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To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell
April 26, 1944 Radio No. WAR-28223 Washington, D.C.
From Marshall to Stilwell for his eyes only.
It is not clear from your SH 73 and CRA 1969, April 25, 1944, whether you have consulted Slim or Mountbatten on coordinating plans for use of Lentaigne’s long-range penetration groups with those of your Ledo forces, and whether you have indicated your views on the matter to either Slim or Mountbatten.1 From here it appears that this would have been the normal procedure. Was it followed and, if so, what was the result? As I understood the existing arrangement you voluntarily subordinated yourself to Slim in assuming direct command of the Chinese Corps under Slim’s over-all command.2
We have never seen Wingate’s accepted plan nor except for your radio what changes have been made by Lentaigne.3
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-28223, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Major General W. D. A. Lentaigne had succeeded to command of the British long-range penetration groups in Burma (called Chindits) when their organizer and first commander, Major General Orde C. Wingate, had been killed in an airplane crash in Burma on March 24. (New York Times, April 1, 1944, pp. 1, 3. For previous information on Wingate’s mission, see Marshall Memorandum for the President, March 15, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-291 [4: 343-44].) Stilwell desired that the Chindits hold at Indaw and Mawlu, severing the Japanese line of communications to north Burma and protecting the right flank of his advance toward Mogaung and Myitkyina. Lentaigne and S.E.A.C. headquarters, however, believed that the Chindits’ endurance was limited to ninety days, which meant withdrawing them from the field in mid-June. Stilwell feared that if the Chindits retreated northward, their passage through Chinese lines would not only damage Chinese morale but would bring the Japanese with them. (Romanus and Sunderland, Stilwell’s Command Problems, pp. 196-99, 220-21.)
On April 25 Stilwell notified Marshall: “Unless we can hold the retiring British our chances of reaching Mogaung and holding it will slacken. . . . The British consider themselves specialists who cannot be sacrificed by engaging on a real fight. It is obvious they wish to get out and go to India.” Later that same day, Stilwell reported (CRA-1969) that the British Broadcasting Corporation had stated that Lentaigne and he were in complete agreement regarding Chindit operations, which Stilwell denied. The British had merely informed him of their plans, Stilwell said, and he refused to accept responsibility for “the consequent opening of the flank southwest of Mogaung.” (Stilwell to Marshall, Radio No. SH-73, April 25, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-IN-18200)], and Stilwell to Marshall, April 25, 1944, In Log, p. 281-B, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Message Log].)
2. Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten served as the Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command, and Stilwell served as commanding general of the U.S. forces in the China-Burma-India theater as well as acting Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command. Stilwell, directing Chinese divisions in the field, was also a corps commander and reported to Lieutenant General William J. Slim, commander of the British Fourteenth Army. For more information on the command structure, see editorial note #4-213, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [4: 248-49].
3. “You should not have been bothered with this matter,” Stilwell replied to General Marshall. “Disregard it. I should not have allowed one of my little difficulties to drop over on you. I am seeing Slim again to get it straight. My views are known by both Slim and Mountbatten. I was simply told what the orders were and accepted them. The public announcement that I was in complete accord is what peeved me.” (Stilwell to Marshall, April 27, 1944, In Log, p. 306-C, NA/RG 165 [OPD, Message Log].)
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. 436-437.