5-104 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, April 20, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 20, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

April 20, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]


The President’s purpose in sending for me yesterday morning was merely to express his confidence in the Army and his good will towards me personally.1 However, a number of different matters were discussed which I list below.

Control of Occupied Germany

The President expressed a particular interest in the method of taking over control in Occupied Germany and said that at some later date he would like me to go over the procedure with him. I therefore thought it desirable that you include a brief comment on this matter today and also that you hand him for his later consideration a short memorandum outlining the general procedure. Both of these I had prepared last night and General Hilldring has them ready for you if you care to use them.2

Liaison between White House and War Department

Apropos of a comment of the President’s regarding his address to the fighting forces last Tuesday, I explained to him the extreme importance of keeping the White House relations with the War Department carefully in channels and gave him a number of examples of embarrassing incidents which had resulted from short-circuiting the procedure, starting with the dog incident of Elliott Roosevelt.3 I emphasized this by stating that from now on I thought there would be a constantly increasing flood of direct appeals to the White House from the Hill and from people generally regarding personnel aspects of the redeployment to the Pacific, regarding the increasing complications of the negro question,4 and several other matters. He agreed with me as to the importance of this.

I told him that we had had a very able man, Colonel Davenport,5 for more than a year as the channel of communication for such business, a man who understood all the workings of the War Department and could see that the matters were cleared so that he, the President, in making any decision would be aware at the time of the various precedents involved and the possible repercussions. He stated complete agreement with me, asked for Colonel Davenport’s name and wrote it down and told me that he accepted him as the channel of communication for such matters. This of course has no reference to your personal relationship with the President though I think even here your Aide6 should keep a close check to see that we are both not working on the same thing at the same time without a complete knowledge of what is going on.

Current Operations in Germany

I explained to the President the complexity of the task General [Omar N.] Bradley has had for the past two weeks—thrusting at top speed toward the Elbe, fighting in the opposite direction with 18 divisions around the Ruhr pocket and handling hundreds of thousands of displaced people between these two great operations. It was in connection with my comments on the effective handling, in my opinion, of these displaced people under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and the general efficiency, in my opinion, of the military government procedure despite the various attacks by Dorothy Thompson7 and other authoritative sources, that the President expressed his very special interest in the procedure we are now following and propose to follow immediately on the termination of actual fighting.

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 met with President Truman at the White House on April 19, 1945, at 11:30 A.M.

2. “The quickest Cabinet meeting that I remember since I came into the War Department in 1940,” Stimson wrote of President Truman’s meeting with the Cabinet on April 20. “The President took command and galloped . . . through the meeting in an hour, having heard from all the regular Cabinet and the irregular Cabinet.” The secretary of war was able to provide Truman with the memorandum prepared by Major General John H. Hilldring, director of the Civil Affairs Division at the War Department. “It was a businesslike and rather galloping Cabinet meeting—a rarity compared with what we have had hitherto,” commented Stimson. (Stimson Notes After Cabinet Meeting, April 20, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 337]; April 20, 1945, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 51: 60].)

3. Having recently assumed office, President Truman informally called to his office a colonel working in the Bureau of Public Relations to ask him to prepare a draft of a speech, embodying Truman’s and his advisers’ expressed ideas, for the president to deliver to the armed forces on Tuesday, April 17. Colonel Frank McCarthy expressed his—as well as other members of the chief of staff’s office—concern that White House advisers would “consult with lower echelons directly.” McCarthy recommended, “We should attempt immediately to draw the Military Aide and other White House advisors into our usual channels and try to get them to do their business through this office. In no other way can we maintain any consistency of operations.” (McCarthy Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 16, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

In January Colonel Elliott Roosevelt’s dog, Blaze (an English bull mastiff), made the newspaper headlines when three servicemen with class “C” air priority were bumped off their flight aboard an army cargo plane in Memphis in order to make room for “B” priority cargo, while Blaze (assigned “A” priority) remained on board. Blaze was on a flight from Washington, D.C. (the White House), to California for delivery to Mrs. Elliott Roosevelt (actress Faye Emerson). During a Senate Military Affairs subcommittee investigation, an Air Transport Command report revealed that Colonel Ray W. Ireland, assistant chief of staff for priorities and traffic at Air Transport Command headquarters, had assigned an “A” priority for the dog shipped on a military cargo aircraft leaving Washington, D.C. The report concluded: “The fundamental basis for the establishment of any priority, whether for passengers or cargo, is that the mission of the passenger or the need for the cargo is of such urgency that transportation by air is necessary to the prosecution of the war. Therefore, establishing an `A’ priority for the dog was unauthorized under regulations relating to air priorities. A serious mistake was made and it cannot be justified.” (New York Times, January 18, 1945, p. 21; February 11, 1945, p. 34.) Elliott Roosevelt was promoted to a brigadier general in February 1945. (Ibid., February 13, 1945, p. 1.)

4. The disappointing performance of the African-American Ninety-second Division under fire earlier in the year had prompted the War Department to send Truman K. Gibson, Secretary of War Stimson’s civilian aide on Negro affairs, to visit the division in Italy. Gibson reported that a large percentage of the division’s men scored among the lower two classifications on the Army General Classification Test and many came from civilian backgrounds providing little opportunity for “an inculcation of pride in self or even love of country.” Negro officers were excluded from the white officers’ club. He reported that appeal to racial pride in the training program had been successful for two artillery battalions commanded by Negro officers. He concluded that “the lesson of the 92d for the future employment of Negro troops lay in recognizing correctable deficiencies rather than in forming generalizations from the career of this particular unit.” The more militant Negro press attacked Gibson for his remark about the lower test scores and his agreeing with any criticism of the unit’s combat abilities. (Ulysses Lee, The Employment of Negro Troops, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1966], pp. 575-79.) For previous information regarding the Ninety-second Division, see Marshall to Eisenhower, February 14, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-035 [5: 49-50].

5. For Marshall’s views of Lieutenant Colonel Bradfute W. Davenport, see Marshall to Eisenhower, September 4, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-225 [5: 293-95].

6. Colonel William H. Kyle served as aide to Secretary of War Stimson.

7. American journalist Dorothy Thompson had been expelled from Germany for her outspoken opposition to Hitler and the Nazis during the 1930s. After returning to the United States, Thompson reached a wide audience through her syndicated “On the Record” column published in the New York Herald Tribune and other newspapers, a monthly column for Ladies Home Journal, and her radio broadcasts over NBC.

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 151-153.

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