2-538 To Admiral Harold R. Stark, August 29, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 29, 1941

To Admiral Harold R. Stark

August 29, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Betty:

I am of the opinion that the United States forces in Iceland should be under one commander, who should be given, to the extent legally possible, full authority and responsibility. The Commander’s authority should not be restricted to that contemplated in “Joint Action of the Army and the Navy” for the exercise of “unity of command.”1

In order to give the Commander of United States Forces in Iceland the authority legally possible over the combined forces, I propose that Marine forces in Iceland be detached for service with the Army. There is attached hereto a joint letter transmitting to the President a draft of an Executive Order which will accomplish the proposed detachment.2

Since the Army contingent will sail on or about September 5, it is very desirable that this matter be expedited.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Joint Board Serial 514, Joint Action of the Army and Navy (Washington: GPO, 1935), was a lengthy, frequently revised, loose-leaf book which served to “assemble in one volume all joint policies, agreements, or instructions which have been approved by the War and Navy Departments, with a view to securing effective coordination.” (Ibid., p. iii.) The president could appoint either an army or a navy officer to command a joint operation. This commander was empowered “to coordinate the operations of the forces of both services” by organizing task forces, assigning missions, designating objectives, and providing logistical support. But he could not issue “instructions as to dispositions for, or methods of, operation in the accomplishment of missions assigned solely to forces of the service to which the commander does not belong, nor control of the administration, discipline, or technique of the operations of such forces.” (Ibid., p. 7.)

2. President Roosevelt did not issue the proposed executive order. A revision was sent to him, which he issued as a presidential directive to the secretaries of war and navy on September 22. (NA/RG 319 [OPD, Joint Board, Serial 697]; Watson, Chief of Staff pp. 488-89.) See Memorandum for the Secretary of War, September 5, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-542 [2: 600].

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 597.

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