The Secretary of the Navy (Knox) to the Secretary of State

Sir: Reference is made to Department of State letter of 1 January 19446 concerning the general matter of relief and rehabilitation supplies to be furnished to the liberated areas in Europe and the Far East and to Department of State letter, file LA, of 1 January 19447 relating to the same subject, and transmitting a copy of the Resolutions [Page 308] on Policy of the First Session of the Council of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

The policies and recommendations of the Department of State relating to civilian supplies for liberated areas set forth in the two referenced letters have been carefully considered. Particular attention has been accorded the recommendation of the Secretary of State that the United States military authorities observe the recommendations made by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration concerning relations between military authorities and the Administration.

The importance of providing relief and rehabilitation in areas liberated by the armed forces for an unavoidable period of military responsibility following liberation has long been recognized, and the War and Navy Departments have adopted policies and made plans accordingly. In order that the Navy Department’s duties and responsibilities in this matter may be fully understood, the civil affairs organization will be discussed in some detail.

In April 1943 the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy approved the designation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the War Department “as the agency to plan the handling of civil affairs in territories about to be occupied and to coordinate the activities of civilian agencies in the United States in administering civil affairs in hostile or liberated territory during the period of military occupation.” The War Department created a Civil Affairs Division and the Occupied Areas Section of the Office of Chief of Naval operations was established for liaison and Naval representation with this Division.

Policies concerning civil affairs in liberated territory were developed and include the following:

Civilian supply is a military problem during the period of military occupation.
Civil affairs are a responsibility of the Theater Commander in his role of military governor from the moment decision to enter has been made until he is relieved of his responsibility as military governor by his Commander in Chief.
All or a portion of the administration of civil affairs may be delegated to civilian agencies, but the responsibility of the Theater Commander may not be transferred.
The extent and character of planning by civilian agencies in joint operations is to be controlled and coordinated in Washington by the War Department and the beginning of operations by civilian agencies in occupied territory be regulated as to time and extent by the War Department on the recommendation of the Theater Commander.

The Combined Civil Affairs Committee which was established during July 1943 in Washington is an agency of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. United States representation on this Committee is from the [Page 309] Department of State, War Department, and Navy Department and one civilian member in addition.

Whereas usually the United States members on committees of the Combined Chiefs of Staff comprise similar committees of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, this is not so in the case of Civil Affairs, for there is no U. S. Joint Civil Affairs Committee. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with War Department and Navy Department concurrence, designated the War Department as the agency to handle civil affairs matters and thus the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department is the Joint Chiefs of Staff agency in this field.

In August 1943, because of special naval interest in certain island groups in the Pacific Ocean, the War Department and Navy Department agreed that the Navy Department assume responsibility for the handling of civil affairs and for coordinating activities of U. S. civilian agencies in these Pacific island groups.

The President directed on 10 November, 1943, that the Army undertake the planning necessary to assume the initial burden of shipping and distributing relief supplies in connection with the relief and rehabilitation of liberated areas. This directive does not change War Department and Navy Department arrangements for handling civil affairs matters in liberated areas which provides for War Department responsibility except for certain island groups in the Pacific Ocean, where small civilian populations create only minor civil affairs problems.

On 14 January, 1944, the Secretary of War invited the attention of the Secretary of the Navy to the President’s directive of 10 November 1943 concerning the responsibility of the War Department for relief in the liberated areas and the necessary implication therein that it embodied policies applicable to both Services. In reply thereto the Secretary of the Navy expressed agreement with the views of the Secretary of War that relief work in liberated areas by the War Department and Navy Department should be characterized by the closest coordination and cooperation.

To sum up, it will be seen, therefore, that the War Department has primary responsibility with respect to relief and rehabilitation during the period of military occupation in all liberated areas with the exception of certain specified islands in the Pacific area. In the latter the Navy Department is assigned primary responsibility. By mutual agreement, that Service not having primary responsibility in any particular liberated area is committed to collaborate under the guidance of the primarily responsible Service.

Subject to the foregoing, the Navy Department will be guided as appropriate by the policies of the Department of State concerning relief and rehabilitation and will comply with the Secretary of State’s [Page 310] recommendation to observe the recommendations of the U.S. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, insofar as they bear upon the relation between military authorities and that Administration.


Frank Knox
  1. See footnote 1, p. 301.
  2. See footnote 2, p. 304.