4-279 To General Douglas MacArthur, March 9, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 9, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Douglas MacArthur

March 9, 1944 Radio No. 5043 Washington, D.C.


From Marshall for MacArthur’s Eyes Only.

Your letter of February 27th was delivered to me by Sutherland.1 Action has not yet been taken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Admiral Nimitz’ recommendation that Manus Island be assigned to him for development and control. I am in agreement with the reasons you advance against such a proposal. You should retain command of all base facilities in your area unless you yourself see fit to turn over control of them.

It now appears that probably large portions of the Pacific Fleet will be operating out of Manus for considerable periods of time. The freedom of action of the fleet must not be restricted by limitations of facilities, and while the base should remain under your command, there should be a clear understanding that facilities for fleet operation and basing will be developed as desired by the fleet and that the fleet will have unrestricted use of them.

The foregoing applies also to other possible bases in the Bismarcks, which are in the Southwest Pacific Area. Other than Nimitz’ proposal as to Manus Island I have heard nothing of any other proposal or intent regarding boundary changes. Furthermore, so far as I know, there has never been any idea that control of the campaign for recapture of the Philippines should be taken from you. However I do not feel that we should be unnecessarily restricted by boundaries on a map. If a real military reason exists for changes therein, these changes should be made, though I do not see them in prospect. Furthermore I cannot see that a change in boundary of your area, in itself, could be regarded as a serious reflection upon your capacity to command. This would be particularly true when the area in question was well secured in our hands and the offensive had passed beyond it.

Your professional integrity and personal honor are in no way questioned or, so far as I can see, involved. However, if you so desire I will arrange for you to see the Secretary of War and the President at any time on this or any other matter.2

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 17, Item 5, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. On February 27 General MacArthur had protested a recommendation made by Admiral Nimitz in late February that Admiral Halsey develop and control the naval base on Manus Island, with Halsey under Nimitz’s direction. Nimitz stated that “economy in the use of the resources available requires that back areas in the South Pacific be reduced ruthlessly as bases in the forward areas are developed. This coordinated reduction can be done most effectively if COMSODAC is given the responsibility under the direction of CINCDOA.” (Nimitz to War Department, February 24, 1944, In Log, pp. 260-61, NA/RG 165 [OPD Message Log].) MacArthur had written that he was “in complete disagreement with the recommendation of Admiral Nimitz regarding the Bismarck Archipelago. He thus has proposed to project his own command into the Southwest Pacific by the artificiality of advancing South Pacific Forces into the area. . . . South Pacific mobile forces have actually been operating under my strategic direction and in my area for the last ten months, and in the next offensive will operate under my command.” He insisted that Manus Island was within the Southwest Pacific Area and that it was soon to be recovered by Southwest Pacific forces. MacArthur warned that any attempt to reduce his control would be a serious reflection on his capacity to command, would be psychologically demoralizing, and would “cause a reaction, not only with the soldiery but in public opinion, that would be extremely serious.” He insisted that his professional integrity and personal honor were involved; and if his command was to be changed he demanded that he be given “early opportunity personally to present the case to the Secretary of War and to the President before finally determining my own personal action in the matter.” (MacArthur to Marshall, February 27, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

In early March Admiral Halsey met with MacArthur to discuss work on the naval base at Manus. “MacArthur lumped me, Nimitz, King, and the whole Navy in a vicious conspiracy to pare away his authority,” commented Halsey. (William F. Halsey and J. Bryan III, Admiral Halsey’s Story [New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1947], pp. 188-90.)

2. “I appreciate greatly your prompt and full reply,” MacArthur responded. “It has given me a feeling of reassurance.” (MacArthur to Marshall, Radio No. C-2661, March 10, 1944, NA/RG 165 [ODD, Exec. 17, Item 5].) For the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s directive to MacArthur and Nimitz, March 12, 1944, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-286 [4: 336-38].

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. 329-331.

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