Memorandum by the Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck)7

Subject: Reference my memorandum of January 188 on the subject of possible removal of personnel and records from Corregidor.

The question of possible removal of certain high persons from Corregidor has been under consideration in high quarters in the administration for sometime past.

It is understood that, for various reasons, physical effort to make this removal has thus far not been made, and that the making now of such an effort is regarded in certain quarters as being impracticable.

Under date January 11, Foreign Service Officer Coville telegraphed from Fort Mills to the Department a “political report” in the course of which Coville stated that evidences of President Quezon’s loyalty to the United States had been gratifying but that if Quezon were to come again “in touch with Japanese … the probability of a deal is still not to be ignored”. Coville said further that morale in the Islands had been notably sustained by the removal from occupied areas of Quezon and other persons who symbolize and control “government”. He said, “It is recommended” that if military developments make it impossible to hold the area where those persons now are or may be, constant effort be made to continue the policy of removal. This would be of primary importance in influencing the attitude toward the United States of the Filipinos. Coville also recommended removal from Corregidor to the United States of at least one copy of the records involved. He suggested that plane might fly by night to Corregidor from the Dutch East Indies. Transportation would require decision by Washington.

Copies of the above message, which was received on January 12, were at once sent by the Department of State to the War Department and the Navy Department.9

On January 16, Mr. Coville telegraphed from Fort Mills10 that in the absence of acknowledgment or reply to his telegram of January 11, he felt impelled “to make it explicitly plain” before there should take place “a general fiasco in the matter” that there existed there an immediate and clear need for removing papers and records and some other matters in his custody; that the armed forces on the spot were occupied in the field; that only from the Department of State could there come an initiative toward meeting the need which he pointed [Page 886] out; and that in his opinion the one practicable solution would be to send flying boats of a type named from Port Darwin.

This telegram was received by the Department of State on January 17.

Officers of this Department at once took the matter up with coordinate officers of the War Department and the Navy Department. It appeared that copies of Coville’s telegram of January 11 had not been brought in the War and Navy Departments to the attention of the highest officers; and that no recommendation had been made for action or for reply.

In this Department, officers of FE, PI and PA/H11 collaborated in consideration of the matter, communication with Army and Navy, and drafting of a telegram to Coville. The subject matter and the draft were brought to the attention of Mr. Berle.12 Mr. Berle communicated by telephone with the War Department and with the President.

On January 17 at 7:00 p.m. there went from this Department to Fort Mills a telegram to the High Commissioner and Coville.13 In this it was stated that Coville’s suggestion in telegrams of January 11 and January 16 was “endorsed”; that the question of removing records was of course secondary in importance; and that this Department is informed that unless practical considerations prevent, which might of course prove to be the case, “action will be taken”.

On the morning of Sunday, January 18, Mr. Berle informed the Secretary of State regarding the above recorded developments. A few minutes later the Secretary of State mentioned the subject to Mr. Hornbeck. Mr. Hornbeck, in the presence of Mr. Hackworth,14 gave the Secretary further details and offered comments bearing on political aspects of the question of removal or failure to remove President Quezon, General MacArthur, Mr. Sayre, and others. The Secretary called the President on the telephone and discussion of the matter ensued. It is understood that the President stated that he very much wished that the removal be effected but that the Army said that, from various angles, too great risk was involved. The Secretary of State and Mr. Hackworth and Mr. Hornbeck further discussed the problem. Question was raised whether removal might not be effected by submarine. The Secretary of State called the Chief of Naval Operations15 on the telephone and raised the question in general terms (not with special reference to submarine). It is understood that Admiral [Page 887] Stark stated that the subject had not theretofore been brought to his attention in any way. Mr. Hornbeck suggested to the Secretary that the Secretary might find it advantageous to discuss the matter with the Secretary of War,16 in as much as Colonel Stimson has special knowledge of and special interest in the Philippines and in everything that relates to or is involved in the question of American policy, prestige, influence, and operations of the United States in the Far East—as well as in all angles of our war effort.

S[tanley] K. H[ornbeck]
  1. Submitted to the Secretary of State on January 19.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Sent on January 15.
  4. Telegram not printed.
  5. Division of Par Eastern Affairs, Office of Philippine Affairs, and Adviser on Political Relations (Hornbeck), respectively.
  6. Adolf A. Berle, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Green H. Hackworth, Legal Adviser.
  9. Adm. Harold R. Stark.
  10. Henry L. Stimson.