4-358 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, April 17, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 17, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

April 17, 1944 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

Subject: Woodrum Committee.

Senator Wadsworth told me that the Woodrum Committee would begin its hearings next Monday and instead of starting off with universal military training the first item on the agenda will be the reorganization of the War and Navy Departments. From my point of view this is unfortunate, but to be accepted as unavoidable. The point with me is this, that if I appear before the Committee I would want to state all the reasons why I consider a reorganization imperative and in doing so I would feel it necessary, in order to put across my point of view with the Committee, to analyze and, in a sense, discard most of the fallacious arguments that may be advanced by the opponents of the reorganization.

Most of the opposition it is assumed, I hope incorrectly, will come from the Navy and this would mean that a completely frank and vigorous statement by me might well, in effect, prejudice the future harmonious dealings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. First things to be treated first demand that nothing occur which will be harmful to the war effort, and harmony between the Army and Navy is of paramount importance. Therefore I am embarrassed as to how to meet the dilemma.

I think that after General John Palmer gives them an historical background regarding the National Defense and its fundamental requirements, you should appear, and Colonel Knox, Mr. Lovett, Judge Patterson and I presume some of the Secretariat of the Navy Department. This would keep the affair on a high level and would probably result in burning off most of the long grass in the way of newspaper publicity before we get down to more of detail.

General McNarney will be back by that time and he is fully cognizant of all the pros and cons in the matter. He could appear along with General Somervell for the ASF, and General Giles for the Air, with other minor officials on details which will suggest themselves.

I should wish to keep Arnold out as long as I am out and I should prefer that I do not get involved in the first phases of the investigation for the reasons mentioned above. Senator Wadsworth thought this might be arrange-able though I doubt it.

Should Admiral King appear early in the affair and give testimony in opposition to the reorganization then I should certainly wish to move in myself in a vigorous manner though I should deplore this necessity.1

I have dictated the foregoing rather hurriedly but it gives my rough ideas at the moment.

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. In early April the Special Planning Division issued a policy statement to guide War Department representatives testifying before the Woodrum Committee: “It is highly important that the testimony of such representatives be mutually consistent arid also in consonance with the official War Department viewpoint.” The official War Department line was enumerated; the first point was: “The Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, has recommended to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, for purposes of providing unity of command, of economy, and for the elimination of duplication and overlapping, there should be created a Single Department of War.” (Otto L. Nelson Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 10, 1944, NA/RG 107 [SW Safe, Post-war Military Policy].)

The hearings commenced on April 24, and the committee of inquiry discussed the question of reorganization of the postwar military services into a single department, which would include a separate air force. John McA. Palmer took the lead for the War Department witnesses by testifying in support of a single department. On the twenty-fifth, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson presented his prepared statement. (See Marshall Memorandum for Mr. Bundy, April 23, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-367 [4: 431-33].) That same day, McNarney detailed the War Department’s unification proposals, which included a single armed forces secretary, the continuation of the current service chief and Joint Chiefs of Staff organizations, an under secretary to head each of the three services, and a service of supply to control items “not peculiar to any one service.” (Statement by Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Before the Select Committee on Post-war Military Policy, House of Representatives, April 25, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 370.01, Sec. 3-A].)

On April 26 Assistant Secretary of War for Air Robert A. Lovett testified for a separate air force. Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson and Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell, chief of the Army Service Forces, testified to the existence of inefficiency in logistical support due to the lack of interservice coordination. On April 28 Under Secretary James V. Forrestal began the testimony on behalf of the Navy Department since Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox had suffered a heart attack several days earlier. (Secretary Knox, who favored unification, died that afternoon.) Forrestal presented the navy’s position that the question of military organization should be studied further, and it should not be assumed that a single department was agreed upon until completion of an objective study. No decision, even “in principle,” on the unification of the departments could be taken until the war had concluded. (For the Woodrum Committee hearings, see House Select Committee on Post-war Military Policy, Proposal to Establish a Single Department of Armed Forces, 78th Cong., 2d sess., 1944. Major Lawrence J. Legere, Jr., presents his study in “Unification of the Armed Forces,” [Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1950], pp. 271-81. For the navy’s side, see Vincent Davis, Postwar Defense Policy and the U.S. Navy, 1943-1946 [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966], pp. 39-67.)

The hearings were adjourned on April 28 and were reconvened on May 10, when the Navy Department continued with its witnesses. On May 19 the hearings ended, with none of the Joint Chiefs of Staff having testified before the Woodrum Committee. (For further developments, see Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, April 22, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-363 [4: 426-27], and Marshall Memorandum for the Chief, Army Ground Forces, April 30, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-379 [4: 444-45].)

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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 419-421.

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