5-296 To Winston S. Churchill, December 13, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 13, 1945

Subject: Postwar

To Winston S. Churchill

December 13, 1945 Radio No. WAR-88381. Washington, D.C.


From General Marshall to Mr. Winant.

Please transmit the following to Mr. Churchill expressing my regret that the pressure of congressional hearings together with arrangements and policies regarding China has made it impossible for me to reply to the Prime Minister’s request at an earlier moment.1 “I testified in connection with the security phase of the use of the telephone to Hawaii and the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone in the following words:

`I say again I am not at all clear as to what my reasons were regarding the telephone because four years later it is very difficult for me to tell what went on in my mind at the time. I will say this, though, it was in my mind regarding the use of transocean telephone.

`Mr. Roosevelt, the President, had been in the frequent habit of talking to the Prime Minister by telephone. He also used to talk to Mr. Bullitt when he was Ambassador in Paris2 and my recollection is that that (meaning the talks with Bullitt) was intercepted by the Germans.

`I had a test made of induction from telephone conversations on the Atlantic cable near Gardner’s Island.3 I found that that could be picked up by induction. I talked to the President not once but several times. I also later, after we were in the war, talked with the Prime Minister in an endeavor to have them be more careful in the use of the scrambler.’

I trust my statement will not prove of any embarrassment to you.”

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. Asked by Senator Homer Ferguson during testimony on December 8 why Marshall did not warn the Hawaiian Department commander by telephone on the morning of December 7, 1941, Marshall explained that the scrambler telephone was not a secure enough medium over which to discuss information acquired from cryptanalysis. (Pearl Harbor Committee, Hearings, p. 1213.) The New York Times and other news media made this a top story the following day. On December 10, Winston Churchill sent the following message to Marshall through U.S. ambassador in Britain John G. Winant: “I should be very much obliged to you if you would let me know exactly what it is you have said on this subject. Of course the late President and I were both aware from the beginning even before Argentina [i.e., the ARGENTIA conference of August 9-12, 1941] that anything we said on the open cable might be listened into by the enemy. For this reason we always spoke in cryptic terms and about matters which could be of no use to the enemy, and we never on any occasion referred directly or indirectly to military matters on these open lines. It will probably be necessary for me to make a statement on this subject in the future, and I should be very glad to know how the matter stands.” (Churchill to Marshall, Radio No. 3001, December 10, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. William C. Bullitt had been ambassador to France from August 1936 until July 1940.

3. Gardners Island is at the eastern end of Long Island, New York.

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 388-389.

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Holding ID: 5-296

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