Chapter XIX:
Means and Ends: The March 1943 Directive

When two people ride the same horse, one must sit behind.


Hardly had the U.S. Chiefs of Staff returned to Washington than the united front they had presented to the British at Casablanca fell apart. The family quarrels they had put aside for the visit they resumed in the privacy of their own chambers, picking up the dispute over command and strategy where they had left it some weeks before. But now the problem was complicated by agreements made with the British at Casablanca and by new and unexpected demands from the Pacific. Spurred on by the necessity of maintaining the offensive against Japan, the Joint Chiefs finally reached agreement on the course to follow, but it fell far short of the goal set at Casablanca and was, like almost all other arrangements made for the Pacific, a compromise that neither side accepted as final.

Theater Plans

Before leaving for Casablanca, Marshall and King had agreed to suspend their discussion of command for Tasks Two and Three pending the receipt of detailed plans from MacArthur. These plans, they had told him, were to be coordinated with Admirals Nimitz and Halsey, by personal conference if possible, or, failing that, by staff conversations. MacArthur's plan, when it came, proved to be virtually a restatement of earlier proposals and a request for many more men and planes. Nor had he discussed these proposals with Nimitz and Halsey, as the Joint Chiefs had requested, but instead had sent copies to each. On the basis of their replies -- which he had not yet received -- he and the two naval commanders, he explained, would make their decision. Staff officers could then arrange the details. "Meanwhile," he told Marshall, "I am continuing with the development of detailed plans."1

MacArthur's proposals hardly provided the basis for decision in Washington. To Admiral King they seemed to constitute more a concept than a plan and gave no concrete idea of what MacArthur intended to do, "how he expects to do it or what the command set-up is to be." If the Joint Chiefs could not get this information King recommended they ask Nimitz and Halsey to furnish their own plans for the Solomons. The Joint Chiefs themselves could then coordinate


these plans with those MacArthur made for New Guinea.2

Admiral King's dissatisfaction with the lack of coordination in the Pacific was further increased when MacArthur failed to respond to a request from the South Pacific for air reinforcements early in February. Mistaking increased air activity and a concentration of Japanese vessels formed to evacuate troops from Guadalcanal as the prelude to another attack, Admiral Halsey asked MacArthur for the loan of some heavy bombers to meet the emergency, while initiating action from Washington toward the same end. MacArthur, concerned with the security of his own area, refused the request but promised to give what aid he could by support missions if Halsey would give him more information. "I am in complete ignorance of what you contemplate," he told Admiral Halsey, adding that until he had such knowledge he could not justify the diversion of his air forces or the dislocation of his plans. "Moreover," he concluded, "effective support can only be given if sufficient information is available to me to permit coordination."3 Despite intercession from Washington, Halsey did not receive any bombers from MacArthur and the matter was dropped when the Japanese threat failed to materialize.4

Although this incident seemed to confirm the worst fears of those in Washington who were concerned over the lack of coordination in the Pacific, it hardly disturbed the cordial relations between MacArthur and Halsey. Both had by now virtually completed their plans and were ready to arrange the final details. Halsey's next operation, the occupation of the Russell Islands between Guadalcanal and New Georgia, was scheduled for 21 February, and the forces assigned for the invasion were already assembling at Guadalcanal. Authorized by Admiral Nimitz on 29 January, the Russells operation was really an extension of Task One and designed to gain an advance base for later operations against New Georgia. The 43d Division, with attached Marine troops, would make the landing and construction troops would follow closely to put in the air and naval facilities. No support was requested from General MacArthur and none was needed, for the Japanese had abandoned the island and the operation was concluded without bloodshed.5

Even before the seizure of the Russells, Halsey had apparently decided upon New Georgia as his next objective. Nimitz had suggested earlier the possibility of bypassing New Georgia and going directly to Bougainville, but this was clearly out of the question now. Japanese preparations to defend New Georgia and the construction of airfields there, fully reported by the coast watchers, and by air reconnaissance, made its capture an essential step in the advance on Rabaul. On this assumption Halsey's staff had drawn up plans for the seizure of New Georgia, with the tentative target date of 1 April.

It was these plans that Rear Adm. Theodore S. Wilkinson, Halsey's deputy, carried to Brisbane on 11 February.


