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Telephone Call to the President1
December 7, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Mr. President, I have just talked to a Staff Officer in Hawaii. An attack by air, apparently from a carrier, started at eight o’clock their time. It is still in progress. As far as they can tell at the moment at least 50 Japanese bombers involved. The hangar at Nichols field and the Wheeler Field are in flames. The report at the moment was that the Jap planes were machine gunning over Nichols field. The report, not in any way checked, is that one battleship was lost. No confirmation. Communication seriously disrupted. Our planes are in the air and as far as they know Navy planes are in the air. General Short is on reconnaissance and I did not talk to him directly.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Secretary, General Staff, Telephone Conversations File, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed transcript.
1. Marshall’s call to the White House was probably made shortly before 2:00 P.M. Marshall had returned to his quarters for lunch, and Colonel John R. Deane, secretary of the General Staff, was the only officer present in the chief of staff’s office over the noon hour. He later stated: “At about 1:30 P.M. an enlisted man from the Navy rushed into my office out of breath, with a pencil note which was supposed to have been a message from the Navy radio operator at Honolulu and which said, as I recall: ‘Pearl Harbor attacked. This is no drill.’ I immediately telephoned General Marshall at his quarters at Fort Myer where he was having lunch and told him of the message. He directed me to contact Hawaii if possible and verify the message. Before I could do this another and more official message came, indicating the correctness of the first message that had been received. General Marshall was in his office within ten minutes after I telephoned him and after remaining in the office for a short period he went to the White House where he stayed until about 4:00 P. M.” (Memorandum for Brigadier General W. B. Smith, June 8, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, Project Decimal File 1941-43, 384 Hawaii].)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 7-8.