The War Department



Mark Skinner Watson


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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 50-62983

First Printed 1950-CMH Pub 1-1

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402

... to Those Who Served

Kent Roberts Greenfield, General Editor

Advisory Committee

James P. Baxter
President, Williams College  
 William T. Hutchinson
 University of Chicago
Henry S. Commager
Columbia University  
 S.L.A. Marshall
 Detroit News
Douglas S. Freeman E.
Richmond News Leader  
 Dwight Salmon
 Amherst College
Pendleton Herring
Social Science Research Council  
 Col. Thomas D. Stamps
 United States Military Academy
John D. Hicks
University of California  
 Charles H. Taylor
 Harvard University


Historical Division, SSUSA

Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, Chief

Acting Chief Historian    Stetson Conn
Chief, World War II Group    Col. Allison R. Hartman
Editor-in-Chief    Hugh Corbett
Chief Cartographer    Wsevolod Aglaimoff



In publishing the series, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, the Department of the Army has four objectives. The first is to provide the Army itself with an accurate and timely account of its varied activities in mobilizing, organizing, and employing its forces for the conduct of war-an account that will be available to the service schools and to individual members of the Armed Services who wish to extend their professional reading. The second objective is to help enlarge the thoughtful civilian's concept of national security by describing the basic problems of war and the methods of meeting these problems. The third objective is to preserve for the record a well-merited tribute to the devotion and sacrifice of those who served. The fourth objective is to stimulate further research by providing students with a guide to the mountainous accumulation of records produced by the war.

The decision to prepare a comprehensive account of military activities was made early in the war. Trained historians were assigned to the larger units of the Army and the War Department to initiate the work of research, analysis, and writing. The results of their work, supplemented by additional research in records not readily available during the war, are presented in this series. The general plan provides for subseries dealing with the War Department, the Army Air, Ground, and Service Forces, the technical services, and the theaters of operations. This division conforms to the organization of the Army during World War II and, though involving some overlapping in subject matter, has the advantage of presenting a systematic account of developments in each major field of responsibility as well as the points of view of the particular commands. The plan also includes volumes on such topics as statistics, order of battle, military training, the Women's Army Corps, and other subjects that transcend the limits of studies focused on an agency or command. The whole project is oriented toward an eventual summary and synthesis. No claim is made that it will constitute a final history. Many years will pass before the record of the war can be fully analyzed and appraised.


This, the first volume on the Office of the Chief of Staff in World War II, highlights a significant and unprecedented preparation for war. It covers a period when longheaded military leadership and direction were needed before the people had been aroused to expression of their will, a people not yet aware of the dangers that lay ahead. More specifically, it tells of the contributions to national security that were made during the prewar period by the Chief of Staff and his immediate assistants. It is a history of military famine followed by plenty. It is a history of mistakes made as well as successes accomplished and of vision, foresight, forbearance, and selflessness. It is a history of deepening confidence, shared by the President, the Congress, and the people, in the integrity and ability of a leader who, although he did not aspire to greatness, was all the greater by reason thereof. During the period here depicted the Chief of Staff built so well and so strongly that the tragedy of Pearl Harbor did not shake the confidence of the nation.

Mark Skinner Watson, the author of this volume, was an artillery officer in World War I, a war correspondent during the recent conflict, and a student of military affairs for many years. His dispatches to the Baltimore Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for International Correspondence in 1945.

Washington, D. C.
12 December 1949
Maj. Gen., U. S. A.
Chief, Historical Division



The treatment employed in the first volume of this work on the Office of the Chief of Staff requires a brief explanation. The original desire was to provide a fully sequential narrative, but this method was found to lead only to confusion. During any one week of the prewar period the Chief of Staff was likely to be concerned with any number of the numerous large ultimate responsibilities of his Office-administration, training, supply, arming, selecting, planning, guiding legislation, considering public policy, pacifying opposition, pressing for interservice or international co-ordination, and the like. To deal with all these responsibilities and all their variations on a week-to-week basis in a running narrative proved unprofitable. It was clearly better, in dealing with the prewar tumble of activities, to consider one class of responsibilities at a time, to discuss that class as far as possible in a sequential manner, and then to proceed to the next. Even this method could not be pursued with unfailing consistency. The difficulties of presenting a simple narrative of so complex a task as that which faced the successive Chiefs of Staff on the approach of a war for which the nation was pitifully and almost willfully unready will be manifest in the recital.

