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To Walter Lippmann
January 7, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Lippmann:
Replying to your note of January 5th:1 General Eisenhower has a civil affairs section as part of his Staff, headed by our Minister, Mr. Murphy. All matters concerned with the civil problems in northwest Africa center in that section. Mr. Murphy is in communication with the Department of State here in Washington whose advice and assistance are constantly required.
In all these matters it is essential that General Eisenhower have authority to pass on Mr. Murphy’s proposals when they are of a very critical nature. But even so, Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, General Smith, or until recently his Deputy Commander, General Clark, did the checking, wherever necessary, to see that the security of our military position was maintained.
You have seen that the British have sent a high ranking diplomatic representative to Algiers to keep the British Government advised on the political developments. There is on General Eisenhower’s Staff under Mr. Murphy a British civil agent from their Foreign Office, but he acts through Mr. Murphy so far as his own Government is concerned.
My reference to General Eisenhower, to which you refer, “that he must be enabled to concentrate his attention on Tunisia and the Straits”, referred to the fact that we have been, I mean the British Press and political leaders, the U.S. Press and political leaders, actively engaged in pressing a welter of considerations, some idealistic, some simply impracticable, others important, on General Eisenhower in such mass and with such force, that he was compelled time after time to explain at length and to defend his actions, regarding one of the most difficult governmental problems in the world, at a time when the vital factor was the winning of the battle.
The straightening out of conditions in North Africa will be a long, tedious, hard-fought affair, and to bring up the hundreds of complexities in an undigested mass at this particular time could only lead to an administrative mess, whoever was in charge. Also there is the fact, I state this as a fact, that the conduct of that operation, as of everything in that region, must be dominated by one man and that man is General Eisenhower.
So, we must pause for the moment in our impatient desire to accomplish miracles of readjustments and reforms and put some faith in the judgment and intelligence of Eisenhower and Murphy and their associates, who are on the ground and who are responsible for the success or failure of our effort in Africa.
If it is thought that General Eisenhower is incompetent, and not up to the problems before him, that is another matter entirely. It merely would be a question of whether or not we should relieve him. But whoever is there must have the authority that he now possesses. Exactly the same applies to Mr. Murphy, and we are not blind to the necessities of reinforcing him and all of our consulates with able men in sufficient number to meet the problems.
In all this business I think it is important to keep in mind that each American traveler in that region will come back with a variety of ideas, none of them based on personal responsibility for the results. That is the typical American way of life, and is to be expected. Also, as General Eisenhower is only too well aware, the country is full of Axis agents who must be eliminated—and this can only be done gradually as our detailed information shows them up—and these agents are inspiring distrust, confusion, and every possible reaction to the disadvantage of our purpose in North Africa. Their efforts are helped by exploiting the differences between the Free French and the Vichy French. They hope to stir up the Arabs; they are planning sabotage along our limited communications into Tunisia; they are doing everything in their power to make matters difficult, and the mass of confused and vigorous views of the interested parties, French, Arab, British, American, Semitic, Catholic, Moslem, the starving, and the Axis propagandist, provides the most fertile of soil for trouble.
My concern and responsibility is the expulsion of the Axis from North Africa. This must be done with a due regard to the future and I feel quite certain that the guidance of the Secretary of War, the Secretary of State, and the leadership of the President, are a satisfactory provision for this purpose in the present emergency.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. The New York Herald Tribune columnist praised Marshall’s January 4 afternoon off-the-record press conference. But he observed that if, as Marshall had said, it was essential to preserve Eisenhower’s position as supreme commander and to enable him to concentrate his attention on the Tunisian battle, whose business was it to concentrate on governing North Africa? “I think I am right in saying that there is considerable anxiety as to whether adequate provision has been made for dealing with this unavoidably political situation.” (Lippmann to Marshall, January 5, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall [Pentagon Office, General].)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 508-509.