3-384 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 29, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 29, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

October 29, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


With reference to your press conference this morning and the recent and present Press controversy as to MacArthur and his New Guinea operation, and Ghormley and the Solomons operation:

General Surles has a statement I would like you to make as to the decision for the Solomons operation.1

The messages of the past few weeks, and particularly those of the last two days, would indicate clearly that MacArthur has cooperated in every conceivable way with Ghormley and Halsey. The messages of this morning are proof positive of this cooperation. On his own initiative, MacArthur releases 155 guns to Harmon. He has proceeded at top speed with plans to reinforce Halsey with P-38 planes under conditions that are highly dangerous to the pilots. In turn Halsey proposes sending his B-24’s on to MacArthur, and MacArthur instead of accepting gives Halsey a frank statement of how long it will be before they can be placed in operation from New Guinea.

Certainly in the air operations against Rabaul and the Shortlands—both difficult operations to carry out, involving long flights and no fighter coverage—MacArthur’s command has “shot the works” so far as it is possible to manage.

While details as stated above could not be given to the Press, nevertheless I think MacArthur and Halsey should be given credit for genuine coordination as distinguished from mere cooperation.

One further fact is involved, but I am doubtful as to whether or not it would be wise for you to comment on it. I refer to the boundary set between MacArthur’s area and Ghormley’s or Halsey’s. The initial decision last spring, which divorced New Caledonia and New Zealand from the Australian area, was made on the urgent recommendation of Admiral King and the delay in defining MacArthur’s area came through the necessity of getting agreements from the Australian Government as to the character of MacArthur’s command and also agreements from the New Zealand and Australian Governments as to the division line—they having previously acted together in proposing an American overall command. As I recall, most of the delay came from negotiations to secure Australian agreement to the limiting terms of MacArthur’s command.

The more recent Press and radio debate relates to the Solomons operation with regard to boundaries, the implication being that the President, fearing MacArthur’s political future, decided to limit his sphere of activity. Whether or not this should be commented on by you you can judge much better than I can, but I doubt if the President even knew of the subdivision as made, at the time it was made.2

The Navy wanted the three operations, of which the Tulagi landing was to be the first, all by Ghormley. I declined to accept this proposal as the basis for the directive. I was in agreement with the Navy that the Tulagi should be the first to be undertaken. As a matter of fact we pressed the Navy to do this immediately after Midway and urged them to start it at an earlier date than they did. There was no proposition by us to launch the New Guinea operation first. We thought it much more important to prevent the Japanese from getting into air operations from the Guadalcanal field. Once that field was captured and our position in that region consolidated, command passed to MacArthur and the New Guinea operation would have followed.

As we know, the consolidation did not follow, instead matters were allowed to drift until the Japanese had time to concentrate their forces, during which period we suffered serious attritions from submarine activities.3

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. “At the press conference this morning,” Stimson recorded, “I was asked a question bringing this up and I made a firm denial of the story that the Navy was the sole originator of that operation and gave out the fact that it was one which was approved by the United Chiefs of Staff.” (October 29, 1942, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 40: 182].)

2. The secretary of war noted: “MacArthur who is not an unselfish being and is a good deal of a prima donna, has himself lent a little aid to the story by sending people here who carry a message from him that he was not a Presidential candidate, thereby playing into the hands of the people who would really like to make him a candidate instead of treating the matter as soldier-like Marshall would treat it of never saying a word on the subject and assuming that all talk of one’s candidacy is nonsense. These statements of MacArthur’s have served to keep the story going.” (Ibid.)

3. One effect of the “attacks on the Navy by the press which had gathered together in full cry like hounds on a hot trail,” was that Admiral King—whom Stimson thought was “in a very humble frame of mind on account of the pounding he is getting from the press in respect to Navy command matters”—had approached Marshall with the suggestion that the chief of naval operations move his offices next to Marshall’s in the army’s new building in Arlington, Virginia. “Marshall has taken up this suggestion and gone it about ten times further.” He proposed to King that the navy move many of its key offices into eight hundred thousand (later one million) square feet of the building. Secretary of the Navy Knox announced the move on November 3, but various navy bureaus raised objections and the War Department finally withdrew the invitation. (October 31, 1942, Yale/ H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 40: 187] [quotes]; November 19, 20, and 24, ibid., 41: 53-54, 57-58, 60-61.) Stimson’s and Marshall’s offices were moved into the building on November 15, 1942. The five-sided structure was officially designated “The Pentagon” by General Orders, No. 8, February 19, 1943.

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. 413-415.

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Holding ID: 3-384

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