The narrative undertakes to portray in broad terms, rather than in detail, the extent of that unreadiness, the reasons for it, and the efforts of the Office of the Chief of Staff to correct it with maximum dispatch. Few separate aspects can be fully covered. Since there was hardly any activity of the War Department or the Army which in principle did not touch that Office, however fleetingly, a full account of the Office would in reality be something like an account of the whole Department against a background of world affairs as they affected American foreign policy. Even before Pearl Harbor it was clear that the Chief of Staff himself was in peril of being overwhelmed by detail, but the Departmental wartime reorganization that freed him of much of this detail and hence released more of his time for the major responsibilities of his Office did not take place until March 1942.

Because this volume deals with the approach to war, it deals with the period when the Chief of Staff's concerns were dispersed over the whole width of


preparations and far into their depth as well. The author's treatment of those concerns is primarily functional, for the reasons stated. The powers of the Chief of Staff and their origins are recited, likewise their limitations; his role in the implementing of the nation's foreign policy and, to a degree, in modifying that policy; his role in the planning and the acquiring of materiel for an army whose realization was known to be far in the future, and his adaptation of means to necessity; the raising and training of personnel with an eye on political hazards; the division of materiel with America's prospective Allies-dictated by national policy; the effort to prevent any of these three vast programs from totally dislodging the other two; the special problems of air autonomy; the necessity of combined planning with Britain at a time when secrecy was obligatory; the vital decision to make Germany, not Japan, the first target; the ominous rise of the threat from Japan; the belated scramble to erect adequate defenses at the nation's most vulnerable spots; the tragic failure to do so with precision.

The arrival of actual war at Pearl Harbor has not been regarded as a curtain shutting off all that preceded 7 December 1941 from all that followed. Thus in the discussion of certain items, such as the Victory Program, there is mention of post-Pearl Harbor events that wound up the program and hence logically call for mention. Contrariwise, numerous pre-Pearl Harbor events affecting General Headquarters and others affecting the overseas commands are omitted because the larger developments in those realms took place after 7 December and hence can more logically be considered in the succeeding volume. The present work, in brief, is a part of a much larger whole and a preparation for that which is to follow, precisely as the Army's planning and performing in the years of peace were justified, if at all, as preparation for a war which would one day come. In what was done, and not done, are to be found inescapable lessons for future guidance.

Examination of source material has been on an immense scale, but obviously has not been all-inclusive. Search of all existing records, catalogued and uncatalogued, of possible pertinence, has been too great a task for the author and his research assistants, despite their industry. Furthermore, certain records were not available in the time at hand, some (including those at the Hyde Park Library which required more time for classification) by reason of custodians' regulation, some because they were inexplicably missing from their proper lodging place, some because in all probability they have been permanently lost. Of records in the Army's own control which could have been of significant use for


the present volume, it is believed that literally none has been purposely withheld from the author's examination. Those which, while available enough, have not been scrutinized are the records in which the researchers believed there was a minimum chance of finding important information that was not more readily attainable elsewhere. Future years of study in mountainous piles of records will inevitably uncover useful material in a great many specialized fields which the present author has missed, but none of relevance and importance which he has consciously neglected.

Besides the material supplied by the official records in the government's many vaults and storehouses, newspaper files have on occasion been used in order (1) to disclose data not found in the government records and (2) to throw light on contemporary events which afforded perspective for the episodes under review. The latter category was frequently important, particularly in the study of policy decisions that were made with a watchful eye on the public or Congressional state of mind, which was itself a major factor in determining many policies. To think that such considerations, however distasteful, could be wisely ignored by the Army is to misunderstand the place of the Army in a democracy and the behavior of the high command in the nervous days of 1940-41.