Rather than reply to MacArthur's proposals by radio, the South Pacific commander had chosen this means to coordinate his plans with those of the Southwest Pacific. Agreement was reached almost immediately, for that same day MacArthur reported to General Marshall that coordination had been arranged and that he and Halsey, according to Wilkinson, were in complete agreement on the execution of Tasks Two and Three.6

By this time MacArthur had virtually completed the detailed plan so persistently requested by the Joint Chiefs. Dated 12 February and called ELKTON I to distinguish it from the revised versions that followed, this plan was basically the same as the earlier Tulsa and the one submitted with Ghormley in July of the previous year. As before, the offensive against Rabaul was divided into five stages with the forces in the Solomons and New Guinea converging on the final objective. Each stage represented a separate operation or series of operations designed to gain a strategic position for further advances under cover of fighter aircraft. In the first, MacArthur's forces would take Lae by a combined airborne, ground, and amphibious assault, then Finschhafen and other bases in the Huon Gulf-Vitiaz Strait area, and, finally, Madang, to seal off the waters north of the strait. The South Pacific Force was to follow up with the capture of New Georgia and then, simultaneously with the Southwest Pacific assault on New Britain, would move into Bougainville. The seizure of Kavieng, the fourth step in the plan, would isolate Rabaul and pave the way for the final stage, a combined effort by both theaters against Rabaul.7

ELKTON provided no dates. In MacArthur's view it would be unrealistic to put them in until he knew what forces he would have. The South Pacific, he contended, had sufficient strength to carry out its part of the plan, but he could not even undertake the campaign against Lae without reinforcements. Four of his six divisions -- three were Australian -- were worn out by the recent campaign in Papua, his naval forces were weak, and his air strength was far below the minimum required for the offensive. To put ELKTON into effect he would need, he estimated, 1,800 more planes, five divisions, and more cruisers, destroyers, and PT boats.

In view of the Joint Chiefs' desire to conduct the offensive with forces already allocated to the Pacific and their assumption that Rabaul would be taken in 1943, it was, perhaps, well that MacArthur decided to send his chief of staff, General Sutherland, and other members of his staff to Washington with the plan to explain it. These officers, he told Marshall, could leave at the end of February and on the return journey stop off at Pearl Harbor and Noumea to see Nimitz and Halsey. From this suggestion grew the idea of a full-scale conference in Washington. On 16 February invitations went out to the Pacific commanders. Each was asked to send representatives to the conference and each agreed. By early March a high-ranking


group including Sutherland, Kenney, Harmon, Emmons, Spruance, and Twining, was on its way.8

Before the delegates could assemble to settle Pacific affairs, Admiral King made one more last effort to gain for the Navy control of operations in the Solomons. This time he sought to accomplish his purpose by "modifying" the boundaries between the South and Southwest Pacific so as to place Bougainville and the New Georgia Group in Halsey's area. Such a modification, he assured Marshall, would "clarify the military situation." The Army Chief of Staff refused even to consider the proposal, responding briefly that it was not advisable to change the boundaries "in this critical area prior to the conference."9 At this point King left for the west coast to meet Admiral Nimitz but was back before the conference began.

The Pacific Military Conference

The Pacific Military Conference opened on 12 March with an imposing array of admirals and generals in attendance. Admiral King led off with a brief summary of the Casablanca decisions, followed by General McNarney, acting for Marshall. The remainder of the session was devoted to a reading of MacArthur's long-awaited plan, now revised and bearing the title of ELKTON II. The concept and scheme of maneuver were unchanged, but the number of forces required had been raised since the original plan had been completed. Now MacArthur would require for himself and Halsey -- he assumed the two tasks would be under his control -- a total of twenty-two and two-thirds divisions, forty-five air groups, and whatever warships the Joint Chiefs could furnish. He did not specify the cargo ships, troop transports, landing craft, supplies, and replacements that he would need, but there was no doubt that they would reach imposing proportions. All this was to be supplied in advance of the first step.10

