4-031 To Major General Alexander M. Patch, June 29, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 29, 1943

Subject: World War II

To Major General Alexander M. Patch

June 29, 1943 Radio [Washington, D.C.]


From General Marshall for General Patch’s eye only.

Reference your pencil note to me via Colonel Clarke:1

Except for the first line “Paragraph 2 is correct in every particular” there is nothing in the statement that bears on the issue which is your alleged indiscretion. Our concern is not over who receives the credit for the enterprise but solely the fact that a secret so dangerous to our interests should be publicly discussed.

If you have any statement to make to me regarding the foregoing send it by air mail. The subject under discussion should not be mentioned except inferentially in the statement in order to avoid further compromise or disclosures.2

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, was killed April 18 on Bougainville in the northern Solomon Islands, when his plane was shot down by Army Air Forces P-38s acting upon information received from a Japanese naval code broken in 1942. The Japanese government announced his death on May 20, and there followed in the United States several press stories concerning the operation. The Japanese later changed the code that had supplied the Yamamoto information, and the Navy Department launched an investigation to determine whether rumors and press leaks had prompted the change. Investigators discovered that Major General Alexander M. Patch, who had commanded all U.S. forces on Tulagi and Guadalcanal between December 1942 and April 1943 and who had subsequently taken command of the Fourth Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington, had discussed the operation at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. (King Memorandum for General Marshall, June 21, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Marshall sent Colonel Carter W. Clarke, who was in charge of code-intercept handling in the War Department, to get Patch’s explanation of the events. Patch replied with a description of his role in the Yamamoto affair and stated that paragraph 2 of the navy’s report of the luncheon incident was correct except in its statement that Patch had taken credit for ordering the P-38 strike. (Patch to Marshall, undated, ibid.)

2. Patch’s reply, delayed by his treatment for pneumonia, stated that there was “little or no secrecy” in the South Pacific regarding the use of messages based on code-intercept information and that he “was unaware or unconscious that there was any further need for absolute secrecy regarding an enterprise which had occurred many weeks previously” and which was widely discussed in the South Pacific. Marshall sent King a copy of Patch’s replies and of the document printed here, noting: “Disciplinary action in the case of a corps commander inevitably involves publicity which would make matters worse. Without publicity the deterrent effect on others, which is desired, would be lacking. I am puzzled as to the course to follow. However, it is clearly evident that additional instructions are necessary regarding secrecy in such matters,” (Marshall Memorandum for Admiral King, July 28, 1943, ibid.)

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. 39-40.

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Holding ID: 4-031

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