Finally, great use has been made of the memories and private diaries of officers and civilians who were principal actors in the drama. One of the privileges of writing of events soon after their completion (helping to balance the disadvantages of premature appraisal) is that many of the actors still live and think and speak. Their memories may not be precise either as to the sequence of events or as to the motives which guided actions in a somewhat dimmed past, and allowance must be made for such uncertainties. Nevertheless these living but mortal memories are of irreplaceable value in several respects. (1) They suggest names and events which, once brought to attention, point the way to a fruitful search of hitherto unexplored records. (2) They recall circumstances which, tested by others' newly quickened memories of the same things, establish links that had been missing and lucid explanations of what had been inexplicable. (3) They provide vitality to a period of time which the records unassisted could have portrayed only with a dullness all but intolerable.

There is yet another respect in which these living sources have been of indispensable value and to which special tribute must here be paid. Most of the principal actors in the momentous events recorded have been accessible: they have been able to examine the manuscript recording what they and their con-


temporaries did, and upon it to offer frank criticism. This process has been of great value to the author. It disclosed omissions or actual errors of fact which consequently could be corrected prior to publication, and it permitted arguments against such conclusions as these well-informed critics felt to be unjustified, affording the author opportunity to re-examine the records and then to make revisions when reconsideration warranted them. In advance of final editing, manuscript of the text which follows was sent to a score and more of the principals whose deeds are recorded. With few exceptions they responded generously by reading the relevant text in full and commenting on it by letter or personal interview or both, often at great length. Useful suggestions came from certain retired officers of whom the text is critical, and this opportunity is taken to remark, with high respect for such integrity, that these stout soldiers asked no modification of the criticism directed against them.

Throughout years of work on this volume the author has received most generous aid from a great number of old friends in the active and retired lists of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Forces, and from civilian colleagues. In many instances the debt is acknowledged in footnotes, but these are far from all-inclusive. Special mention must be made of Dr. Guy A. Lee and Dr. F. Stansbury Haydon, of the Historical Division, without whose scholarship and industry and persistence and wise counsel this volume would have been less thorough and less precise. In the early days of preparation Dr. Harold D. Cater gave much appreciated assistance in painstaking and necessary research. Miss Norma Faust has worked without halt or complaint in patience-testing labors of an all-but-endless nature. For the refinements of the final editing there is a large debt to Mr. Hugh Corbett and his associates, Mr. W. Brooks Phillips and Mr. Joseph R. Friedman; for the copy editing to Mrs. Frances Fritz; for the indexing to Mr. David Jaffé; for the scrutiny of charts and statistical data to Mr. George R. Powell; for photographic selection to Lt. Col. John C. Hatlem. Mrs. Virginia Koschel and Miss Mildred Bucan skillfully accomplished the painstaking job of final typing for the printer. Throughout three years spent in preparation of this volume unfailingly generous advice has come from the Chief Historian and his fellows within the Historical Division and continuously helpful aid from librarians and archivists in the vasty deeps of the Pentagon's record vaults. To all go the grateful thanks of the author.

