4-348 To General Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 13, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 13, 1944

Subject: World War II

To General Dwight D. Eisenhower

April 13, 1944 Radio No. WAR-22651 Washington, D.C.


For Eisenhower’s Eyes Only from Marshall.

I have just finished reading extensive reports on the replacement and general personnel situation in North Africa. The situation there is so unsatisfactory and unacceptable that I am requiring Devers to take prompt and drastic corrective action.1

After surveying the African developments I am convinced that the following are essential in the operation of any replacement system and in the proper control of casual personnel in your theater:

First, a single commander whose sole responsibility will be to operate the replacement system in conformity with War Department and theater policies. He must be vigorous and aggressive with sufficient rank and a qualified staff to do the job. He must be charged with the whole replacement system, must have control of all casual personnel, must direct coordinated training programs for the recovery and proper utilization of men coming out of hospitals and for the retraining of able bodied men in the communication zone to make them available for duty in the combat zone. Above all he must take constant and aggressive action to prevent the accumulation and stagnation of men in depots such as has occurred and still exists in North Africa.

Second, there must be a rigid control of loss replacements sent to the theater to prevent their diversion for other purposes.

At the personnel conference that has just ended here, Generals Abbot and Lovett speaking for Lee have expressed Lee’s vigorous opposition to the two requirements enumerated above.2 It is imperative that we take action now in your theater to prevent a recurrence of the situation that has developed in North Africa and I cannot accept a stiff necked attitude in opposition to essential change based on our experiences in the latter theater. Lee was not in North Africa, he has not had the benefit of that experience nor is he familiar with the situation that developed there.

I am so thoroughly convinced of the necessity for centralized command and control of your replacements and casual personnel and action to prevent the diversion of replacements that I feel I must insist on these two things. I want your personal reaction. Please have in mind that I am judging this matter not on the basis of reports of a few and junior staff officers making a hurried survey of conditions for which they have no personal responsibility. My reactions are based on a mass of cumulative evidence and with a fair understanding of the difficulties. Also by this time I pretty thoroughly understand the irritated resistance of staff officers to any adverse report or proposed change by people who have not borne that heat of the battle.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-22651, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. On April 13 General Marshall sent a message, almost identical to this one, to Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers. Marshall insisted that the replacement system must be made as efficient as possible; “centralized command seems to me to be an essential factor,” he wrote. “I want your personal reaction, but I am not interested in the irritated reactions of staff officers who resent any adverse report on the conduct of affairs in their district by officers, particularly junior officers who have only had a brief opportunity to look over the situation. I am judging this matter by the great weight of cumulative evidence.” (Marshall to Devers, Radio No. WAR-22650, April 13, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-22650)]. For further information, see Marshall to Devers, April 22, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-366 [4: 430-31].)

2. Marshall was probably referring to Brigadier General Oscar B. Abbott and Brigadier General Ralph B. Lovett. Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee was commander of Services of Supply for the European Theater of Operations and deputy theater commander for administration.

3. Eisenhower replied on April 17 that Marshall’s suggestion to establish a single commander to handle replacements was “one that I have been contemplating. The real difficulty is to find exactly the right man because he must be tough but understanding, and broadly experienced but still full of energy. Moreover, he must be able to get along easily with people.” He was not able to name anyone at present. “You can be sure that no objections on the part of subordinate commanders or staffs will deter me from setting up any system that appears to me to be the most efficient,” wrote Eisenhower. (The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, ed. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., et al. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970- ], 3: 1827-29.) This problem with the rear areas continued; see Marshall to Eisenhower, November 2, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-565 [4: 648-49].

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. 406-407.

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