2-542 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, September 5, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 5, 1941

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

September 5, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


The Indigo expedition under General Bonesteel sailed yesterday afternoon.1

Mr. Forrestal signed the joint letter from the two of you requesting the issuance of an Executive Order by the President to place the Marines in Iceland under command of the Army. General Holcomb, Commandant of the Marine Corps, submitted a very urgent remonstrance in this matter, which Admiral Stark disapproved, at my request.2

Mr. Hopkins brought to Admiral Stark yesterday the proposition of a “former Naval personage” to turn over to U.K. October 1st twelve passenger liners and twenty freighters to facilitate the movement into the Persian Gulf.3 Stark talked to me and went over with General Reybold the question of how many Army transports could be diverted alone for this purpose, as we are already short-handed and are chartering commercial boats for both Alaska and the Philippines, we could not release transports.

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. “Indigo-3” was the army’s short title for the August 16, 1941, “Joint Army and Navy Directive for Augmenting the Existing British Defenses in Iceland with Troops of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps.” (NA/RG 319 [OPD, Joint Board, Serial 697-3].) Major General Charles H. Bonesteel (U.S.M.A., 1908) was head of the Iceland Base Command.

2. Citing the “administrative difficulties” that would ensue, Major General Thomas Holcomb opposed assigning the marine contingent to the army command. (Holcomb Memorandum for Admiral Stark, September 4, 1941, NA/RG 319 [OPD, Joint Board, Serial 697].) He preferred that the command relations follow precisely the prescriptions in paragraph 7 of Joint Action of the Army and Navy, thereby limiting Bonesteel’s authority to operational orders and precluding instructions regarding Marine Corps administration and discipline. Marshall thought Holcomb was “unduly concerned over the command set-up proposed. Maintaining discipline and morale would be difficult enough for Bonesteel, particularly during the winter, and Marshall insisted that Bonesteel be able to exercise authority over the marines in Iceland in disciplinary and administrative matters. Admiral Stark agreed. (Marshall Memorandum for Admiral Stark, September 5, 1941, ibid.; Marshall to Stark, September 9, 1941, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 21224-45-B].)

3. President Roosevelt had received British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s request on September 1. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, ed. Warren F. Kimball, 3 vols. [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984], 1: 235-36.)

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), p. 600.

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