viewpoint as gathered by his experience in China, became quite stampeded. General Marshall also said that he was so busy and had so many other responsibilities at the time that he did not call General Magruder in just before he left and that his stand now would be that he knew Magruder so well that he, General Marshall, could properly interpret Magruder’s messages.
4. General Marshall went into quite a discussion of the Philippine reinforcements and the remarkable secrecy under which movements had so far taken place. He set the date as to our really effective reinforcement to be December 10, 1941, and said that after that date, but not before, he thought it would be advantageous for the Japanese to learn of our really effective reinforcements.
5. He then said, “But what shall we do with the immediate question concerning Mr. Currie and what should be our answer to him?” I replied that I thought it was of first importance that Mr. Currie should be impressed with the fact that the War Department did not have an unsympathetic attitude towards Chinese aid; that he should be informed of the actual G-2 estimate of the possibilities of the advance on Kunming and be given as full a picture as possible of the over-all world-wide situation. General Marshall agreed and went on to say that he thought Mr. Currie should be informed of not only of what I had spoken of but should be given a full explanation of our reinforcements to the Philippines and their effect on the real situation in the Far East, especially with reference to the Chinese situation. He authorized me to tell Mr. Currie of the current and prospective reinforcements to the Philippines, on the condition that Mr. Currie would not pass this information along to anyone.
6. General Marshall concurred in War Plans view of the great undesirability of becoming involved in war in the Far East, but pointed out that a strong stand meant nothing unless an actual action followed in case of necessity, and that while it was undesirable to engage in a Far Eastern war, our policy could not expressly guarantee non-involvement should the Japanese advance to the southward. I understood him to agree fully in the undesirability of any United States forces participating in a purely Chinese war.1
7. He instructed me to get in touch with Mr. Currie at the first opportunity and to go over with Mr. Currie the general and special situations as indicated above. I have secured an appointment with Mr. Currie at 12:45 p.m. today.2
C. W. Bundy
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the War Plans Division (WPD), General Staff, 4389-27, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. Admiral Stark and the navy’s planners were similarly fearful that the United States would do something that would precipitate a war with Japan before the navy was prepared. As senior member of the Joint Board, Stark called a special meeting for November 3 to coordinate policies and to caution the president. (Colonel William P. Scobey Memorandum for Record, November 2, 1941, NA/RG 319 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book A]. The minutes of the meeting are in NA/RG 319 [OPD, Joint Board Minutes].) On November 4 Marshall and Stark met with Secretary Cordell Hull and other officials at the State Department to impress upon them the military view of the Far Eastern crisis. (November 4, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 36: 2].) Two days later the chief of staff and the chief of naval operations signed a memorandum for the president (dated November 5) setting forth their views and warning that the best deterrent to Japan was a strong position in the Philippines. “By about the middle of December, 1941, United States air and submarine strength in the Philippines will have become a positive threat to any Japanese operations south of Formosa. The U.S. Army air forces in the Philippines will have reached its projected strength by February or March, 1942.” Until that time, war in the Far East had to be avoided. (Marshall and Stark Memorandum for the President, November 5, 1941, NA/RG 165 [WPD, 4389-29].)
2. Bundy’s November 2 Notes on Conference with Mr. Currie at the State Department are in NA/RG 165 (WPD, 4389-27).
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 658-660.