The Secretary of War (Stimson) to the Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary: I have read with much interest your letter dated 1 January in which you express the views of the State Department on some of the policy questions having to do with the furnishing of civilian supplies for areas to be liberated from Axis domination. Since the State Department is the agency of the administrative branch of our Government whose function it is to determine, subject to the authority of the President, the policy of our Government in our dealings with other governments or peoples, it necessarily follows that the State Department should formulate the policy of our Government as to the furnishing of supplies to the liberated areas. Accordingly, the views which you shall express from time to time relative to providing civilian supplies will be accepted by the War Department as the official statement of policy of the administrative branch of the Government on this subject.

I believe it may be helpful for me to state at this time what I conceive to be the responsibility and duties of the War Department in connection with providing civilian supplies in liberated and enemy areas. From the time when the invasion of the Continent of Europe was first planned5 the War Department has accepted the responsibility of providing the basic essentials of relief to the populations of those areas where our forces engage in military operations. We have regarded it as absolutely necessary that our lines of supply and communications should be kept safe, and that disease, unrest or rioting behind the fighting front should not be permitted to imperil our operations. To that end it has all along been planned that our advancing armies should carry with them, in the same manner as military stores, food, fuel and medical and sanitary supplies for the liberated populations.

As you know, the President, under date of November 10, 1943, wrote me a letter extending the responsibility of the War Department very materially beyond that to which I have just referred. In that letter [Page 306] the President required the Army to assume the initial burden of shipping and distributing relief supplies to the liberated areas not only in the wake of combat operations but also in the event of a complete collapse of the Axis. He stated that the Army should undertake all necessary advance planning to enable it to carry out this task and called attention to the fact that this planning should be for a short range rather than a long range program of relief. In accordance with this letter the War Department has proceeded with the task of establishing civilian requirements for relief and rehabilitation throughout all of occupied and enemy Europe, including the Balkans, during the initial period. For planning purposes this initial period has been taken to be six months although it is recognized that the actual period may be longer or shorter. This work is being carried out in close collaboration with the Foreign Economic Administration and as plans are developed representatives of the State Department give us the benefit of their advice and guidance.

With reference to procurement responsibility, it is well to bear in mind that the War Department has been appropriated no funds, and has been accorded no congressional or executive authority, to procure civilian supplies other than those which are deemed necessary or desirable in support of military operations. Accordingly, the procuring of civilian supplies beyond those for which there is a military need must be a primary responsibility of other Governmental agencies. The procurement programs now being developed by the War Department with the aid of the Foreign Economic Administration, will include all items of every character deemed necessary during the initial period, but the advance procurement to be undertaken by the War Department will cover only food, fuel, medical and sanitary supplies, transportation equipment and special utility repair items. It is expected that the Foreign Economic Administration will make appropriate arrangements for the necessary advance procurement of all other supplies and materials included in the procurement program approved by the War Department, and the War Department will actively support the Foreign Economic Administration in obtaining allocations for these items. Moreover it is understood that the Foreign Economic Administration, in accordance with its charter and subject to whatever arrangements may be made between it and the State Department, will be free to program and procure further or additional items which it deems desirable. However it is to be recognized that regardless of the extent of advance programming by the Foreign Economic Administration, the military may have to determine in the light of shipping and transportation limitations what items can be brought into the areas in question during the period of military responsibility.

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You place emphasis in your letter on the importance of affording “economic assistance” in addition to furnishing actual relief supplies. The War Department in preparing its estimates of the initial six months’ requirements has included food, fuel, medical and sanitary supplies, clothing and shoes, transportation equipment and repair items, public utility repair items, and supplies for the rehabilitation of agriculture, but so far as concerns other “economic assistance” (such as industrial equipment, machinery, hand tools and raw materials) the schedules of the War Department up to the present time have been largely limited to those items which are designed to effect a reasonably direct reduction in the future burden of relief and rehabilitation.

In your letter you refer to the standards to be applied to the furnishing of actual relief supplies. You state that a nutritionally sound minimum diet should be assured and that a more generous diet is desirable wherever food supplies and shipping permit. The standards which you propose are unquestionably desirable. It may, however, be impossible because of limitations in shipping and supply to furnish even subsistence at these standards during the early period, much less “economic assistance.” What can be supplied may depend in large measure upon the destruction and scorching inflicted by the retiring enemy. Also I wish to emphasize that political and governmental problems which cannot be resolved by the War Department, as for example the extent to which rationing shall be imposed in this country, may be the determining factors as to the extent and character of relief to be furnished.

In conclusion let me assure you that the War Department is pressing forward full speed with the estimating of requirements and the planning of shipping and distribution of civilian supplies, and also that we are keenly aware of the importance of starting the flow of relief immediately upon the liberation of any Axis dominated area.

Sincerely yours,

Henry L. Stimson
  1. For information on this subject, see Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, in the official Army history United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1951), pp. 1–117.