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To General Dwight D. Eisenhower
August 1, 1944 Radio Washington, D.C.
From Marshall for Eisenhower’s and Smith’s eyes only.
Reference death of McNair: His pilot and his aide, who were present at his death, returned to Washington and not having received any instructions as to secrecy, informed at least four or five individuals of the facts. We are endeavoring to suppress the story here in line with your desire to avoid an air-ground antagonism, but this will be futile unless more care is taken on your side. It would be advisable to give correct facts at home if leak is to be anticipated.1
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Concerning McNair’s death during Operation COBRA, see Marshall to Mrs. Lesley J. McNair, July 26, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-465 [4: 534]. On July 27 the War Department released the news of McNair’s death and said that it was due to enemy fire. Eisenhower had told Marshall privately on July 26 that McNair “may have been hit by one of our own bombs that fell short.” That this was the case, however, was not definitely established until several days later. (New York Times, July 27, 1944, p. 1; The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower, ed. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., et al. [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970- ], 3: 2030.)
In his reply to Marshall’s message, Eisenhower stated: “I consider it absolutely futile and harmful to try to conceal this bitter truth. . I am certain that so far as air and ground troops in this theater are concerned, the general reaction has been that while the affair is deeply regretted, it must spur us on to perfection of technique and must not operate to create a rift between the air and ground forces.” The announcement regarding the circumstances surrounding the accident was made on August 2. To maintain the cover story, the War Department stated that McNair had been assigned to a troop command. (Papers of DDE, 4: 2051; New York Times, August 3, 1944, pp. 1, 3.)
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. 541.