2-364 To Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, February 7, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 7, 1941

To Lieutenant General Walter C. Short1

February 7, 1941 Washington, D.C.


My dear Short:

I believe you take over command today, however the reason for this letter is a conversation I had yesterday with Admiral Stark.

He spoke of Admiral Kimmel, the new Fleet Commander,2 regarding his personal characteristics. He said Kimmel was very direct, even brusque and undiplomatic in his approach to problems; that he was at heart a very kindly man, though he appeared rather rough in his methods of doing business. I gathered that he is entirely responsive to plain speaking on the part of the other fellow if there is frankness and logic in the presentation. Stark went so far as to say that he had, in the past personally objected to Kimmel’s manners in dealing with officers, but that Kimmel was outstanding in his qualifications for command, and that this was the opinion of the entire Navy.

I give you this as it may be helpful in your personal dealings with Admiral Kimmel, not that I anticipate that you would be supersensitive, but rather that you would have a full understanding of the man with whom you are to deal.

Admiral Stark said that Kimmel had written him at length about the deficiencies of Army materiel for the protection of Pearl Harbor. He referred specifically to planes and to antiaircraft guns. Of course the facts are as he represents them regarding planes, and to a less serious extent regarding caliber .50 machine guns. The 3-inch antiaircraft gun is on a better basis. What Kimmel does not realize is that we are tragically lacking in this materiel throughout the Army, and that Hawaii is on a far better basis than any other command in the Army.

The fullest protection for the Fleet is the rather than a major consideration for us, there can be little question about that; but the Navy itself makes demands on us for commands other than Hawaii, which make it difficult for us to meet the requirements of Hawaii. For example, as I told Stark yesterday,—he had been pressing me heavily to get some modern antiaircraft guns in the Philippines for the protection of Cavite,3 where they have collected a number of submarines as well as the vessels of the Asiatic Fleet—at the present time we have no antiaircraft guns for the protection of Cavite, and very little for Corregidor. By unobtrusively withdrawing 3-inch guns from regiments now in the field in active training, we had obtained 20 3-inch guns for immediate shipment to the Philippines. However before the shipment had been gotten under way the Navy requested 18 of these guns for Marine battalions to be specially equipped for the defense of islands in the Pacific. So I am left with two guns for the Philippines. This has happened time and again, and until quantity production gets well under way, we are in a most difficult situation in these matters.4

I have not mentioned Panama, but the Naval requirements of defense there are of immense importance, and we have not been able to provide all the guns that are necessary, nor to set up the Air units with modern equipment. However, in this instance, we can fly the latest equipment to Panama in one day, some of it in four hours.

You should make clear to Admiral Kimmel that we are doing everything that is humanly possible to build up the Army defenses of the Naval overseas installations, but we cannot perform a miracle. I arranged yesterday to ship 31 of the P36 planes to Hawaii by aircraft carrier from San Diego in about ten days. This will give you 50 of this type of plane, deficient in speed compared to the Japanese carrier based pursuit, and deficient in armament. But at least it gives you 50 of the same type. I also arranged with Admiral Stark to ship 50 P40-B pursuit planes about March 15th by Naval carrier from San Diego. These planes just came into production this week and should be on a quantity basis of about 8 a day by the first week in March.

The Japanese carrier based pursuit plane, which has recently appeared in China, according to our information has a speed of 322 miles an hour, a very rapid ability to climb and mounts two 20mm and two .30 cal. guns.5 It has leak-proof tanks and armor. Our P40-B will have a speed of 360 miles an hour with two .50 cal. machine guns and four of .30 caliber. It will lack the rapidity to climb of the Japanese plane. It will have leak-proof tanks and armor.

