3-079 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, January 28, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 28, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

January 28, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Troop Capacity to be utilized on the “Queen Mary.”

The “Queen Mary” will be available for our use about February 15th. Her capacity has been increased to accommodate 8,200 men.

You will recall that the President and the Prime Minister informally commented on one occasion regarding the number of troops to be hazarded on a single ship, particularly one not convoyed except during the “close-in” period of her voyage.1

The “Queen Mary” is a fast boat, cruising at about 21 knots. She would operate on a basis similar to that of the “Leviathan” in the old World War. The issue is how many troops we would be willing to put on the “Queen Mary” for a voyage to Ireland, or a voyage via Panama to the Far East. I do not know that there would be much difference so far as the saving of lives is concerned in case of a sudden sinking between a passenger complement of 4,000 and one of 8,000. The material difference would be in the psychological effect of the loss of the larger number of men.2

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. Marshall was perhaps referring to the conversation at the White House meeting of December 26, 1941; see Foreign Relations, Conferences at Washington and Casablanca, p. 102. Near the end of the ARCADIA Conference, the issue arose again, according to Churchill: “One evening the General [Marshall] came to see me and put a hard question. He had agreed to send nearly thirty thousand American soldiers to Northern Ireland. We had of course placed the two ‘Queens’—the only two 80,000-ton ships in the world—at his disposal for this purpose. General Marshall asked me how many men we ought to put on board, observing that boats, rafts, and other means of flotation could only be provided for about eight thousand. If this were disregarded, they could carry sixteen thousand men. I gave the following answer: ‘I can only tell you what we should do. You must judge for yourself the risks you will run. If it were a direct part of an actual operation, we should put all on board they could carry. If it were only a question of moving troops in a reasonable time, we should not go beyond the limits of lifeboats, rafts, etc. It is for you to decide.’ He received this in silence and our conversation turned to other matters. In their first voyages these ships carried only the lesser numbers, but later on they were filled to the brim. As it happened, Fortune stood our friend.” (Churchill, Grand Alliance, pp. 705-6.)

2. Secretary Stimson approved this memorandum and sent it to the president on January 30. For further developments, see Marshall Memorandum for Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, February 3, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-094 [3: 97].

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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 86-87.

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