The Washington planners were completely unprepared for such large demands. Though a secondary theater in their view, the Pacific had larger American forces than any other theater of operations. Army strength alone, exclusive of Alaska, amounted to 374,000 men as compared to 298,000 in the Mediterranean and 107,000 in the United Kingdom. But this proportion was expected to change rapidly in the course of the year as operations in Europe expanded. Even without close study it was evident to those who heard General Sutherland read MacArthur's requirements for the capture of Rabaul that some serious adjustments would have to be made in their plans or his. It is little wonder, then, that Admiral Cooke, who presided over the conference, adjourned the meeting until the next day to give the planners


time to recover and to make some rapid calculations.11

Next morning the Army planners had their figures ready. MacArthur, they had found, was scheduled to receive during the coming year only 2 more divisions (which would give him a total of 17) and enough additional aircraft to bring his strength up to 18 groups or 982 planes. Exclusive of Halsey's requirement, this was about half of what he wanted. Actually, these figures were somewhat misleading as to the strength of the Southwest Pacific. Of the total number of aircraft only 144 would be heavy bombers, the only planes capable then of striking Rabaul and targets in the northern Solomons. The count of divisions was also misleading, for it included 11 Australian divisions only 3 of which were trained and equipped for offensive operations. In any case and regardless of these deficiencies, MacArthur would be short at the end of the year, under existing plans, three and two-thirds divisions and 15 air groups.12

The prospects for the South Pacific were no better. It would get only 1 more division in 1943. With the 1 New Zealand, 2 Marine and 4 Army divisions already in the theater, Halsey would have a total of 8, 2 less than the number called for in ELKTON. And instead of the recommended 15 air groups, he would have only 6, including 72 heavy bombers. With the reduction in fighter strength envisaged by the War Department, there would be fewer Army aircraft in the South Pacific at the end of the year than there were at the time of the conference. The difference, then, between MacArthur's requirements for the capture of Rabaul and what the War Department was ready to give him and Halsey amounted to a total of five and two-thirds divisions and 24 air groups.

Actually these differences were not as great as they seemed. Both MacArthur and Halsey had other forces than those allocated by the War Department. Of the 1,000 aircraft MacArthur had in March, only 750 were American, the rest were Australian. And John Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister, was pressing for more on his own account. The figures for the South Pacific are much more revealing. There the Army had only about 700 planes and no intention of sending many more during the year. But when the number of Navy and Marine land-based aircraft to be sent was added, the total would amount to almost 1,800. Despite these adjustments, there would still be a shortage of heavy bombers in both areas, and neither the Army nor the Navy could provide the forces needed for all five stages of ELKTON at the start of the offensive.13

With the presentation of both sets of figures -- those in ELKTON and those in the Washington schedules -- the task of the conference became clear: provide MacArthur the forces he required, persuade him to lower his estimates, or cancel the decision to take Rabaul in 1943 and substitute a less ambitious program.


For two days the alternatives were debated. The Pacific delegates, Army and Navy alike, insisted that ELKTON represented the absolute minimum required to accomplish Tasks Two and Three and that all of the forces requested would have to be made available before the campaign could begin. Admitting that they could seize their initial objectives with what they had -- or, in the case of the Southwest Pacific, with what they would have by September -- the theater planners maintained that it would be unwise to do so without the means to follow up. To do otherwise, declared General Harmon, would create a "very delicate situation." Speaking for the South Pacific delegation, he joined with Sutherland in asserting "that the estimate of forces required as shown in the ELKTON plan cannot be reduced."14

The Washington planners, though they could see no way of meeting the ELKTON requirements, were not nearly as united as the theater representatives. There was no disagreement about ground forces; the shortages could be met from reserves in the United States. The problem was to find the ships to transport the additional troops and to keep them supplied once they reached their destination. Shipping affected also the number of aircraft that could be sent to the Pacific, but the real disagreement arose over the interpretation of the Casablanca decision and its application to the Pacific. The

position taken by the Air Forces representative, Brig. Gen. Orvil A. Anderson, was that the combined bomber offensive against Germany had been given the highest priority at Casablanca and that, therefore, the requirements for Europe would have to be filled first. The Pacific commanders would have to be satisfied with what was left. Admiral Cooke, the chief naval planner, challenged this interpretation sharply. The Casablanca agreement, he pointed out, called also for the capture of Rabaul and for "adequate forces" to maintain the offensive against Japan. Germany, he admitted, was the main enemy and its defeat was the first aim of the Allies. But requirements elsewhere had to be met and it was the job of the planners to allocate their resources -- notably shipping and aircraft -- in such a way as to carry out all the tasks agreed upon at Casablanca unless it could be clearly established that they would jeopardize the capacity of the Allies to seize any unexpected opportunity to defeat Germany in 1943.

