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To Franklin D. Roosevelt from General John J. Pershing
September 16, 1943 Washington, D.C.
My dear Mr. President:
I am so deeply disturbed by the repeated newspaper reports that General Marshall is to be transferred to a tactical command in England, that I am writing to express my fervent hope that these reports are unfounded.1
We are engaged in a global war of which the end is still far distant, and for the wise strategical guidance of which we need our most accomplished officer as Chief of Staff. I voice the consensus of informed military opinion in saying that officer is General Marshall. To transfer him to a tactical command in a limited area, no matter how seemingly important, is to deprive ourselves of the benefit of his outstanding strategical ability and experience. I know of no one at all comparable to replace him as Chief of Staff.
I have written this, Mr. President, because of my deep conviction that the suggested transfer of General Marshall would be a fundamental and very grave error in our military policy.2
With sincere regard and high esteem, believe me,
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. On the same day that Pershing wrote, in a letter handed to the president by Harry Hopkins, Stimson again urged Roosevelt to avoid undue delay in appointing Marshall to command the European theater with the rank of General of the Armies—General Pershing’s World War I rank. “I have reason to believe that Congress would readily give that title to Marshall. But, knowing Marshall as I do, I think he would not accept it unless assured that it met with Pershing’s approval. I think Pershing would acquiesce in it if you asked him.” (Stimson to Roosevelt, September 16, 1943, NA/RG 107 [White House Correspondence].)
2. Roosevelt replied: “You are absolutely right about George Marshall—and yet, I think, you are wrong too! He is, as you say, far and away the most available man as Chief of Staff. But, as you know, the operations for which we are considering him are the biggest that we will conduct in this war. And, when the time comes, it will not be a mere limited area proposition, but I think the command will include the whole European theatre—and, in addition to that, the British want to have him sit with their own Joint Staff in all matters that do not pertain to purely British island affairs. More than that, I think it is only a fair thing to give George a chance in the field—and because of the nature of the job we shall still have the benefit of his strategical ability. The best way I can express it is to tell you that I want George to be the Pershing of the second World War—and he cannot be that if we keep him here. I know you will understand.” (Roosevelt to Pershing, September 20, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Roosevelt sent Marshall copies of Pershing’s letter and his reply. (Roosevelt to Marshall, September 22, 1943, FDRL/F. D. Roosevelt Papers [PSF, Departmental, War].) For more on the contemplated designation of Marshall as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, see Marshall Memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 5, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-156 [4: 180-81].
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), p. 129.