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To Brigadier General Clarence S. Ridley
December 1, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Governor Ridley:
Your suggestion that the Executive Order of September 5, 1939, as it relates to the Panama Canal Zone, be rescinded or modified, has been carefully considered, and I am of the opinion that no change should be made at this time. The present system appears to be working satisfactorily and I am sure that there need be no fear of complications under the administration of General Van Voorhis, who sails for the Canal Zone on December the 20th.1
In the present world situation, with war activities in both the western Pacific and on the eastern side of the Atlantic, together with the various methods of attack against shipping being used in the latter struggle, I am of the opinion that we should take no chance of misunderstanding or other complication that might possibly result in jeopardy to the Canal. Furthermore, a change such as proposed by you might have the effect of creating the impression that the necessity for safeguarding the Canal had become less important.
Also, there is this final consideration; everyone in the Zone is there in direct connection with the safeguarding of the operation of the Canal. It is not as if we were suddenly imposing arbitrary military control on a peaceful civil population, in possession of their homes and pursuing civil occupations. Those in the Zone must conform to the necessities of the Zone.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Control of the Canal Zone had been transferred to the commander of the Panama Canal Department by executive order in September. See Marshall to Stone, October 3, 1939, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-059 [2: 69-71]. No incoming correspondence from Ridley was found in the Marshall papers.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 113-114.