1-554 To Major General John L. De Witt, February 6, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 6, 1939

To Major General John L. De Witt1

February 6, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear DeWitt:

I am enclosing herewith a draft of a directive for a study on Brazil, as prepared by the War Plans Division.2 They are in urgent need of two such studies, one on Brazil and one of a similar nature on Venezuela. If you can handle one after February 15th under the terms we discussed, it will be very much appreciated. If you can handle two, all the better.

I have instructed General Strong to treat this as confidential, so that no one in the General Staff generally will be aware of the fact that we have broken your precedent at the War College;3 I have told him that Major Bonham’s relations with him will be on a confidential basis, and that the work was to be promulgated from your desk.

Under these conditions, it is quite possible that this study may be undertaken without any particular knowledge of the fact that the War Plans Division has been responsible for it, except, of course, that Bonham would have to know.4

I trust this will not embarrass you, and I will greatly appreciate your assistance.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the War Plans Division, File 4115, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. De Witt had been commandant of the Army War College since July, 1937.

2. The secret, undated, unsigned directive read: “Prepare a complete strategic survey of Brazil to include a detailed consideration of the most effective military operations that the United States could undertake should it become necessary to assist that country in the maintenance of its independence and integrity in the face of internal or external operations, undertaken, fostered or assisted by non-American countries. This survey will include a thorough analysis of those political, geographical, economic and military and naval factors that have pertinent bearing upon the operations in question, and an indexed assembly of factual data in support of the conclusions drawn in this survey." (NA/RG 165 [War Plans Division, File 4115].)

3. Since Major General James W. McAndrew’s reorganization of the Army War College in the early 1920s, college policy had been to pursue its academic mission and to avoid becoming a study and planning adjunct for the War Department’s General Staff.

4. Major Francis G. Bonham (U.S.M.A., April 1917) was an instructor at the Army War College. He had graduated from the Infantry School’s Advanced Course in 1929, between 1931 and 1934, he was a tactics instructor at the Infantry School. Bonham was head of the special committee of War College students who prepared the “Special Study—Brazil” between February 17 and March 29, 1939. (Ibid.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 694-695.

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