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To Lieutenant General Joseph T. McNarney1
January 31, 1945 Radio. [Valletta, Malta]
For General McNarney’s eyes only from General Marshall.
This message not to be discussed with any other officer.
1. British have just submitted proposed directive for Alexander for solidly holding front already reached and at earliest possible date to transfer three Allied divisions to SCAEF. As divisions are withdrawn from Greece to transfer two additional divisions to SCAEF. There not to be any significant transfer of Tactical Air Forces. They propose for transfer two Canadian, two U.S. and two British divisions.2
2. Questions: Would withdrawal of two American divisions have seriously adverse effect on U.S. morale? Would you prefer that four British instead of two be transferred? We may agree to transfer of total of five only.
3. What is your comment regarding nonwithdrawal of U.S. Tactical Air, as to necessities of your theater with reduced mission and divisional strength? Rush reply.3
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 5, Item 18, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. McNarney was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations and commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Mediterranean.
2. The Combined Chiefs of Staff discussed the proposed directive to Field Marshal Harold Alexander, the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, during their afternoon meeting at Montgomery House on January 31. (Foreign Relations, Conferences at Malta and Yalta, pp. 484-88.)
3. “The withdrawal of three or more divisions of any nationality would have an adverse effect on US morale as it would point up the common expression that this is a forgotten front,” replied McNarney. The transfer of all “Empire Divisions would have greater adverse effect on US morale than if some American Divisions were included” because “our national pride makes us believe we are superior in fighting efficiency and any indication that Empire Divisions are preferred for service on an active front would not set well.” Transfer of two U.S. divisions would result in “no really serious adverse effect” on morale as long as the front “remains static with battle casualties remaining low. However, if after transfer of three or more divisions from this Theater it should become necessary to launch an all out attack against the strong natural obstacles confronting Fifth Army, it will be difficult to make our soldiers see the reasons.” McNarney concluded, “On balance I personally prefer that four British Divisions instead of two be transferred as this would more evenly balance British and American controlled divisions.” He reported a “very satisfactory” existing ratio of Tactical Air and Ground that formed a “true combat team.” If their mission and divisional strength were reduced, he recommended a proportionate reduction in fighter-bomber strength. McNarney believed that keeping the medium bombers in his theater would “pay dividends in hampering the transfer of enemy divisions.” (McNarney to Marshall, Radio No. F-18335, January 31, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Exec. 5, Item 18].) The Combined Chiefs of Staff issued a directive to Alexander on February 2. (C.C.S. to War Department, Radio No. CRICKET 3A, February 2, 1945, ibid. The directive is printed in Foreign Relations, Conferences at Malta and Yalta, pp. 832-33.)
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 46-47.