4-004 To Lieutenant General John L. De Witt, June 8, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 8, 1943

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General John L. De Witt

June 8, 1943 Washington, D.C.


Dear De Witt:

On my return from Africa last night I found your letter of May thirty-first. While in Algiers I confirmed General McNarney’s message to you delaying your reporting to Washington to June fifteenth.1

I have read very carefully what you have to say. As to your comments on the fact that you were not notified at the time others were, that is merely unfortunate. There was no skullduggery about the matter whatsoever. You were in Alaska, busy with an operation. General Richardson was heading for Hawaii as the first step in a three-cornered move. That was all. Mr. Welch’s comments are to be deplored; they had no relation whatsoever to the decisions in the matter.2

After a hard struggle I succeeded in offsetting the Navy’s strong effort to have a joint Army-Navy War College opened at Newport under Admiral Pye, by reaching an agreement for its location in Washington with you as the head of it. Strong objection at the time, the end of April, was that you would not be available, as I stipulated that you were to continue on until the Attu operation was clearly successful. Now to meet your request with further delay would be most unfortunate.3

I am sorry not to accommodate you in this matter but the course is clear in my mind. I want you to come on here to Washington and undertake this new job.

This is a very hurried note as I have just gotten into a mass of business, a meeting with the President, one with the Joint Chiefs of Staff,4 and my departure tonight. Therefore please pardon the brevity of my reply. Understand clearly that your transfer here has nothing to do with the Japanese situation on the West Coast; that it was based purely on your knowledge of combined operations, your previous leadership of the War College and the fact that your Naval deputy, Foy, was with you at the War College.5


G. C. Marshall

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

Document Format: Typed letter signed.

1. De Witt commanded the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. Concerning his comments regarding the manner and timing of the announcement of his new assignment as commandant of the Army and Navy Staff College, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-668 [3: 703-4]. Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney was deputy chief of staff.

2. De Witt’s lengthy May 31 letter described his dismay with the timing and handling of his change of assignment. When Lieutenant General Robert C. Richardson, Jr., new commanding general of the Hawaiian Department, visited California, he had publicly mentioned it. Representative Richard J. Welch, a San Francisco Republican, had told the press of De Witt’s relief, implying that the general’s opposition to the return of Japanese Americans to the West Coast from their detention camps was the cause. (De Witt to Marshall, May 31, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)


3. Army Air Forces headquarters had suggested establishing the first truly joint service school in the United States, and by mid-March 1943 the Navy Department had endorsed the concept. The navy wanted the school to be an adjunct of the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, which was commanded by Rear Admiral William S. Pye (U.S.N.A., 1901). Marshall insisted that the facility be in or near Washington, D.C. Moreover, he did not like the proposed curriculum. He told the head of the Organization and Training Division: “It did not appeal to me because it was the old tactical stuff, whereas the most important factor in Army-Navy Joint Staff work lies in non-detailed consideration of tactical employment for air, ground and naval vessels, with emphasis on air and logistics. Probably the latter is the most important consideration of all, and the issue least understood. The air battle is debated back and forth continuously, the comparative merits of planes, manner of employment and the record of performances are subjects of continual discussion on the ground and at the headquarters; the logistical factors are rarely ever discussed and practically never understood.” (Major General Idwal H. Edwards Memorandums for the Chief of Staff, March 13, April 2, and April 9, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 352]; Marshall Memorandum for General Edwards, April 9, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Marshall’s ideas concerning location and curriculum were adopted and the Army and Navy Staff College, under the supervision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was activated in June 1943.

4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff committee was composed of its chairman, the chief of staff to the commander in chief, Admiral William D. Leahy; Marshall; Admiral Ernest J. King, chief of naval operations; and General Henry H. Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces.

5. De Witt became commandant of the college in mid-September. Commodore Edward J. Foy (U.S.N.A., 1908), who became deputy commandant, had graduated from the Army War College in 1932 and had served as naval instructor there between 1937 and 1940.

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. 6-7.

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