The exchange that followed is one of the few debates recorded fully in the record. While the Pacific representatives sat by silently and General Wedemeyer sought vainly to steer the proceeding into calmer waters, Admiral Cooke proceeded, in a series of pointed questions directed at Anderson, to challenge the Air Forces allocations to Europe and to demonstrate that it was not meeting its obligations in the Pacific. What was the purpose of the combined bomber offensive, he asked? Were the results "an effective contribution to the war effort?" How many planes did the Air Forces estimate would be needed for the bombings? Had the requirements of the of the South and Southwest Pacific been


considered when these estimates were made? Did the Air Forces base its allocations to the Pacific on what was left after European allotments had been made? Or did it believe that the air offensive could be increased if it gave less planes to the Pacific? How many planes were needed in Europe, in the Pacific?

Several of these questions Anderson answered by simply citing the Casablanca decision calling for "the heaviest possible bomber offensive against the German war effort." Several went unanswered. But throughout General Anderson maintained that it was not his job to make estimates or to deploy aircraft. The first was the responsibility of the theater commanders, the second of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All he was concerned with was availability, and he had given the Pacific what was available "after aircraft had been otherwise allotted" on the basis of the Air Forces' interpretation of the Casablanca decision.15

With this exchange the Navy placed itself squarely on the side of the Pacific delegates, an alliance that illustrates nicely that curious contradiction in the relationship between the services. When the needs of the Pacific were balanced against those of Europe and North Africa the Army and Navy commanders in the Pacific, supported by King and the naval planners in Washington, stood together in a formidable alliance. But when the time came to decide on the use of the forces in the Pacific and the role to be assigned to the Army and Navy, the alliance fell apart. Interestingly enough, Generals Harmon and Kenney, both senior air officers and longtime associates of General Arnold (Harmon had been his chief of staff), also found themselves aligned with the Navy. General Wedemeyer's position was in between. He recognized the priority of operations against Germany, but he also appreciated the necessity for providing the forces required to meet commitments in the Pacific. "The position of the War Department representatives," he told Marshall, "has been rather difficult...." The theater delegates, he added tartly, were determined to get all they could and the Navy, "for obvious reasons," was lending its support.16

Although the conferees had failed thus far to reach agreement they had at least succeeded in defining the areas of disagreement. There was no recourse now but to place the problem before the Joint Chiefs and this Cooke and Wedemeyer did on 16 March. There was enough shipping, they told their superiors, to warrant an increase in the scheduled allocations to the Pacific, but not enough to meet the ELKTON requirements. The Joint Chiefs themselves would have to decide just how much could be spared without jeopardizing the effort in Europe. Neither Wedemeyer nor Cooke believed that Rabaul could be taken in 1943 unless the forces requested by MacArthur were furnished, and they recommended therefore that the objectives of the South and Southwest Pacific for the year be fixed in terms of what could be achieved with the forces available rather than in terms of the Casablanca agreement.17

The Joint Chiefs had no sooner begun


to consider the problem when they too were faced with the necessity of interpreting and applying the decisions made at Casablanca. And they succeeded no better. Admiral King took the same position as Cooke -- too literal an interpretation of the European provisions of the Casablanca agreement would leave nothing for any other theater and make impossible the operations envisaged in the Pacific and Far East. Marshall's approach was based not on principle but on practical considerations. First, he said, the Joint Chiefs should find out what forces were in the theater and how they could be used. When this was done they would then be able to determine what other forces would be needed. Stratemeyer, acting for General Arnold, insisted that any reduction of the bomber offensive was contrary to the Casablanca agreement. The Pacific delegates, he thought, should be told what they could have and make their plans on that basis. Admiral Leahy's view was broader and he refused, like King, to consider the bomber offensive except in relation to operations elsewhere. American forces and interests in other areas, he observed, must be considered equally. Thus, no matter how they approached the problem, the Joint Chiefs always came back to the same question: What was the intent of the Casablanca agreement? Unable to answer it they directed the planners to investigate further the possibility of sending more to the Pacific than was then allotted and to come up with concrete proposals on how this could be done.18

