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To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell
January 5, 1943 Radio No. 1955 Washington, D.C.
For General Stilwell’s eyes only from General Marshall.
Your number 2 of January 2 reference Bissell’s and Chennault’s promotions received.1
The problem here has been to maintain your position and prestige against a continuous pressure from practically every individual concerned with the Chinese problem or who has traveled in China to elevate Chennault and to accept his conception and leadership of Air Operations in China. This goes to the highest places and has been furthered by press releases on Cooper and his probable comments to numerous parties.2 While such factors were not included in the course at Leavenworth they are pertinent to the conduct of operations and particularly so in your theater.
Therefore I question the advisability of promoting Bissell 3 months in advance of Chennault.
You have gained almost all of your objectives in dealing with the Generalissimo, much to everyone’s surprise. Would it not therefore be a wise move in the light of your successes to give Chennault his chance?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-1521], National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Typed radio message.
1. Stilwell had stated that Brigadier General Clayton L. Bissell, head of the Tenth Air Force, should be promoted to major general at once. “I also believe Chennault has been sufficiently rewarded for the present. If he is to have further promotion I recommend strongly a delay of two to three months.” (Stilwell to Marshall, Radio No. 2, January 2, 1943, Sunderland and Romanus, Stilwell’s Personal File, 1: 429.)
2. Colonel Merian C. Cooper had been Chennault’s chief of staff prior to being relieved and returned to the United States in December 1942. In his memoirs, Chennault called him “a character straight from the Hollywood movies he once directed . . . a brilliant tactician and a prodigious worker.” He was also openly contemptuous of Stilwell and Bissell. Cooper was quoted as stating to the press that Chennault was “the outstanding genius of aerial warfare developed in this war.” (Chennault, Way of a Fighter, pp. 181-82; New York Times, December 27, 1942, p. 24.)
3. Bissell was promoted to major general on March 13, 1943; Chennault was promoted the following day.
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), pp. 503-504.