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Notes for the Secretary of War’s Press Conference1
December 28, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
The situation on the Western front continues critical. So far the Germans have been unable to expand the base of their salient which is a vital requirement for the security of their present gains or a deeper penetration. Further advances at the tip of the salient are relatively unimportant by comparison with the urgent German necessity for expanding the base, which they must soon endeavor to do as time is now working against them.2
The weather has favored us recently and rather unexpectedly. The past few days have permitted our crushing air superiority to be directed against the enemy troops, tanks, trains, and communications. His marshalling yards are being blown to bits. Aside from the fighting spirit of our troops, no other factor means so much to us in the present situation as flying weather.3
For the past two days the German gains have been negligible and their losses in men and armored vehicles heavy. On the Allied side gains, some very important, have been made along both flanks of the salient. Meanwhile our attacking forces are increasing in strength and organization. The enemy has committed almost all of his crack Panzer divisions to the battle. The situation, as I have said, is critical, but as much so for the Germans as for the Allies.4
There remains the possibility of diversionary attacks on General Devers’ front north and south of Strasbourg, against the 9th Army, or even possibly in a smaller way at some chosen point on our lines in Holland. But the enemy must renew his assault with a tremendous effort. He has no choice. Most of the cards are on the table.
I should like to emphasize one very important factor, undoubtedly one of the considerations the Germans had in mind in hazarding this all-out effort. Since we entered the war the enemy has exerted all his cleverness of propaganda to effect a cleavage in the British-American front of a free press, to stir up strife and discord, and he has been particularly vicious and ingenious in his efforts to effect a division between the Russians and ourselves in the coordination of our military enterprises. The Germans are utilizing their present offensive to further this effort and I note in his morning’s press that they are achieving at least a little of success.5 Though I must say that the attitude of the press and radio commentators and reports in this country has been rather remarkable for restraint and freedom from the usual violence of criticism which follows closely on any reverse. There are very few wolves in full cry and the continued confidence displayed in the Allied arms and command is most reassuring. They deserve our complete support and our cheers for their successes and our stern resolution in backing them through periods of storm and stress. War is not an easy game to play and you can’t always win, but I feel personally that we are winning and time will reveal that this German throw of the dice will have fatal consequences for him.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed notes.
1. Marshall dictated this document to his private secretary. With some editing, it served Stimson as a general introduction, which he followed with a lengthy survey of events on each of the major fronts. Stimson’s revision of Marshall’s memorandum is printed in his diary for December 28. (Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 49: 131-32].)
2. The German salient’s base had stabilized at approximately forty-seven air miles by December 18; its greatest depth—about sixty air miles—was achieved on December 26 (however, by this time the average width had been reduced to thirty miles). (Cole, The Ardennes, p. 651.)
3. The German Ardennes offensive had been launched when Allied air superiority over the western front had been negated by bad weather. Between December 23 and 28, however, good flying weather allowed the Allies to make crippling strikes against the attackers. On December 26, elements of Patton’s Third Army, advancing from the south, had broken through to the trapped American units at the key communications town of Bastogne. By the evening of December 26, the official U.S. Army history of the battle concludes, the battlefield “initiative had passed from German to American hands.” The German armies “never came close” to success. (Ibid., pp. 672-73, 674.)
4. Stimson deleted this sentence.
5. The phrase “I note in this morning’s press that they are achieving at least a little of success” Stimson changed to “it is most important to avoid falling into their trap.” In general, Stimson softened Marshall’s characterization of the press.
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. 713-714.