After discussion with the theater representatives, who by now were showing some disposition to modify their requirements, the Joint Staff Planners found that the shipping available by October would indeed permit an increase in the forces sent to the Pacific. But they were still far from agreement on what these forces should consist of, so they submitted two plans. The first, which reflected the Army's concentration on the war against Germany, provided for the shipment of two divisions to the Southwest Pacific and one to the South Pacific and a "modest increase" in air units to both areas. A variant of the plan, based on Harmon and Kenney's willingness to do with fewer service units, provided for 25 percent more planes. The second plan, which embodied the Navy's view, used the shipping space allotted to the South Pacific division for additional aircraft for both theaters. Since neither would provide the forces MacArthur estimated would be required to take Rabaul, the planners joined in recommending that his instructions be changed.19

The choice was now up to the Joint Chiefs. The Army's preference for the first plan was clear. That plan was consistent with the Casablanca agreement to make the major effort against Germany and at the same time furnish "adequate forces" to the Pacific. True, these forces were not adequate to capture Rabaul, but they would suffice to retain the initiative. Adoption of the second plan, the Army planners pointed out, would result in "an unwarranted weakening of the bomber offensive against Germany without producing the compensating advantage of taking Rabaul."20 This last point


was disputed by the naval planners who doubted that the diversion of aircraft from Europe would be large enough to affect seriously the strategy adopted at Casablanca. It was the preference of the representatives from the Pacific that finally prevailed. If it came to a choice between aircraft and ground troops there was no doubt which they would take. And it was on this basis that the Joint Chiefs, except for General Stratemeyer, voted for the second plan. "The conference," observed an unidentified naval officer, "was satisfactory from the Navy viewpoint."21

The acceptance of the Navy's plan by the Joint Chiefs brought the theater delegates much closer to their goal. What it meant in concrete terms was two more divisions, additional heavy bombers, plus six and one-half Army air groups. This was far less than the ELKTON plan called for but more than the Air Forces had been willing to grant initially. With what they already had and the Navy's allotments to the South Pacific, MacArthur and Halsey together would have 2,500 planes, of which 240 would be heavy bombers.22

The decision of the Joint Chiefs had settled the question of forces, or means, for the South and Southwest Pacific. Still to be decided were the objectives, or ends, to be achieved in 1943 with these means. Before making that decision the Joint Chiefs solicited the views of the theater delegates, with the understanding that the Pacific commanders themselves would not be committed thereby.23

As always throughout the conference, the officers from the Pacific, regardless of service or area, displayed an astonishing unanimity. With the three chiefs of staff, Sutherland, Spruance, and Capt. Miles R. Browning, as their spokesmen they agreed that, with the forces allotted, only Task Two could be carried out in 1943. The completion of that task, which corresponded roughly to the first three stages of ELKTON, would place MacArthur's forces at Cape Gloucester in New Britain and Halsey's in Bougainville.

But there were significant differences between this limited plan and ELKTON. The seizure of New Georgia, which everyone at the conference knew was already scheduled as the next move by South Pacific forces, was conspicuously absent from the new plan. Instead the plan now called for the occupation by the Southwest Pacific of Woodlark and Kiriwina, a move Admiral Halsey had suggested some months earlier and which had been incorporated in the first draft of ELKTON but not in the version presented to the conference.24

The Joint Chiefs readily accepted on March the judgment of the theater representatives that operations in 1943 would have to be limited to Task Two, a view that had been expressed a month earlier by some of the Washington planners. They approved also the Woodlark and Kiriwina operation when Sutherland


explained that the War Department's inability to furnish the heavy bombers called for in ELKTON made it necessary to seize these islands, which lay within medium bomber range of targets in the northern Solomons, for use as air bases. The fact that their possession would give the South and Southwest Pacific "a stepping stone for the interchange of air units" was undoubtedly a strong argument also in favor of the operations.25

