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To Thomas E. Dewey
September 25, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Governor,
I am writing you without the knowledge of any other person except Admiral King (who concurs) because we are approaching a grave dilemma in the political reactions of Congress regarding Pearl Harbor.
What I have to tell you below is of such a highly secret nature that I feel compelled to ask you either to accept it on the basis of your not communicating its contents to any other person and returning this letter or not reading any further and returning the letter to the bearer. . . .2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. At the upper left corner of the letter was “For Mr. Dewey’s Eyes Only” in capitals and doubly underlined.
2. The italicized words were underscored on the typewriter in the original version. A description of the events surrounding the delivery of this document and the revised version dated September 27 is given in “Statement for record of participation of Brig. Gen. Carter W. Clarke, GSC in the transmittal of letters from Gen. George C. Marshall to Gov. Thomas E. Dewey the latter part of September 1944,” NA/RG 457 (Studies on Cryptology, SRH-043). Clarke had been directed to wear civilian clothing, to deliver the letter to Dewey in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 26, and to give the letter to the governor only if he and Clarke were the only persons present. Clarke managed to arrange this.
After reading the two paragraphs printed here, Dewey stopped and put the letter down. He told Clarke that he did not want Marshall’s top secret letter to seal his lips regarding what he already knew or might soon learn about the Pearl Harbor attack. Furthermore, he did not believe that Marshall and King were acting alone or that Marshall would approach an opposition candidate and make the proposition that Dewey suspected was contained in the letter. According to Clarke, Dewey said: “Marshall does not do things like that. I am confident that Franklin Roosevelt is behind this whole thing.”
Upon beginning to reread the first two paragraphs, Dewey saw the word “cryptograph” in the fifth paragraph. He told Clarke: “Now if this letter merely tells me that we were reading certain Japanese codes before Pearl Harbor and that at least two of them are still in current use, there is no point in my reading the letter because I already know that.” Besides, “Franklin Roosevelt knows all about it. He knew what was happening before Pearl Harbor and instead of being reelected he ought to be impeached.” Dewey returned the letter to Clarke and said that he would be back in Albany, New York, in two days and would be “glad to receive you or Gen. Marshall or anyone Gen. Marshall cares to send to discuss at length this cryptographic business or the whole Pearl Harbor mess.”
Clarke returned to Washington that evening and reported to Marshall the following morning, September 27. Marshall revised his letter, and Clarke flew to Albany on the morning of September 28. The revised letter, including the portion omitted here, is printed on pp. 607-11 (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-530 [4: 607-11].)
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), p. 605.