2-576 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 14, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 14, 1941

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

October 14, 1941 Washington, D.C.


Subject: Ordnance and Air Corps Mechanics for Russia.

We have been directed from the White House, through the Lease-Loan organization, to send officers and soldiers to Russia in the event that we cannot obtain civilians for the purpose of insuring proper maintenance and use of our materiel.1 For the past week we have been endeavoring to obtain the necessary civilian personnel. General Moore now informs me that neither the Air Corps nor the Ordnance Department have been able to persuade any American company to agree with Amtorg to send mechanics to service airplanes, tanks, and other equipment being shipped between now and October 31st. Negotiations with Curtiss-Wright, American Car and Foundry, Chrysler Company, and Sperry Company, have been unsuccessful. Prospects for successful recruitment of civilian mechanics appear to be dim. Therefore, the question of sending officers and enlisted men will be acute before the end of the week.

There are two important considerations involved in the sending of officers and soldiers to Russia.

In the first place, do we order them or do we endeavor to have them volunteer, and if we order them do we send them in organized units capable of looking out for themselves—at least to a certain extent—in the way of administration, food and other arrangements, or do we turn them loose, as it were, on their own individual initiative in Russia? In the second place, if we send officers and soldiers as individuals or ship them as organized units, what is the political repercussion at the present time and what would it be if they are lost to us, as very easily can be the case? And what will the repercussion be if we order them, and they themselves wish to avoid such detail.2

There is attached the directive from the White House on this subject.

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 21302-19A, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. The directive read: “It is the desire of the President that the material agreed on to be released for procurement by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and for delivery in October be delivered in the most expeditious way possible. The delivery of this material will take precedence over defense aid transfers to other countries. In case it is impracticable to obtain civilians to accompany this material by contract with Amtorg, it is desired that officers and enlisted men of the U. S. Army be furnished as observers to make certain that the material is properly employed and maintained.” (Sidney P. Spalding Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 8, 1941, NA/RG 16s [OCS, 21302-19A].) The New York City-based Amtorg Trading Corporation was the official purchasing and sales agency for the Soviet Union in the United States.

2. At the top of this memorandum Marshall added: “Note: The secretary of war directs that we endeavor to obtain volunteers from the Army and place them in Russia in the same status as the specialists and mechanics we have sent to England and Cairo. If volunteers are not obtainable, then he will discuss the problem with the President. G.C.M.” By the end of the month fifteen civilian and fifty-one military technicians had volunteered, but the Soviet government was unwilling to permit them to enter the country. Harry L. Hopkins, who had visited the Soviet Union in late July 1941 to offer aid, tried to reverse this decision. “Both Harriman and I understood from our talks in Moscow that technicians would be welcomed. We believe that it is essential that these technicians precede the equipment.” But the Soviets refused to change their minds. (Foreign Relations, 1941, 1: 848, 859-60.)

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. 645-646.

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