4-422 To General Douglas MacArthur, June 24, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 24, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Douglas MacArthur

June 24, 1944 Radio No. WAR-55718 Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

TOPSEC for General MacArthur’s eyes only from General Marshall.

On my return from England and Italy I found your message CX-13891 of June 18th regarding further operations in the Western and Southwestern Pacific. While your views have not been formally discussed by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff pending the receipt of Nimitz’ recommendations, I think it important that you should have my comments without delay. In the first place, the query to you and Nimitz should have provided some background as to the factors leading to the further investigation of the matter by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff.1

All the information we have received from MAGIC or ULTRA indicates the steady build-up of Japanese strength in the area Mindanao, Celebes, Halmahera, Vogelkop, Palau. It is also apparent from the information that the Japanese are seriously limited in their capacity to redeploy or rearrange their troops due to limited shipping. The information available appears to indicate their expectation of an early attack on Palau as well as continued advances to the northwest by your forces. In other words further advances in this particular region will encounter greatly increased Japanese strength in most localities. There will be less opportunity to move against his weakness and to his surprise, as has been the case in your recent series of moves.

It would appear that the number of troops required for a successful operation against Formosa in early 1945 would not be required against the present garrison of Formosa. But there is a further consideration in this matter that presents a pressing problem to the Chiefs of Staff and that is the collapse of resistance in China which is already threatened by the Japanese activity of the past month. A successful culmination of the war against Japan undoubtedly will involve the use of a portion of the China coast. Therefore we cannot afford to stand by and see this region completely overrun and consolidated by the Japanese. For this reason the early capture of Formosa was studied though there was also the thought that, if the descent on Formosa could be organized with a reasonable chance of success, we would profit tremendously in the procedure provided it were done at an early date and come, therefore, more or less as a complete surprise. Incidentally, for a Formosa operation about November 1, there would be assault lift for at least six divisions, with immediate follow-up of three divisions.

Other considerations came into the matter which would have an important bearing on decisions. It may become apparent that the Japanese buildup facing the Southwest Pacific forces and the Central Pacific Forces in the vicinity of Palau offers the prospect of very heavy fighting with consequent losses and delays as well as a heavy employment of shipping. In this case the suspension of the Palau operation coupled with a target date for the substitute operation now being considered about six weeks later than the target date for Palau would permit a sustained carrier attack on the Japanese homeland of about two weeks duration prior to the launching of an operation against Formosa. This attack on the Japanese homeland could not be carried out before the Palau operation as there would not be time for the necessary fleet movements.

Involved in the immediate foregoing is also the critical factor, on which I have been insisting, that the great Pacific fleet with its thousands of planes should be maintained in practically continuous employment because of its mobility, its power to select objectives along a tremendous front and the great and rapidly increasing carrier force available.

In studying the Formosa operation it became apparent that possibly a more economical operation could be carried out against the southern tip of Japan proper, Kyushu, because the naval approach there is somewhat easier than that towards Formosa and the area available not only contains the harbor facilities and the airfields necessary, but is protected by a rough mountainous barrier over which any Japanese counter-attack can only pass under difficult conditions of transport and defense, during which all of Japan could be brought under air attack including the coverage of Tsushima Strait and practically all shipping contact with Formosa, the Philippines, and the entire Malay Peninsula.

Whether or not the Formosa or the Kyushu operation can be mounted remains a matter to be studied but neither operation in my opinion is unsound in the measure you indicate. Whether or not such operations should be carried out before a heavy blow is struck at the Japanese fleet is also of course a serious consideration. There is little doubt in my mind, however, that after a crushing blow is delivered against the Japanese fleet then we should go as close to Japan as quickly as possible in order to shorten the war, which means the reconquest of the Philippines.

With regard to the last (the reconquest of the Philippines) we must be careful not to allow our personal feeling and Philippine political considerations to override our great objective, which is the early conclusion of the war with Japan. In my view, “by-passing” is in no way synonymous with “abandonment”, On the contrary, by the defeat of Japan at the earliest practicable moment the liberation of the Philippines will be effected in the most expeditious and complete manner possible. Further, you may probably feel that the Navy is responsible for this study of the operations along the lines suggested. That is not the fact. I have been pressing for the full use of the fleet to expedite matters in the Pacific and also pressing specifically for a carrier assault on Japan.

As to you[r] expressed desire to be accorded the opportunity of personally proceeding to Washington to present fully your views, I see no difficulty about that and if the issue arises will speak to the President who I am quite certain would be agreeable to your being ordered home for the purpose.

Meanwhile we are awaiting a statement of Nimitz’ views.2

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

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. In a message dated June 12, the Joint Chiefs of Staff notified Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur that they were considering ways of accelerating operations in the Pacific and asked for their recommendations. The J.C.S. was “considering the possibilities of expediting the Pacific campaign by any or all of the following courses: (a) By advancing the target dates for operations now scheduled through operations against Formosa. (b) By-passing presently selected objectives prior to operations against Formosa. (c) Bypassing presently selected objectives and choosing new objectives, including Japan proper.” (J.C.S. to Nimitz and MacArthur, Radio No. WARX-50007, June 12, 1944, NA/ RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-50007)].)

MacArthur replied on June 18 that logistical considerations prevented him from advancing his target dates. “The proposal to bypass the Philippines and launch an attack across the Pacific directly against Formosa is unsound. . . The occupation of Luzon is essential in order to establish Air Forces and bases prior to the move on Formosa. . . . The proposal to bypass all other objectives and launch an attack directly on the mainland of Japan is in my opinion utterly unsound.” MacArthur stated that limited shipping would preclude such an endeavor, but “even with unlimited shipping I do not believe a direct assault without air support can possibly succeed.” He insisted, “It is my opinion that purely military considerations demand the reoccupation of the Philippines in order to cut the enemys communications to the South and to secure a base for our further advance. Even if this were not the case and unless military factors demanded another line of action, it would in my opinion be necessary to reoccupy the Philippines. Philippines is American Territory where our unsupported forces were destroyed by the enemy. . . We have a great national obligation to discharge. Moreover if the United States should deliberately bypass the Philippines, leaving our prisoners, nationals and loyal Filipinos in enemy hands without an effort to retrieve them at earliest moment we would incur the gravest psychological reaction.” He concluded that he had provided “a mere outline of the military factors that enter into the problem. If serious consideration is being given to the line of action indicated in paragraphs B and C of your radio, I request that I be accorded the opportunity of personally proceeding to Washington to present fully my views.” (MacArthur to Marshall, Radio No. CX-13891, June 18, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. Admiral Nimitz responded that logistical and tactical problems might cause difficulty in meeting the current target dates for operations. He believed that air bases should be established in Mindanao before advancing toward Formosa, but he thought that MacArthur’s goal of reaching Mindanao by October 25 might be too optimistic. (Smith, Approach to the Philippines, pp. 451-52.) General MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz held a conference with President Roosevelt at Pearl Harbor on July 27-28, 1944, but no strategic decisions resulted from the conference. (For further discussion, see Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1959], pp. 479-82; Robert Ross Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1963], pp. 4-8.)

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), pp. 492-495.

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