2-582 To Lieutenant General Ben Lear, October 25, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 25, 1941

To Lieutenant General Ben Lear

October 25, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Lear:

I received your letter regarding the “Merry-Go-Round” article yesterday, and this morning your P.S. note of the 24th stating that you hoped l “didn’t mind my suggestion as to possible action concerning the `Merry-Go-Round’ article.”1

In the first place I was very glad to have your view. I had seen Drum personally and his view was identical with yours. In the same mail with your letter came one from De Witt along the same line as yours. Our problem here is to avoid having columnists, radio men and the press generally involve us, with deliberate intention, in denials or assertions regarding leading, and frequently baseless statements. It is news to them to keep the pot boiling, and it is very difficult for us to determine just when to intervene and how to go about it. Anything that suggests a limitation on the freedom of the press produces an instant and general reaction with a variety of counter accusations, not necessarily relevant to the particular issue.

In this particular instance, I had a tip that something of this sort was to be published, but just when and just what I did not know. For the peace of mind of the Army Commanders I endeavored to reach them that afternoon with my message. It was thought advisable to code it because we had no assurance that such an article was going to be published. It develops that the coding process and other transmission procedure delayed the arrival of the message until late that evening at the various Army Headquarters, and the decoded message was not delivered until the next morning, which happened to be the morning of the publication of the article.

General Surles2 and I have discussed at length the proper procedure, and as a result he is endeavoring to arrange at the White House to have the President use this incident as an example of destructive press procedure, an article without foundation of fact and calculated to weaken command in the Army at a very critical moment in its development. Whether or not we succeed in doing this I cannot tell you positively at this writing, but if we do not we will take another tack either through the Secretary of War or me personally in whatever manner seems advisable.3

Incidentally, my message to the Army Commanders was released to the Service papers for publication today and at the same time turned over to the press.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Lear had written to Marshall on October 23 to thank him for his prompt response to the newspaper column and to “suggest that a matter of this sort should be quickly and certainly acted upon by the War Department. A statement from you or from the Secretary of War would go far to re-establish the confidence that such a column undermines. And since your Army Commanders cannot answer it themselves, they must look to Washington for the answer.” (Lear to Marshall, October 23, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. Brigadier General Alexander D. Surles (U.S.M.A., 1911) had been director of the War Department Bureau of Public Relations since August 1941.

3. Marshall asked Secretary Stimson to comment on the issue at his October 30 press conference. (Marshall Memorandum for the Secretary of War, October 30, 1941, ibid.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 651-652.

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