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To General Douglas MacArthur
February 16, 1943 Radio No. 1205 Washington, D.C.
For MacArthur’s eyes only from Marshall.
As basis for decision in case of Major General Edwin F. Harding1 request following information by air mail:
1st, A report from General Eichelberger with respect to conditions and events leading to Harding’s relief from command in combat.
2nd, Your views as to whether Harding should be entrusted with another combat unit since he had ample opportunity to weed out incompetents prior to entering combat and therefore cannot be absolved from responsibility for failure of his division to develop its maximum potentialities.
Please have this information furnished as soon as practicable in order not to delay unduly the decision in Harding’s case.2
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 10, Item 23b, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Concerning Major General Edwin Forrest Harding’s relief from command of the Thirty-second Infantry Division during the Buna campaign, see note 3, Marshall to Singer, December 7, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-444 [3: 477-78]. On February 9 MacArthur had told the chief of staff that he agreed with Eichelberger’s decision to relieve Harding, but he believed that the problem “was to some extent inherent in this National Guard Division and not directly traceable to the Division Commander. I believe Harding might well be given another chance with a new division not suffering from the inhibitions inherited by him when he assumed command of the 32nd.” McNair, however, thought that Harding had had “abundant time and opportunity to correct the major weaknesses” and recommended that Harding be returned to his permanent rank (colonel) and, if he chose not to retire, given a nontroop command. (MacArthur to Marshall, Radio No. C-387, February 9, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 10, Item 23a]; McNair Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, February 12, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 201 Harding].)
2. Eichelberger stated that “Harding seemed unable to galvanize his troops into sufficient aggressiveness to accomplish a successful attack. His desire to protect his officers caused him to excuse and explain failures rather than acknowledge the presence of such ineffectives.” He suggested that Harding be given a troop assignment in the United States; MacArthur concurred. (MacArthur to Marshall, Radio No. C-493, February 19, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 10, Item 23a].) On February 20 Marshall directed that Harding be designated commanding general of the Panama Mobile Force. In a May 30 letter to his wife, Eichelberger wrote: “Asked the Big Chief [MacArthur] what he thinks of Forrest’s job—he didn’t know whether it was aimed at him or at me but thought at both. An amazing thing when one remembers what I had to do.” (Marshall note to Sexton, [February 20, 1943], NA/RG 165 [OCS, 201 Harding]; Eichelberger, Dear Miss Em, p. 70.)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), p. 553.