5-150 To Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, June 4, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 4, 1945

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith

June 4, 1945 [Radio No. WAR-11448.] Washington, D.C.

Top Secret

For General Smith’s eyes only from General Marshall.

With reference to the British urgent desire to destroy everything pertaining to V weapons in the Nordhausen Caverns,1 we feel that due to the punishment already suffered by England and the dangerous proximity of the British Isles to any future use of such weapons, it will be very difficult for us to refuse agreement to the British request. On the other hand it appears to us that such destruction will certainly become known to the Russians and will definitely stir up not only hard feeling but increased suspicion regarding our good faith for the future. If we were to accede to the British proposal the onus for the destruction would be ours as Nordhausen is well within the present American zone.

Under the circumstances our position would be very much better if Nordhausen were within the British zone. From my map of present and future boundaries and showing the location of our divisions, it would appear that Nordhausen is about 60 miles south of the present British-American boundary and that to the north of Nordhausen there are four American divisions. Would it be impracticable of arrangement to change the temporary boundaries and regroup troops so that Nordhausen would lie within the British area. I am inclined to think such a procedure is impracticable but as it offers apparently the best solution for us I send this query.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. These were in the Harz Mountains about seventy miles west of Leipzig and ten miles east of the border designated at the Yalta Conference between the U.S.-U.K.-U.S.S.R. zones of occupation in Germany. Troops of the U.S. First and Ninth armies were in portions of the British and Soviet zones and had not yet pulled back.

2. Eisenhower replied on June 7 that U.S. troops were scheduled to move out of all territory north of the British-Soviet zone border on June 8, and soon thereafter they would move out of the Soviet zone. This would leave the British only ten miles west of Nordhausen, so temporary British control of the caves was “believed to be practicable.” Meanwhile, British and U.S. intelligence agencies did not wish to leave Nordhausen for another week, although the critical intelligence data and equipment had already been removed. Furthermore, destroying Nordhausen in order to keep the information from the Soviets was “futile since similar information is believed to have been uncovered through the capture of the research center at Peenemunde and of practice firing sites in eastern Europe.” (Papers of DDE, 6: 143-44.)

“We should continue intelligence work,” Marshall responded, “but expedite all that needs to be done within area and arrange that any further tests and examination of equipment be carried out outside the area possibly in this country.” He reiterated that if the British were determined to go ahead with the destruction, the area should be turned over to them. (Marshall to Eisenhower, Radio No. WAR-13701, June 8, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OPD, TS Message File (CM-OUT-13701)].) The British command (Twenty-first Army Group) was not interested in destroying the installations. (Papers of DDE, 6: 145.)

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. 209-210.


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Holding ID: 5-150

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