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Proposed Message from the President to the Prime Minister
July 7, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
With reference to your 332 and 345 and my 293 regarding Sholto Douglas, the following is a frank summary of views:1
In the first place General Eisenhower has not been involved in this matter and we are unaware of his opinion. I have been advised that of a number of general officers who have been thrown in contact with Douglas all have gotten the same reaction which is unfavorable to the prospect of success in Allied command. The Burma problem will be one of exceeding difficulty not merely in the character of the fighting but more because of the complications and ramifications of the situation. It therefore requires, in our opinion, a man of unusual breadth of vision, moral courage, and personal characteristics that lend themselves to coordinating actions of diverse peoples. It was for that reason that I proposed, with complete and spontaneous unanimity of opinion on the part of all of my advisors, the name of Admiral Cunningham. He understands the complications of Allied command and has demonstrated outstanding ability to meet such complications as well as an unusual understanding of Americans. He enjoys our complete confidence. His opinion would not only carry the weight that should be given to that of a supreme commander in a theater but a prejudiced view, in effect, on our part that his view must be right.
This would not at all be the case, I believe, with Douglas. He would start with handicaps of lack of experience in Allied matters, in a most difficult theater, and with certain prejudices against him to which I have referred above, justified or not.2
I realize the importance of Cunningham in the Mediterranean but I am hopeful that the situation will be so clarified navally in a short time that his services can be spared as well as some of his ships.3
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. On June 18 Churchill had proposed Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas, commander in chief of the Middle East Command, as the Supreme Allied Commander in the proposed Southeast Asia Command. Roosevelt replied on June 14 (No. 293) that he was “not prepared at the moment” to accept Douglas. Churchill responded on July 6 (No. 345) by defending Douglas’s qualifications. “I have been wondering why it is you have these doubts about him, and I should be grateful if you would let me know from what they spring. The only thing I can think of is that he sat on a very large committee under Eisenhower in the early days of BOLERO before TORCH was settled, and perhaps he could not do himself full justice there. I am sure he is animated by the most friendly feelings towards your people and that he has tact and savoir faire.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 263-64, 275-76, 305-6)
2. In his memoirs, Douglas states: “While I felt that I was getting along well with the Americans, and there had been no reason whatsoever for me to believe that I was not in the closest of harmony with them, they were nevertheless inclined to be a little touchy about anything that they might consider bordered on criticism.” In addition, he noted, Americans were excessively suspicious of British motives and rigid in thinking and planning in the Mediterranean and in “their singleminded interest in the planned invasion of the Continent.” (Sholto Douglas, Combat and Command: The Story of an Airman in Two World Wars [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966], pp. 573, 601-2, 604.)
3. When the president sent this message on July 9, he added a concluding sentence: “I will of course abide fully by your decisions and give unquestioned support to the carrying out of the task.” (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 2: 317-18.) For more on this episode, see Marshall Notes for Conversation with Sir John Dill, July 12, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-046 [4: 56-57].
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. 46-47.