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To Henry L. Stimson
April 15, 1942 Radio No. 2412 London, England
Gen Marshall to Secretary of War.
Last night at 10 Hopkins and I met with Defense Committee of Cabinet PM presiding. Our proposal was formally accepted after oral presentation by me and by Hopkins followed by general comments by members and Chief of Staff. PM in impressive pronouncement declared a complete agreement and a deep appreciation of the purpose and time of our visit.1 He stated he would communicate the sense of their agreement and their intention of going ahead immediately and energetically with all preliminary preparations to the President today.2 Their pressing worry is over naval situation in Indian Ocean.3 Lunched with King and Queen today and dine with King tonight at 10 Downing Street. Leave later by train with PM for Salisbury Plain for demonstrations tomorrow. Hopkins remaining near here for rest at Harriman’s Place.4 We plan to leave for home Saturday morning.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 1, Item 5c, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. In an April 14 morning meeting of the War Cabinet, Marshall replied to comments made by the British Chiefs of Staff. He recognized the limiting factors of shipping and climate, reemphasized the importance of giving American troops battle experience, and reaffirmed his opposition to the global dispersion of forces. The United States would fulfill present commitments to other theaters, he promised, but he urged that additional reinforcements be limited. If not, BOLERO would become a “residuary legatee” and receive nothing. That evening, even as he approved the United States proposals, Churchill reiterated Britain’s strong desire to defend India and the Middle East. In reply, Marshall expressed doubts that sufficient materiel could be spared to support British efforts in those theaters. Likewise, although he doubted whether a 1942 offensive could be mounted, Marshall warned the British that the Allies must be ready to attempt such an emergency operation. (War Cabinet, Defense Committee, Minutes, April 14, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 1, Item 5d].)
2. Revealing contrasting priorities, Churchill’s April 15 message to Roosevelt concerned the Japanese threat in the Indian Ocean and the need for additional naval and air forces in that region. In the prime minister’s message to the president on the seventeenth, Churchill “cordially” accepted the United States plan “with one broad qualification”—that men and materiel be allocated to defend India and the Middle East. (Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, 1: 452-54, 458-59.)
3. At the Defense Committee meeting Marshall promised to place Major General Lewis H. Brereton’s Tenth Air Force (assigned to Stilwell’s command) under British command. Marshall expected that the Tenth Air Force could be employed from Ceylon northward to Bengal to meet the critical naval situation in the Indian Ocean. (War Cabinet, Defense Committee, Minutes, April–14, 1942, NA/ RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 1, Item 5d]; Marshall to McNarney, Radio No. 2401, April 14, 1942, ibid., Item 5c.)
4. Hopkins’s friend W. Averell Harriman had been in Britain since mid-March 1941 as lend-lease expediter.
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), pp. 162-163.