Arnold Papers

Notes by Lieutenant General Arnold

The first subject brought up was the question of unity of command in the Far East.

The Secretary of War outlined to the President the necessity for unity of command, calling attention to the fact that if we were to beat the Japanese who have one man commanding all elements of the Japanese military power, we must build up a base sufficiently far back to be unmolested, and we can’t do this if our elements are taken piece by piece and utilized at Singapore or Burma Road or at some other place.

The President agreed in principle 100% and cited incidents himself to indicate unity of command is essential.

He then told about his talk last night with Prime Minister Churchill where Churchill proposed that we have a Central Governing Body in Washington, who would direct the activities of the military forces in the Far East.1

General Marshall, the Secretary of War and General Arnold all stated that this would not work. Time passes too rapidly. It was called to the President’s attention that in order to get the maximum value of his air power in the Far East, the man in the area had to make decisions to use it where it would do the most good. Targets are mostly surprise airplane raids and the Air Forces have to be concentrated for that particular time. Twenty-four hours would be too late.

It was also called to the President’s attention that as it stands now the Japanese are using all their mobile forces within the interior, where they have Malaya on one side and the Philippines on the other, so that they can throw their maximum air power on one side or the other. Therefore, we must meet them at one place or the other if we are to prevent them from making a successful raid.

The President agreed with that and said that he thought he could get the British Navy to go with us.

The President also stated that Churchill was a little bit surprised when he suggested to him that the man in command might be Wavell.

[Page 110]

The President stated that in his opinion it should be an American because he believed that an American would be accepted more readily by the Australians and the Dutch than any Britisher. He suggested MacArthur. I assured the President that it would be possible to get MacArthur out of the Philippines if he desires to do it. The President then asked “who was second in command.” At this moment, however, all agreed that in all probability we should start out with Wavell with the understanding that he would be replaced later on.

General Marshall told the President that Churchill was dead set against any unity of command[,] based primarily on the old theory that the Navy is Queen of the Sea and the first arm of British national defense.

General Marshall stated that without complete unity of command out there in the Far East it would be worse than none at all; that we still have too many bosses and would never be able to apply the maximum of power where it was most needed. The President agreed with this.

That subject was finally dismissed with unanimity of opinion that if we are to be successful, unity of command must be secured.2 General Marshall wrote a proposed directive to the man who would be put in command, which was agreed to in principle by all present.3

General Marshall and General Arnold started to leave. The President called General Arnold back to tell him about a meeting with Lord Beaverbrook covering aircraft production.4 Beaverbrook told him that with a nation of 40,000,000 people, where all raw materials have to be imported, the production of aircraft is greater than that of the United States where the major part of raw materials are available and the population is three times as great. The President asked General Arnold what he thought about it. General Arnold assured the President that we could increase production of aircraft in the United States as soon as we had the will to do, and until we did have the will to do we could never reach British production. General Arnold cited, for example, the Boeing factories which were set up for 37 B–17’s, actually produced 50, and expected to reach 75 in January. The President seemed to be greatly pleased about that.

One of the thoughts brought out which was accepted by all was that we must build up as soon as possible a base in the Far East from which we can gradually work northward, step by step, meeting the Japanese on better than even terms at each step, until ultimately sooner or later we drive the Japanese back from all of their present conquests. I [Page 111] assured the President that with all the airplanes we were sending in there if they were allowed to concentrate in Australia first and then go to the Dutch East Indies we could meet them on equal terms. The President said “in equal numbers?” And I said “no, not in equal numbers, but we will have power over them.” The President then asked “when will you be able to do this?” And General Arnold replied “the movement should be completed with all planes there sometime in February, and by the first of March we should have everything ready to move.”

We finally withdrew with the understanding that we return at 4:30 this afternoon.5

  1. See the editorial note, ante, p. 108.
  2. Stimson noted in his diary for December 27 that the President asked him to tell Knox about the plan for unity of command, that he did so, and that Knox was fully in accord.
  3. The draft instruction, as slightly revised, is ABC–4 C/S USA, post, p. 273.
  4. The meeting under reference may have been the one held in the White House at 3:30 p.m. on December 26 (ante, p. 98).
  5. No record of such a meeting at 4:30 p.m. has been found.