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To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell
March 17, 1944 Radio Nos. 4764 and 7088 Washington, D.C.
Marshall to Stilwell EYES ONLY.
The US Chiefs of Staff have concurred in the temporary diversion of transport aircraft for Mountbatten’s use in support of British Fourth Corps. Mountbatten asked for blanket authority to make diversions of this nature in the future as emergencies arise without reference to the Combined Chiefs of Staff. As the primary purpose of the transport aircraft on the air ferry route is for the support of activities in China, the US Chiefs of Staff do not feel that blanket authority for diverting these aircraft should be given Mountbatten. With you on Ledo Road or at Chungking and a critical situation developing on Imphal Front, or maybe later on some other front, would it not be advisable for you to delegate authority in this matter to Sultan, permitting him to recommend without delay direct to US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It required ten days to settle the last question regarding diversion of this tonnage.1
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Top Secret Message File CM-OUT-7292, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. The character of operations in the Southeast Asia theater made large air transport aircraft a high priority for moving troops by air and for supplying large formations of Allied troops that were temporarily cut off by the Japanese or where terrain made conventional supply methods difficult. Allied long-range penetration forces had been supplied by air since November 1943. Aircraft for such missions could be acquired from the Troop Carrier Command, a part of Admiral Mountbatten’s forces in Southeast Asia, or they could be diverted from ferrying supplies over the Hump into China. Aircraft from the latter source belonged to the Air Transport Command and were subject to direction from the American high command in Washington. Mountbatten had borrowed large transport aircraft from the Air Transport Command in January 1944 during British operations along the Arakan coast, arguing that operational necessity forced a diversion of these aircraft from their general mission of ferrying supplies to china. The Joint Chiefs of Staff was reluctant to permit such diversion of air transport resources any longer than was required by the immediate military necessity. The Japanese offensive on the Imphal Plain in March 1944 prompted Mountbatten again to ask for the diversion of large air transport aircraft to assist his operations. Admiral Mountbatten asked for complete authority to make such diversions in the future whenever operational needs dictated, but the Americans were unwilling to grant such general authority. To meet the present emergency in Imphal, the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized Mountbatten temporarily to divert aircraft from the Air Transport Command. (Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare. 1943-1944, pp. 447-49; Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, pp. 98-100; Supplementary Minutes of the Combined Chief of Staff Meeting, March 17, 1944, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, CCS 334, CCS Minutes].) For further discussion of Major General Daniel I. Sultan’s authority, see Marshall to Stilwell, March 24, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-319 [4: 372-73].
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), p. 354.