3-173 To Lieutenant General John L. De Witt, April 29, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 29, 1942

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General John L. De Witt

April 29, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Japanese threat against Alaska.

Dear De Witt:

Army and Navy information at the present time points rather conclusively to heavy Naval concentration by the Japanese in the vicinity of Truk. Vessels, particularly plane carriers, have been withdrawn from the Indian Ocean and sent towards Japan, for refitting or to join the task force assembling at Truk. We have no information indicating the next move, though it seems probable that an offensive may be launched against Port Moresby and Northern Australia, or it may be directed against island bases recently established by us to guard our line of communications into Australia.1

I mention this hostile concentration and its probable purpose because the Japanese Admiral in command has just requested information and charts from Tokio on the close-in waters along the Aleutians and as far eastward as Kodiak Island and to the north a little short of Nome. Of course, this is evidence of a contemplated threat against that region. The surprising phase of the matter to me is that this data had not already been studied and at least tentative plans completed long since. Our Naval authorities advise that in view of the present engagement of the Japanese Admiral concerned and the time required for the delivery of charts, no action in the Alaskan theater would appear to be indicated for at least a month. This, of course, is but an opinion.2

I am sending you this information by letter instead of by wire or radio transmission because we dare not jeopardize our access to Japanese Naval communication. For the same reason you must not risk divulging this fact in your communication with General Buckner in Alaska, and the source of our information must not be disclosed to your staff or to his.

As rapidly as later information becomes available, it will be communicated to you.

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. Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s carrier strike force, at sea continuously since November 1941, had returned to home waters following operations in the Indian Ocean. Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inouye’s Fourth Fleet, augmented by a carrier division, assembled at Truk and Rabaul and then departed for Tulagi and Port Moresby on April 29. (Morison, Coral Sea, Midway and Submarine Actions, pp. 8-12.)

2. The admiral referred to was probably Vice Admiral Moshiro Hosogaya, commander of the Northern Force, consisting of carriers and troop transports. Hosogaya planned an air strike to neutralize United States forces at Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, followed by landings on Adak and Kiska islands. (Fuchida and Okumiya, Midway, pp. 82-85.)

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), p. 178.

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