General Sutherland's explanation of the sequence of operations in the plan, and of the minor role given to the forces of the South Pacific, was not so readily accepted by the Joint Chiefs. Harmon had remonstrated mildly, but since the other delegates seemed to find the arrangement satisfactory he had acquiesced. Not so Admiral King. He had no intention of immobilizing the strong naval forces in the South Pacific and thus freeing the Japanese Fleet for operations elsewhere. If Halsey's fleet was not to be used in the Solomons for many months yet, then it might be employed with profit, he felt, against the Gilberts and Marshalls in the Central Pacific. Both Spruance and Browning opposed this suggestion, thus demonstrating again the unity of the theater representatives. After a lengthy discussion the Joint Chiefs went into closed session from which they emerged with agreement in principle to the theater plan and instructions to their own planners to prepare a new directive to the Pacific commanders.26

Still to be heard from were the commanders themselves. Presumably they had been kept informed of the progress of the meetings but on 23 March the Joint Chiefs notified them officially Of the decision made in Washington. "Prevailing opinion here," they were told, "indicates desirability of deferring projected Munda operation ... until after establishment of air base on Woodlark and possibly after seizure of Lae and Huon Peninsula."27 Comments were requested from all three.

MacArthur's response was a vigorous support of the position taken by Sutherland. The two areas, he asserted, must be regarded, "for operational purposes," as a single unit and since neither was strong enough for independent action, neither should undertake "divergent action" simultaneously. He was, he told Marshall, already committed to the campaign in New Guinea, which had been "temporarily suspended because of a lack of resources," and ought to be allowed to complete it as soon as possible to provide a "defensive cover" for northeast Australia. Until that was accomplished and Huon Gulf, Madang, and Vitiaz Strait secured, he said, operations against New Georgia should be postponed.28

Admiral Halsey, like his chief of staff, accepted the postponement of the New Georgia operation, which he had planned to start early in April. The seizure of Woodlark and Kiriwina, he conceded, could come first. But he would not accept a purely passive role. His statement that he would continue to exert pressure against the enemy and to hit him whenever and wherever he could was the reassurance Admiral King needed. Moreover,


said Halsey, he would seize any position in New Georgia or Bougainville that he could if such action would not involve him in a major struggle.29

Before a directive could be drafted for the theater commanders one more problem, that of command, had yet to be solved. It was perhaps the most difficult of all and by common consent had been avoided officially during the discussions over means and ends. But it had not been forgotten and now that all other major questions had been settled the planners returned to the debate that had marked their first discussions over Pacific strategy.30

Admiral King opened the final round' in this debate with the now familiar proposal to adjust the boundaries so as to place the Solomons in Halsey's area, leaving to the Joint Chiefs the coordination of operations in the two areas. When this effort met the same fate as had similar schemes, Admiral Cooke suggested a complicated arrangement by which Halsey would command operations in the Solomons and coordinate all naval operations in the area while MacArthur would direct the operations in New Guinea and coordinate the air effort. Cooke revised this plan almost immediately, after a conversation with General Handy, but the revision dealt only with the method of securing coordination and still left to Halsey control of the operations in the Solomons.31

The Army refused to budge from the position it had taken earlier, that strategic direction of the campaign against Rabaul should go to MacArthur, as provided in the directive of July 1942. The Navy mustered all the old arguments as well as some new ones, but without success. This repeated rejection of all attempts at a compromise finally moved Admiral Cooke to remark:

When commands were set up in England for operations in France and for the invasion of North Africa ... the Navy recognized that this was an Army matter and accorded unified command to the Army upon its own initiative.... The Pacific ... is and will continue to be a naval problem as a whole. If, to meet this problem we are to have unified command ..., it is, in my opinion, up to the War Department to take the steps necessary to set it up as a unified Naval command.32

Cooke's plea produced no results. The Army planners studying the problem of command in the Pacific had already come to the conclusion that all the proposals and arguments could be summed up in three propositions: (a) give command to MacArthur, (b) give it to Nimitz or his representative, or (c) provide for separate commands and the coordination of operations by cooperation between the two commanders. On this basis the Army planners had drafted three separate plans, each embodying one of the alternative solutions, which they now passed on to the Navy. Meanwhile, on 26 March, General Marshall formally submitted to the Joint Chiefs in the form of a draft directive the plan that would


give MacArthur command. In addition to outlining the tasks already agreed upon, the draft directive specified that Halsey, under MacArthur's general direction, would command operations in the Solomons and that the naval units assigned to these operations would remain under Nimitz' control.33