Washington, D. C.
12 December 1949



The Influence of Two Decades 3
The Large Influence of President Roosevelt 5
The Chief of Staff and Congress 7
Controlling Decisions on War Policy 9
Training of the Individual and the Team 13
Deterioration of the Army Between Wars 23
A More Realistic Planning Basis 26
Scant Funds Allowed for New Weapons 31
The Accepted Policy of Arming Solely for Defense 35
The Psychological Effect of Repression 36
The Quest for New Types of Weapons 38
The 1936 Paradox-a Halt in Research Expenditures 42
The Air Corps Breaks Through Earlier Restrictions 44
Protests Against Methods of Fiscal Control 47
The Chief of Staff and the Research Effort 50
The General Staff's Changing Pattern 59
Changes After World War I 62
The Chief of Staff's Powers 64
The Deputies' Powers 69
The Secretary of the General Staff 71
Duties of the Five Assistant Chiefs of Staff 72
All-Inclusiveness of the Chief of Staffs Responsibility 75
How Staff Divisions Functioned 76
The "Joint Board" of Army and Navy 79
Was the Prewar Staff Effective? 81
Army Planners' Advance from Principles of Passive Defense 87
Secretary Hull Provides the Initiative 89
A Start at Combined Planning with Britain 92
Hemisphere Defense a Factor in Rearming 94
The Role of the Joint Army and Navy Board 97
The Growing Strategic Importance of the Airplane 100
Revised Interest in Ground Force Development 101
The Joint Board Initiates the Rainbow Plans 103
The "Phony War" Gives Way to "Blitzkrieg" 104
Japan's Imperial Aims Encouraged 107
The Joint Estimate of 22 June 1940 110
Resultant Policy Conferences with Great Britain 113
The Coordination of Arms Production and Supply 115
Priority of Interest in Europe or the Far East? 117
A Firm Proposal for Anglo-American Military Coordination 119
Mr. Roosevelt's Strategy Statement of 16 January 1941 124
The October 1938 Impulse to American Rearming 131
The Army Begins Revising Its Ordnance Planning 134
The Momentous White House Meeting of 14 November 1938 136
The Army Plans a Balanced Development 139
The Effort to Accomplish Too Many Objectives 143
The Obstacles to Thorough Planning 145
April 1939 Anticipation of War 152
War Planning in August 1939 155
The September 1939 Troop Increase: Only 17,000 Men 156
Restraint in Requests for Funds 161
Isolation Sentiment Still Strong in Early 1940 164
Congressional Sentiment Begins a Marked Shift 166
General Marshall Warns of Further Needs 168
Plans for a Rapidly Increasing Army-and a Draft 171
Advance Planning for 4,000,000 Men 172
Discouraging Discovery of Production Barriers 177
Draft or Volunteers for Prewar Recruitment? 184
The Regular Army's Role in Training 187
Civilian Leadership in Draft Legislation 189
Urgent New Reasons for- Early Draft Legislation 192
Costliness of the Delay in 1940 Draft Legislation 196
The Question of How Best to Use Trained Units 197
Mid-1940 Aids to Materiel Production 201
Difficulties in Planning Amid Uncertainties 204
Training Entrusted to GHQ 206
The Obstacles to Training 208
Summer Maneuvers of 1940 209
General Marshall's Attention to Training Program 210
The Timing of Troop Inductions 212
Extension of Service Term Is Considered 214
Marshall Asks for Retention of Guard, Reserves, and Draft Troops 218
The Fierce Fight on Draft Extension 220
General Marshall's Role in the Legislative Battle 222
Attention to Soldier Morale 231
Last and Largest Maneuvers of the Prewar Period 237


