2-497 To Admiral Harold R. Stark, June 27, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 27, 1941

To Admiral Harold R. Stark

June 27, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Betty:

I am sorry to delay so long in replying to your attached formal memorandum but it has taken our War Plans people longer than usual to make a thorough analysis, and since your letter was written many of the items noted have been accomplished or are in process of accomplishment. There are, however, certain exceptions. With regard to overseas Army forces, we have already made reductions in the war garrisons for Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Panama, and we are making efforts now to reinforce Army garrisons in the Western Hemisphere as far as practicable before M-Day, and some movements are now actually taking place. Details will be furnished to the Navy War Plans Division.1

With reference to other possible expeditions not specifically covered by Rainbow 5, the units and materiel to be moved should not be considered as additional, but as part of the 83,000 troops set up for transatlantic operations. This, however, does not apply to the force mentioned for West African operations. No commitment is made in Rainbow 5 nor does other agreement exist for a West African expedition. We would strongly oppose any such an operation as strategically unsound.

While the A.B.C. agreement upon which Rainbow 5 was based was studied for over two months by representatives of the Army, Navy and British, the plan should be subject to constant critical re-examination, always with a view to decisive defensive action by United States forces. As you know, we are not prepared to undertake any large scale defensive operations on land for some time to come. The question of priorities is most important and I suggest that it be studied by our respective planning committees in the light of changes which have occurred in the general situation since your letter was prepared.

We are gravely concerned over the lack of shipping necessary to transport and maintain our troops in overseas theaters. You know the difficulty of meeting such requirements for the Indigo operation and at the same time keeping on hand a reserve of shipping to meet emergency situations that might require the use of troops in South America.2 I hope that it will be possible for you to take steps to meet this transportation problem in any of the operations mentioned in your letter.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the War Plans Division (WPD), 4175-22, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Secretary Stimson approved joint war plan Rainbow 5 on June 2, 1941. Although the president did not formally approve the plan, the War Department proceeded with strategic planning on a tentative basis. According to Rainbow 5, the army would garrison Hawaii, Alaska, Panama, the Caribbean, and Iceland with forces totaling 220,900 men within the first few months of war. Air defense units and air forces, already scheduled for assignment to Britain according to the ABC staff agreements, were included in the joint war plan. The army also tentatively planned to send expeditionary forces to South America and to transatlantic destinations within six months after mobilization day. (Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, pp. 46-47.)

Stark’s May 22, 1941, letter discussed possible expeditionary forces to West Africa and Greenland, and proposed detailed planning for offensive actions against Germany. The army’s War Plans Division opposed detailed planning until wartime and rejected any proposal for expeditionary forces not specified in Rainbow 5. (The W.P.D. study of Stark’s letter is in NA/RG 165 [WPD, 4175-22].)

2. The Indigo operation—the occupation of Iceland—began on July 1, 1941. On July 7 United States Marines landed on Iceland. The army components of the garrison landed on August 6 and September 15.

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), pp. 551-552.

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