We have an earlier model of this plane, the P40, delivered between August and October, but the Chief of the Air Corps opposes sending it to Hawaii because of some engine defect which makes it unsafe for training flights over water. Up to the present time we have not had available a modern medium bomber or a light bomb[er]. This month the medium bomber will go into production, if not quantity production. This plane has a range without bombs of 3,000 miles, carries 2,000 pounds and has a speed of 320 miles an hour—a tremendous improvement on the old B18 which you now have.6 It can operate with bombs 640 miles to sea, with a safe reserve against the return trip. We plan to give you first priority on these planes. I am looking into the question of providing at least a squadron of Flying Fortress planes for Hawaii.

I am seeing what can be done to augment the .50 caliber machine gun set-up, but I have no hopes for the next few months. The Navy approached us regarding barrage balloons. We have three now under test, and 80 in process of manufacture, and 3,000 to be procured if the President will release our estimates. However, this provides nothing against the next few months. I am looking into the question of possibly obtaining some from England, but they are asking us and not giving us these days. The first test of the first forty deliveries in June will probably be made in Hawaii.

You, of course, understand the pressures on the Department for the limited materiel we have, for Alaska, for Panama, and, most confidentially, for the possible occupation of the Azores, not to mention the new leased bases. However, as I have already said, we are keeping clearly in mind that our first concern is to protect the Fleet.

My impression of the Hawaiian problem has been that if no serious harm is done us during the first six hours of known hostilities, thereafter the existing defenses would discourage an enemy against the hazard of an attack. The risk of sabotage and the risk involved in a surprise raid by Air and by submarine, constitute the real perils of the situation. Frankly, I do not see any landing threat in the Hawaiian Islands so long as we have air superiority.

Please keep clearly in mind in all of your negotiations that our mission is to protect the base and the Naval concentration, and that purpose should be made clearly apparent to Admiral Kimmel. I accentuate this because I found yesterday, for example, in a matter of tremendous importance, that old Army and Navy feuds, engendered from fights over appropriations, with the usual fallacious arguments on both sides, still persist in confusing issues of national defense. We must be completely impersonal in these matters, at least so far as our own nerves and irritations are concerned.7 Fortunately, and happily I might say, Stark and I are on the most intimate personal basis, and that relationship has enabled us to avoid many serious difficulties.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the War Plans Division (WPD), 4449-1, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Short was promoted to lieutenant general and made commanding general of the Hawaiian Department on February 7, 1941.

2. Admiral Husband E. Kimmel (U.S.N.A., 1904) had been commander in chief of the United States Fleet since February 1, 1941.

3. Cavite Naval Base was located on the headland of Sangley Point in Manila Bay.

4. On August 4, 1939, the president told the War Department that Marine Corps troops were to be removed from Hawaii, Panama, and “all like places—the Army to take them over.” The marines were henceforth to be used only as emergency occupation forces in places such as Bermuda, Trinidad, and Wake Island. Since they were to be the initial expeditionary force, the army was required to give them top priority in heavy artillery and certain other types of materiel. (Marshall to Strong, August 5, 1939, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 21081 (filed before 15758-42)].)

5. Marshall was probably referring to the Mitsubishi Naval Type 0, a single-seat fighter monoplane.

6. This medium bomber was probably the North American B-25 “Mitchell.”

7. Short replied that he had met with both Admiral Kimmel and Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch, commandant of the Fourteenth Naval District, Pearl Harbor. They were cooperating with Short completely in the determination of defense measures for Hawaii. Next to army-navy cooperation, Short ranked dispersion and protection of aircraft, improvement of antiaircraft defense, improvement of harbor defense artillery, and the addition of searchlights as his top priorities.

Kimmel and Short established a series of army-navy joint committees to study Hawaiian defense, especially the employment of air power. No provisions had been made for the dispersion of aircraft on existing fields, Short noted. Emergency fields on islands other than Oahu had been designated, however, Short argued, for pursuit aircraft this was useless since Oahu would then be outside their operating radius. Bombers could use the other islands as bases, but they had to be dispersed as well. (Short to Marshall, February 19, 1941, CGMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected (Hawaii, Navy Court, Tab 8)].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 411-414,

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