4-263 To Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, February 18, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 18, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers

February 18, 1944 Radio No. 99 Washington, D.C.


From Marshall for Devers’ Eyes Only.

Reference my 9348 and your reply W-2332:1 I now learn that Alexander communicated direct to [Sir Alan] Brooke his dissatisfaction with Lucas and his corps staff. This does not bear out Wilson’s expression of satisfaction in your W-2332, but it is in accord with intimations I had previously received. Our long range and therefore weakly based Washington estimates also indicated to us that the drive and leadership of your 2nd Corps and its 2 division commanders appear below stern standard required in existing situation.2

Do not mention or intimate to Wilson my reference to Alexander but let nothing stand in the way of procuring the leadership of the quality necessary. We comprehend fatigue of troops but that is normal to every hard battle and the Germans must be worse off than our men.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 17, Item 25, National Archives and Records Service, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. “We feel some concern about the situation in Italy,” Marshall notified Devers on February 9. “I want you to find out from Wilson if he is entirely satisfied with the performance of all of our Commanders. Does he desire any change? Naturally Wilson will hesitate immediately after he has taken over an Allied Command to ask for relief of American Commanders. You should make it perfectly plain to Wilson that this is from me personally to him and that no one in the theater should have any knowledge of it except Wilson and yourself.” (Marshall to Devers, Radio No. 9348, February 9, 1944, NA/RG 165 [ODD, Exec. 17, Item 25].)

Devers replied on February 10: “General Wilson always frank and open with me states he was favorably impressed with Clark, did not know the other commanders, thought Lucas was slow at first but now felt that all commanders were conducting the battle in an excellent manner. . . . In my opinion there exists no cause to relieve any commander at this time except Wilbur, two regimental commanders, the Chief of Staff and G-3 of Walker’s division which Clark assures me he has done.” (Devers to Marshall, Radio No. W-2332, February 10, 1944, ibid.) Major General Fred L. Walker commanded the Thirty-sixth Division, which was a Texas National Guard unit inducted into federal service in 1940. Brigadier General William H. Wilbur (U.S.M.A., 1912) was Walker’s assistant division commander. Wilbur returned to the United States as chief of staff of the Western Defense Command at the Dresidio of San Francisco. For information regarding the Italian operations, see note 1, Marshall Memorandum for the President, January 28, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-219 [4: 256].

2. Major General Geoffrey Keyes was commanding general of the Second Corps. The Thirty-sixth Division, commanded by Walker, attempted to cross the Rapido River, which was defended by German forces on higher ground. The Thirty-fourth Division was in reserve formation. Major General Charles W. Ryder (U.S.M.A., 1915) had been commanding general of the Thirty-fourth Infantry Division since May 1942.

3. “Lucas is tired and appears very old but he had been fighting hard,” Devers replied. “He is relieved by Truscott and will become Clark’s deputy for the time being. . . . Clark and Alexander both say Lucas could have done no more with what he had.” Devers told Marshall that American units were fighting sternly and extremely hard and that with respect to leadership, inefficient commanders were being replaced. “Regimental Commanders are the problem. We are relieving them ruthlessly. No Regimental Commander over 45 should be sent to this Theater, and none under who have not proven themselves. Nothing is standing in my way to secure stern leadership of highest order.” Devers optimistically reported that “about 500 prisoners captured today state that their units have suffered over 60% casualties.” (Devers to Marshall, Radio No. 882, February 19, 1944, NA/RG 165 [ODD, Exec. 17, Item 25].) See the following document (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-264 [4: 312-13]).

Major General Lucian K. Truscott succeeded Lucas as commander of the Sixth Corps on February 22. For Clark’s comments on Lucas’s relief, see Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 306.

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. 311-312.

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