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To Lieutenant General John L. De Witt
March 17, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
Personal and Confidential
Dear De Witt:
I found your note of March fifth on my return on the fourteenth from Florida where I had spent a week—my first relaxation in about two years.1
With regard to command, I have been turning over in my mind a number of permutations and combinations and as yet have not arrived at even a tentative decision. There is, for example, and most confidentially, the possibility that I shall bring Eichelberger back from New Guinea and in that case shall possibly give him command of McNair’s Army Corps that are training in your region.2 In due time we hope to take the Army headquarters out of the Coast Defense commands and get Lieutenant Generals for the latter. The difficulty is the grade of Lieutenant General. These complications of course are involved in the difficulty of arriving at a firm decision as to changes and as to dates.
I am glad that you feel that Buckner would not be irritating to the Navy, though I must say I should think he would be because it would be difficult to forget the implications of his jocular assault on Theobald. Just how long Buckner should be held in Alaska is another question, and with that is involved the desirability of giving Corlett a chance.4
I shall write to you more in detail later on.5
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. On February 27 Marshall had written to De Witt, commanding general of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army at the Presidio of San Francisco, to ask his views as to Major General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., as a possible replacement for De Witt, who was due to retire the next January. De Witt replied, “As to Buckner replacing me, I think it the thing to do and I feel you may rest assured that his mix up with Theobald will in no way influence his action in any future command involving contact or cooperation with the Navy.” (Marshall to De Witt, February 27, 1943, and De Witt to Marshall, March 5, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger remained in New Guinea.
3. Retired General Malin Craig had been recalled to active duty in September 1941 to head the War Department’s Personnel Board which reviewed promotions. Lieutenant General Ben Lear was ordered to Washington, D.C., in April 1943 to take temporary command of the Army Ground Forces. In June he would be assigned to the Army Group for duty with the War Department’s Personnel Board.
For Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall’s transfer, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, March 6, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-544 [3: 580].
4. For information regarding the Buckner-Theobald episode, see Marshall to De Witt, September 3, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-311 [3: 339-41]. Buckner continued to command troops in Alaska until August 1944. Major General Charles H. Corlett remained commanding general of the Kiska Task Force and the Kodiak, Alaska, army base until May 1943, when he was assigned command of the Seventh Infantry Division at Kwajalein.
5. “You can rest assured that the relationship existing between the Army and Navy in Alaska,” De Witt replied, “is of the best.” Having talked with Buckner since receiving Marshall’s letter, De Witt reported: “There exists the most cordial personal relationship and association between them and, as a result, complete cooperation on the part of all. Personality will always play a controlling part in a joint association of this kind.” While there had been a clash of personalities between Theobald and Buckner, “any implication that could have continued to exist as a result of what occurred has been completely eradicated by the pleasant association of a group of men of the same aggressive attitude and temperament.” (De Witt to Marshall, April 1, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 8, Book 8].)
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. 590-592.