2-204 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, June 18, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 18, 1940

Memorandum for the Secretary of War1

June 18, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Transfer to British of 12 Flying Fortress type planes (B-17)

On hand today 52

Due for delivery this summer2

Time required to replace 12 planes—December 1940


This is the only efficient bomber we now possess. Our B-18’s have a speed under 200 miles, and are poorly armed.

Our secret bombsight is built into the plane. The next most efficient sight,—the Sperry, would require four months for installation. The Estoppey—an inferior sight—would require two months to install.

We have recognized the urgent necessity for locating a few of these planes in Hawaii, but have not done so because of the small number available. They must also be held available for the defense of the Canal Zone and the Caribbean areas.


It is the unanimous opinion of the War Department officers concerned, that it would be seriously prejudicial to our own defensive situation to release any of these ships.2

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), Foreign Sale or Exchange of Munitions File, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Marshall originally drafted this on the afternoon of June 18 as a memorandum for the president from the secretary of war. The next morning, at the request of Secretary Woodring, Marshall redrafted the document in its present form, adding the final sentence in the third paragraph under “Remarks.”

2. Major Walter B. Smith delivered copies of this memorandum to General Watson at the White House and to Secretary Morgenthau. While Smith was in Morgenthau’s office, Marshall telephoned the secretary to request, as a favor, that he do nothing further about giving bombers to the British until he returned from his Akron, Ohio, speaking engagement. (FDRL/H. Morgenthau, Jr., Papers [Diary, 274: 22].) Shortly after Marshall returned, on the morning of June 20, President Roosevelt informed the War Department that the proposed transfer had been dropped. (Smith Memorandum for Mr. Morgenthau, June 25, 1940, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Foreign Sale or Exchange of Munitions File].) The idea was soon revived, however; see Conference Notes, August 20, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-244 [2: 292].

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. 246-247.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-204

Rights: Public Information