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To General Douglas MacArthur,
Lieutenant General Millard F. Harmon, Jr.
September 1, 1943 Radio Nos. 7483 and 7513 Washington, D.C.
Eyes Alone MacArthur and Harmon, Harmon pass to Halsey1 from Marshall.
The urgent necessity for getting operations for the reconquest of Burma mounted in the most effective manner is of great importance and concern to the President and the Chiefs of Staff. At Quebec an agreement was reached that there would be American ground participation though on a very limited scale and concentrated entirely on reinforcing a special operation by Brigadier Wingate of the British Army on an enlarged and greatly improved scale over his 3 column penetration deep into Burma last spring.2 Preparations have now reached a point where we must dispatch to India at the earliest possible moment an American contingent of the highest caliber.
With Mountbatten’s enthusiasm and drive we are confident that the return on the investment will operate to the advantage of your operations in the South and Southwest Pacific and the small down payment of American forces involved is therefore fully justified. Success will depend upon building this force around a nucleus of proven troops who have fought against the Japs in the jungle in your theaters.
It has accordingly been decided to concentrate 3,000 American troops in India for organization into 3 independent battalions to be intensively trained there and to operate in Burma early in 1944 with British contingents of the same sort. A column will make a deep penetration in front of the 3 general advances, 2 composed of Chinese troops from Yunnan and Ledo, and 1 of British troops south through Imphal. The aggressive action of the American columns is depended upon to insure a determined advance in their rear by the Chinese contingents which Stilwell has developed. The troops in these columns will be engaged in operations of a most strenuous nature and will be far in advance of friendly supporting troops and must live off the country except as supplied by air for which very special provisions are being made and assembled. 2,000 of the 3,000 men required are being selected as volunteers from the Caribbean and continental U.S. who have had jungle training. It is desired to obtain 700 from the South and 300 from the Southwest Pacific.
The men should be volunteers of physical ruggedness and combat experience in jungle fighting.
Replacements for these troops will be dispatched on the shipping which is being prepared to pick up the detachments herein referred to. This shipping will leave the west coast October 1st.
Details are being prepared by the General Staff as a matter of urgency and will be forwarded to you shortly.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-384, 385, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., was commander of the South Pacific Area and thus Harmon’s theater commander.
2. Orde C. Wingate had become a British national hero as a result of his role in creating and leading a specially trained thirty-two-hundred-man long-range penetration group (popularly called Chindits after a Burmese symbol on their shoulder patch) into north Burma between February and June 1943. After this mission he strongly advocated raising an even larger force for further attacks. He had presented his case to the Combined Chiefs of Staff meeting at the Quebec Conference on August 17. (S. Woodburn Kirby, The War Against Japan, volume 2, India’s Most Dangerous Hour, a volume in the History of the Second World War [London: HMSO, 1958], pp. 244, 311, 327-28; Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: Conferences at Washington and Quebec, 1943 [Washington: GPO, 1970], p. 879.)
3. This urgency was occasioned by the weather. Burma’s dry season occurs between November and May. Between June and October, monsoon rains virtually precluded significant troop movements and air-ground coordination.
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. 110-112.