5-081 To Winston Churchill, April 3, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 3, 1945

Subject: World War II

To Winston Churchill

April 3, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Top Secret


Please transmit the following to the Prime Minister in answer to his personal message to me dated 302330Z.1

There is complete agreement on the American side with your desire to continue the momentum of Admiral Mountbatten’s present offensive to effect the early capture of Rangoon.

Mountbatten has informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff that in his opinion he will be able to capture Rangoon by 1 June. Based on this statement the U.S. Chiefs of Staff informed the British Chiefs that they do not intend to remove U.S. air resources from Burma prior to the fall of Rangoon, or 1 June, whichever date is earlier. It is our purpose to leave with Mountbatten all that he requires to secure Rangoon this dry season, but reserving the right to transfer U.S. air resources to China if Mountbatten is not in fact successful in his attempt to capture Rangoon before the monsoon. In this last case his operations in Burma might drag on indefinitely and it does not seem wise, in view of the urgent needs of the China Theater, particularly in relation to prospective Pacific operations, to make a firm commitment to leave all U.S. resources in Burma for the conduct of a campaign for such an indeterminate period of time. It is for this reason that the limiting date of 1 June was mentioned by the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, following Mountbatten’s prediction. A more recent message from Mountbatten states a necessity to retain all transport aircraft for two months after the capture of Rangoon. We have not yet been given his reasons for this long retention and we are therefore not prepared at this time to agree.

Furthermore, we are awaiting Wedemeyer’s estimate on his requirements for the preparation of five selected Chinese divisions, in addition to those trained in Burma, for an offensive operation starting between 1 July and 1 August. Wedemeyer is now en route to China.2

The U.S. Chiefs of Staff intention is to permit Mountbatten’s employment of all the U.S. resources now at his disposal which are essential to the success of his current operations in Burma.

I greatly appreciate your very generous congratulations and comment on my past relationship with the armies now fighting in Germany. I feel very remote from any part in their great triumphs, but filled with confidence in their leadership and overwhelming striking power. Our greatest triumph really lies in the fact that we achieved the impossible, Allied military unity of action.3

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Churchill had sent a message to Field Marshal Wilson at the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington, D.C., for transmittal to Marshall. “Please convey orally and unofficially to General Marshall the following views which I hold.” The prime minister pointed out that three British-Indian divisions, which Mountbatten had wanted for the Burma campaign, were retained in Italy in order that five British-Canadian divisions be transferred to General Eisenhower’s front. “Although the prolongation of the German war has withheld from Mountbatten the three British-Indian Divisions on which all his hopes were built, he has succeeded far beyond our hopes. The Burma Road has been opened and Mandalay has been taken.” Churchill concluded: “I feel therefore entitled to appeal to General Marshall’s sense of what is fair and right between us, in which I have the highest confidence, that he do all in his power to let Mountbatten have the comparatively small additional support which [h]is air force requires to enable the decisive battle now raging in Burma to be won. It will be a terrible thing if Mountbatten has to try to go on to Rangoon with only four instead of six divisions and thus fail to achieve a victory in the campaign which will liberate all forces in Burma for other and closer action against the Japanese.” (Churchill to Wilson, Radio No. 2058, March 30, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) For further information regarding the transfer of resources from Burma to China, see Romanus and Sunderland, Time Runs Out in CBI, pp. 224-28, 321-25.

2. Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, China Theater commander, had been in Washington, D.C., to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and upon his return to China, sent a lengthy report to the chief of staff. En route back, he had “a series of conferences” with Admiral Mountbatten (Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia Command) and his British staff members. “They all assured me that they are doing their utmost to capture Rangoon by June 1st, although Japanese resistance might delay them. In discussing air resources they indicated that they were already short of the air lift required to support the operation,” reported Wedemeyer. “I investigated their statements and learned from key Americans in SEAC that the situation was not at all as depicted by Mountbatten. The Americans stated that my requirements were not unreasonable and that I should not feel concerned about asking for the transport aircraft after June 1st for operations envisaged in China.” (Wedemeyer to Marshall, April 13, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

3. “Pray further give him my warmest congratulations on the magnificent fighting and conduct of the American and Allied armies under General Eisenhower, and say what a joy it must be to him to see how the armies he called into being by his own genius have won immortal renown. He is the true `organizer of victory.’” (Churchill to Wilson, Radio No. 2058, March 30, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

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. 113-114.

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