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Navy Day Statement1
October 27, 1944 New York, New York
I cannot imagine a more appropriate moment than this evening for the celebration of Navy Day. Even the destruction of what remains of the Japanese fleet may come somewhat as an anticlimax and I say this with due regard for the inevitable hazards of war.
Exactly two years ago on a similar occasion our then crippled Naval forces operating in the Solomons were apparently in sore distress and great peril according to the meager official information of the moment. Three days later, with all the returns in, a fine Naval victory was an assured fact. Tonight in contrast we can review a series of remarkably successful operations covering the past two months, culminating in the tremendous blows of the recent Naval battle.2 The Third and Seventh Fleets have made history which will be stimulating reading for young Americans for a hundred years to come. Furthermore, it seems to me that in Admiral Halsey we have found a man with the fighting heart of a Farragut, a Nelson, or a John Paul Jones himself.
The Navy convoyed our armies to Africa, Italy and France. They have now made possible our re-entry into the Philippines. They will support General MacArthur in his campaign for the reconquest of the Islands, an operation which has had a brilliant beginning and will be carried forward with all the skill and daring heretofore demonstrated by MacArthur in his long series of advances from Australia, but fortified today by highly trained and fully equipped ground and air forces and all the vast power of the Navy in the Pacific.
I believe I am expected to make a brief report on the Army, having just returned from France. I visited the commanders along the front, from Field Marshal Montgomery in Holland to General de Lattre de Tassigny, the commander of the First French Army near Belfort. I talked with Bradley, Hodges, Simpson and Patton, with Devers and Patch. The local situations were discussed with each of our Corps commanders and I visited the leaders of the divisions in the line of battle.
Eisenhower’s Armies have done amazing things in the past three months but in some respects their present aggressive front, despite limitations in supply, prolonged periods in the line, cold rain and deep mud, surpasses even the spectacular victories of the breakthrough. My admiration for the infantry rifleman who is bearing the hard brunt of the battle increased enormously during this visit to France. The bearing of all of our men, their appearance of professional competence and aggressive spirit, were immensely encouraging. The Air Forces have been magnificent in supporting our ground operations and in the strategic bombing which threatens the collapse of the enemy’s economic system and his power for organized resistance.
Everything has been put into the furtherance of the battle, even the shipment of mail has been suspended for considerable periods to permit a greater tonnage of ammunition. As a consequence our soldiers know little of what is happening elsewhere in the world. Incidentally, I hope that while they are in the present bitter grip of battle in the cold and mud, no echoes reach them from home indicating the belief that the war is practically over in Europe and we are free to turn to other interests. I am fearful of the revulsion of feeling that would follow such a disclosure in the midst of the present battle when the greatest concentration of effort is imperative if we are to bring this war to an early conclusion. I may not be expressing myself tactfully but I mean exactly what I am saying, and I am sure that every man and woman in this country would heartily agree with me could they too have visited our divisions in France and Belgium. Let’s have no nonsense, no superficial thinking or selfish purposes until we have won this great struggle in which Allied forces on the western front and in Italy are attacking along almost 1100 miles of a raging battle line.
General Eisenhower has a tremendous task on his hands with inconceivable ramifications, logistical, political, and the purely human difficulties inevitable in the reestablishment of order in liberated countries of different races with conflicting views on almost every subject, not to mention his far greater responsibilities for the conduct of the battle. I am filled with admiration for the wisdom, the patience, and the military leadership he is displaying in a position almost without precedent.
The troops in Italy under Wilson, Alexander and Clark have been engaged for long weary weeks in another bitter battle, in the rain and mud of the Apennines. Their steady advances, their fortitude and losses, and the importance of their contribution to the European operations, in the Balkans, in Poland, and on the western front, receive far too little notice.
There are many things of interest that I should have liked to talk about tonight but my thoughts are dominated at the moment by the great Naval victory in the Pacific. Admiral King and I have worked side by side since our first meeting at Argentia, the historic conference with the British in Newfoundland three years ago last August. To Lord Halifax I owe my thanks—we all owe our thanks—for his fine understanding and strong influence toward the maintenance of unity in our combined national efforts.
I do not know of another instance in the history of warfare in which an Army and a Navy, each with its complex organization and system of command, have pulled together so effectively as members of a team. Neither do I recall a similar situation in which allied nations have worked in such intimate cooperation towards a common goal. We know that the soldiers and sailors and airmen can be depended upon to do their full duty. If we foster our unity of purpose, on the farms, in the factories, on Main Street and everywhere, we will not fail them. Let’s celebrate the victory in the Pacific with a stern resolution to increase our efforts here at home.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. Marshall spoke following a dinner meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The Blue Network carried Marshall’s speech as well as those by Admiral King and the British ambassador, Lord Halifax.
2. On October 24-25, the United States and Japanese fleets fought one of the great naval battles in history. It is officially titled the Battle for Leyte Gulf, although contemporary newspapers frequently called it the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea. The battle was a series of naval actions (Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait, Samar, Cape Enga