Precautions Against Discriminatory Treatment of Reserve Components 244
Expediting Promotion of the Specially Deserving 247
A New Bill for Selective Promotion 249
Policy Determining Selection and Promotion 253
Efforts to Stimulate Promotion of National Guard Officers 258
A Halt in Promotions to Attain Uniformity 263
Attention to Complaints from Within the Service 264
Declaration of War Brings a New Promotion Policy 266
Controlling the Inflow of Young Officers 269
Special Attention to Important Personnel Assignments 272
Attitude of the New Chief of Staff in 1939 280
The Slow Progress Toward Air Autonomy 282
General Arnold Advises Against Haste 286
An Unsuccessful Compromise in October 1940 289
General Marshall's Move of March 1941 Toward Solution 291
The First Step: Consolidating the Air Elements 292
Command Responsibility Requires a New Arrangement 295
No Autonomy, But Great Progress Toward It 297
Sharing "Secret" Weapons with Other Nations 300
The Army Declines to Endorse Further Exports 303
Foreign Shipments Provoke a Departmental Crisis 304
German Victories of May 1940 Accentuate Disagreements 305
European Pressure for Other Weapons 309
Search for Legal Authority for Sale of "Surplus" Arms 310
The Critical Shortage in Small-Arms Ammunition 312
Need for Allocations and Accurate Scheduling 314
Britain's Fruitful Proposals for Coordination of Effort 316
A Restatement of the Plan for Army Expansion 318
Lend-Lease Fails to Solve the Problem of Satisfactory Allocations 321
The Long-Range Influence of Lend-Lease 325
A Basis Reached for Co-ordinated Supplies 327
Early Differences with the Soviet Union 329
Other Influences Calling for a Firm Statement of Objectives 333
WPD Suggests Action by Chief of Staff 335
President Roosevelt Orders a Survey 338
A Large Task Is Undertaken 342
The Method of Calculation Employed 343
The President Enlarges the Objective 346
Last-Minute Discussions with the Navy 349
A Restatement of National Policy 352
WPD Again Records Its Difference with the Navy 357
Isolationist Inquiry into the Administration's Intentions 358
Materiel and Personnel Programs Again in Conflict 360
Suggestions for Reducing the Army with Minimum Injury 363
Tentative Plan to Send Certain National Guard Units Home 365
Establishing the American Position Prior to the British Parley 370
The American-British Conversations of January 1941 374
The Agreements Reached at ABC 375
American Interpretations of the Agreement 380
Rapid Developments in the Atlantic War 382
The Start of Formal Military Co-operation of Britain and America 384
American Involvement Causes Anxiety 386
Proposals for Cooperation in the Pacific 391
American Objections to Helping Reinforce Singapore 393
Stark and Marshall Reject the Singapore Proposals 397
The Atlantic Conference, August 1941 400
U S Staff Criticisms of the British Suggestions 406
Efforts to Harmonize Views on a Bombing Policy 408
Limitations of Planning for the Philippines 412
General Grunert's Pressure for Reinforcement 417
Evidence of a Changed Attitude in 1940 419
December 1940 Brings New Action 423
General MacArthur's Large Plan for Defense 425
General MacArthur Given a New Command 434
Factors in the 1941 Change of Attitude 438
Items in the 1941 Rearming of the Philippines 440
A Hopeful View of Philippine Defenses 445
Swift Developments of November 1941 446
The Situation in Alaska 454
The Panama Situation 458
United Command Becomes an Issue 462
The Situation in Hawaii 465
The June 1940 Alert in Hawaii 468
Change in the Hawaii Command 471
The Defense Establishment in Hawaii on 7 December 1941 474
The Air Commanders' Remarkable Prevision 475
The New Defensive Screen of Atlantic Bases 477
Priority for Newfoundland 479
Early Anxiety over Bermuda Security 481
The Dwindling Importance of Trinidad 482
Early Jamaica Plan Soon Abandoned 483
Minor Bases Planned for the Bahamas, Antigua, St Lucia, and Guiana 484
Delay in Utilizing Greenland 485
The Situation in Iceland 487
In the Dutch Islands, Aruba and Curacao 491
The Fixed Defenses in Both Oceans 492
Factors Contributing to the 7 December Surprise 496
Evidence of Japan's Southeast Asia Objectives 502
The Warnings of Late November 505
Attention Is Again Diverted 509
On the Eve of Pearl Harbor 512
A Fateful Series of Mischances 518
The End of Prewar Planning 519


No      Page
1 Strength of the United States Army: 1919-1941 16
2 Percentage Distribution of U S Army Strength by Component: 1940-1941 202
3 U S Army Personnel in Philippine Islands: 30 November 1941 449
4 Modern Combat Aircraft on Hand in the Philippines: 8 and 9 December 1941 449
5 Number of U S Army Aircraft on Hand in the Hawaiian Air Force Before and After the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor: 7 and 20 December 1941 474


No      Page
1 Chief of Staff's Responsibilities: 1 December 1941 65
2 Chief of Staff's Command of the Field Forces as Exercised through GHQ: 1 December 1941 65
3 Exercise of the Chief of Staff's Command of the Army Air Forces: 1 December 1941 65
4 Exercise of the Chief of Staff's Command of Overseas Establishments, Including Departments, Defense Commands, and Bases: 1 December 1941 65


General of the Army George Catlett Marshall Frontispiece
Civilian Authority Late in the Prewar Period 19
Chiefs of Staff, 1918-30 20
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur 27
General Malin Craig 28
The Chief of Staff in World War II and His Successors 46
Four Deputy Chiefs in the Late Prewar Period 67
Secretaries of the General Staff in the Late Prewar Period 68
A Warning from the Chief of Staff 427
A Revision by the Chief of Staff 428
Clarifying the Instructions 430

All pictures in this volume are from US Army photos

page updated 30 January 2003

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