4-472 To General Douglas MacArthur, August 3, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 3, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Douglas MacArthur

August 3, 1944 Radio No. WAR-75226 Washington, D.C.


Marshall personal for MacArthur your UX 29442.

We have several names to propose but suitability in a sense might well be affected by character of service in prospect for the division.1 If aggressive combat leadership is the immediate requirement the name of Major General Robert L Spragins, now commanding the 71st Division, is proposed. He served in the Solomons in the 14th Corps and was recommended for advancement by General Patch. He was promoted to Major General September 1943 when in command of the 71st Light Division.2 On the other hand if immediate aggressive combat service is not in prospect it might be more advisable to place a man in command who we know from his past experience has displayed an ability to handle negro troops, that is, Major General Harry H Johnson now Governor of Rome Italy. He went to the Mediterranean in command of the 2nd Cavalry Division which was in effect inactivated in order to provide the necessary service troops for a pending operation. Johnson we believe is an aggressive character with the courage of his convictions; we know he can handle negro troops. He probably would be reasonably competent in combat. Krueger knows Johnson as he served under Krueger’s command as a lieutenant colonel of Cavalry, later as colonel, then a brigade commander and finally as a division commander. Which do you prefer?3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Top Secret Message File CM-OUT-75226, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. The Ninety-third Infantry Division, an African-American unit, had moved by echelon to Guadalcanal, January 11 to March 5, 1944; there its units were sent to various islands. (On the discussions concerning this deployment, see editorial note #4-301, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [4: 354-55] and Marshall to Harmon, March 18, 1944, #4-302 [4: 355-56].) In early June 1944, its headquarters moved to Stirling Island in the Treasury Group—about twenty miles south of Bougainville, where some of its units had fought. Rumors were spreading in the area alleging that the division had broken and run on Bougainville. (Ulysses Lee, The Employment of Negro Troops, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1966], pp. 500, 512, 514.) The move to the Treasury Islands had brought the division under Southwest Pacific Area control, and MacArthur had requested the names of possible new commanding generals.

2. Spragins (U.S.M.A., 1913) had been chief of staff of the Fourteenth Corps on Guadalcanal from November 1942 until July 1943. Thereafter he had been sent to Camp Carson, Colorado, to command the Seventy-first Infantry Division. In August 1944, he had been given command of the Forty-fourth Infantry Division, which was soon to sail for France. Major General Alexander M. Patch had commanded the Fourteenth Corps from January to March 1943.

3. Lieutenant General Walter Krueger was commanding general of Eighth Army, which included the Fourteenth Corps, of which the Ninety-third Division was a component. Krueger had been at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as commanding general of the Second Division (February 1939-October 1940), then Eighth Corps Area commander (October 1940-May 1941), and finally Third Army commander (May 1941-January 1943). Johnson was a lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard after December 1934. He was inducted into federal service on September 16, 1940, as a lieutenant colonel and the executive officer of the 124th Cavalry Regiment. Subsequently Johnson commanded the 112th Cavalry (September-November 1941), the Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division (November 1941-January 1942), the Fifty-sixth Cavalry Brigade (January-December 1942), and the Second Cavalry Division (Horse) (Colored), December 1942-May 1944. The Second Cavalry Division—which included the famous Ninth and Tenth Regiments—was activated in February 1943. The division began arriving in North Africa in March 1944; inactivation of its component units began in February and continued until June. (On the inactivation and the reaction in the United States to the conversion of African-American units to service duties, see Lee, Employment of Negro Troops, chap. 17.) Johnson assumed command of the Ninety-third Division in August 1944.

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. 543-544.

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