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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
July 20, 1944 Radio No. WAR-68072 Washington, D.C.
Personal for Eisenhower from Marshall.
The case of Private 1st Class Lewis Beaton, ASN 32658756, Company G, 175th Infantry, 29 Division, has come to my personal attention. His sister wrote him a letter which was returned marked “deceased”. War Department Casualty Branch had no information upon which to base reply to the sister’s inquiry. Request from here to SHAEF brought reply that Beaton was killed in action on June 13th and that casualty report was forwarded on July 18th, more than a month later.
In this connection I was shown WAR 65398 from Ulio to Eisenhower and your E 38343 from Lee for Ulio. I am informed that in one week there were more than 100 cases in which casualty reports reached next of kin unofficially from ETO before the War Department was notified.1
There is not today a more vitally important feature of our public relations than the prompt and efficient handling of casualty reports. Confusion creates bitter enemies for the army and it is essential that every effort be made to eliminate such occurrences so far as is practicable. The delay in the foregoing case does not appear to be normally excusable unless it occurred in the rendering of the initial report by the man’s company.
Please have your inspector look into the whole matter of handling casualty reports and let me know that measures are being taken to improve the system.
I understand of course that there will be errors in operations of the magnitude of OVERLORD but I am positive that they can be reduced in number and not give the public the impression of carelessness.
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-68072, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. In a July 20 memorandum for the secretary of the General Staff, Captain Frank E. Werneken, Jr., reported: “Since June 14 the Casualty Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office has been flooded with inquiries from Congressmen and private persons regarding reports in letters and on letters that kin or acquaintances had been wounded or killed before the official casualty reports arrived from the theaters. Colonel [George F.] Herbert’s alarm finally made sufficient impression last week to result in the despatch of a radiogram to General Eisenhower from the Adjutant General [WAR-65398 of July 15, 1944] simply stating the facts and calling attention to regulations prohibiting the dissemination of casualty information through any channel until the official notification to the next of kin has been made by the War Department. General Eisenhower’s reply, received yesterday, reported that corrective action was in progress and that steps to expedite the official casualty reports were being taken. In Colonel Herbert’s opinion the results of these measures will not be felt for about three weeks.” (Werneken Memorandum for Colonel McCarthy, July 20, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
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), p. 531.