4-046 Notes for Conversation with Sir John Dill, July 12, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 12, 1943

Subject: World War II, Dill, Sir John

Notes for Conversation with Sir John Dill

July 12, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


The solution proposed in the last paragraph of the Prime Minister’s message No. 345, 6 July, is not acceptable. It does not solve the question and the first step indicated by the Prime Minister would make eventual solution more difficult, if not impossible.1

My entire thought in this matter of Southeast Asia commander is success in that area. For success it is essential that we have the leadership which will be vigorous and will bring about harmonious relations. I am convinced that we are walking into a mess if we put Sholto Douglas in as commander. I do not attempt to pass on Douglas’ qualifications. Undoubtedly the Prime Minister knows more about that than I do. However, I do pass on American reaction to Douglas and the impression he makes on our people. On this point I am much better qualified to judge than is the Prime Minister.

I am perfectly aware of British reaction to Stilwell and I would be perfectly willing to replace him if I had any man who had a chance to accomplish what Stilwell is doing.

I believe that we would defy efficiency and set the stage for a failure by placing an officer in command to whom the American reaction is that he is a stuffed-shirt. The situation is in brief, no Douglas or no American participation. There will be American participation.

I realize the very difficult position in which you, personally, have been placed. The Prime Minister apparently looks to you to obtain our acceptance of Douglas. You are at liberty to use what I have said above in whole or in part if it will help any. My suggestion is as follows: That it again be pointed out that we are perfectly willing to accept a British commander but feel that the commander selected should be satisfactory to us. You will recall that in a previous message of the President he requested the submission of additional names. Although we suggested the names of Admiral Cunningham and Air Marshal Tedder, we are not trying to name the commander but to be assured that a commander will be named who will make the operation a success. It appears that the next step should be the submission of additional names.2

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 10, Item 63a, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed notes.

1. For previous correspondence regarding the possible appointment of Sholto Douglas as commander in Southeast Asia, see Marshall Proposed Message from the President to the Prime Minister, July 7,1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-038 [4: 46-47]. Churchill’s July 6 message (No. 345) defended Douglas, concluding: “Supposing, however, that you are still unconvinced, I could make, as a first step, a unified new British Joint South-East Asia Command under Douglas with a thoroughly good liaison with Stilwell and work up to the combined Supreme Command in two stages as confidence grew. Pray tell me with the utmost plainness what you feel.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 306.) Marshall prepared the notes printed here prior to calling Dill, who was then in San Francisco, on the scrambler telephone. This call was necessitated not only by Churchill’s message but also by a July 10 message to Dill from the British Chiefs of Staff reiterating the prime minister’s position and noting British problems with Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, who commanded U.S. Army Forces in China, Burma, and India and acted as chief of Chiang Kai-shek’s joint staff. The British secretary of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Brigadier Harold Redman, showed the message for Dill to Marshall, who called Dill to discuss a suitable reply. (Marshall Memorandum for Brigadier H. Redman, July 12, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. Following their discussion, Dill dictated to Marshall his reply to the July 10 message. In his memorandum to Redman transmitting Dill’s remarks, Marshall quotes Dill as saying: “Regarding Stilwell the point is that he is not required or expected to command other than U.S. and Chinese troops whereas Sholto Douglas is proposed to command U.S. and Chinese troops as well as British troops. . .. Marshall stated that on more than one occasion Douglas had spoken in derogatory terms of U.S. units and operations. Some of these remarks, on at least one occasion, almost led to a physical encounter. The more Marshall looks into the matter the less he likes the proposal.” (Ibid.) During the conference at Quebec in mid-August, Churchill announced that Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten would be appointed supreme commander of Allied forces in Southeast Asia.

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. 56-57.

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