It was the last provision that disturbed the Navy most. Sensitive to any limitations on the control or strategic mobility of the fleet, Admiral King saw in Marshall's proposed directive a restriction on Admiral Nimitz' freedom to use naval units wherever they were most needed. He preferred for that reason to give command to Nimitz instead of MacArthur but did not press the point, offering instead a revision of the statement relating to naval units. He did insist, however, that operations in the Solomons should not be postponed until after the landing in New Britain and proposed that a statement to that effect be added to the directive.34

These differences were thrashed out in a special meeting of the Joint Chiefs on 28 March. This time King, for reasons that can only be guessed at, did not even raise the question of command. The discussion, therefore, was confined to the wording of the directive. On this basis, Marshall was perfectly willing to give ground and the differences were amicably settled by revising the directive to give Nimitz control of those forces in the Pacific Ocean Areas not specifically assigned to the offensive by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But King found no support, either from his colleagues in the Joint Chiefs or from Admiral Halsey, for his proposal enjoining MacArthur not to delay operations in the Solomons.

These matters settled, the Joint Chiefs formally approved General Marshall's directive and next day sent copies by radio to the Army and Navy commanders in the Pacific. Written in crisp and simple language, the directive that had taken four months to complete consisted of six brief paragraphs. First it canceled the previous directive of 2 July 1942 which called for the capture of Rabaul, and then it outlined the command arrangements under which operations would be conducted. Other than the statement that forces would be provided by the Joint Chiefs, there was no reference to the means required to carry out the tasks, listed as follows:

  1. The establishment of airfields on Kiriwina and Woodlark.

  2. The seizure of Lae, Salamaua, Finschhafen, Madang, and western New Britain (Cape Gloucester).

  3. The seizure of the Solomon Islands "to include the southern portion of Bougainville."

The objectives of these operations were, in general, the same as those fixed at Casablanca: "to inflict losses on Japanese forces, to deny these areas to Japan, to contain Japanese forces in the Pacific by maintaining the initiative." To them was added the further objective of preparing for the "ultimate seizure of the Bismarck Archipelago." Finally, MacArthur was to submit to the Joint Chiefs his general plans "including composition


of task forces, sequence, and timing of major offensive operations.35

Thus, almost anticlimactically, was ended the debate begun on i December 1942 when General Marshall first proposed a directive, which in all essential respects was similar to the one approved on 28 March. For four months Admiral king and the naval planners had opposed it strongly and sometimes bitterly. At the end they finally accepted it, almost without question. The key to this strange about-face lies, perhaps, in the following observation, written by an unidentified naval officer:

I have come to the conclusion that Admiral King considers his relations with General Marshall on such a successful plane ... that there are some matters in which he will not proceed to their logical accomplishment believing that even if he succeeded he would damage the relationship mentioned beyond repair. One of these items is the unification of command in CINCPAC, including the efforts of General MacArthur up the New Guinea coast.36


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (18) ** Next Chapter (20)


1. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, 27 Jan 43, CM-IN-12553.

2. Memo, King for Marshall, 6 Feb 43, sub: Opns in SWPA for Prosecution of Rabaul Campaign, OPD 381 (PTO), sec. 3; Draft Memo (not sent,), Marshall for King, 13 Feb 43, same sub, OPD Exec Files.

3. Paraphrase of Msg in Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, 9 Feb 43, CM-IN-4996.

4. For material on the Washington side, see the WDCSA 452.1 (SPA) file and messages.

5. Miller, Guadalcanal: The First Offensive, 351-56.

6. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, 1 Feb 43, CM-IN-5610.

7. ELKTON I, 12 Feb 43, Photostat in OCMH; GHQ SWPA, Studies in History of SWPA, (4 vols), II, New Guinea and Bismarck Campaign, 29-32, Hist Sec, G-3; John Miller, Jr., CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of Rabaul, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1959), ch. II.

8. Rads, MacArthur to Marshall, 15 Feb 43, CM-IN-7418; Marshall to MacArthur to Emmons for Nimitz; Marshall to Harmon for Halsey, 16 Feb 43, CM-OUT-5656-60. Also included in the delegation were Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Chamberlin, G-3, GHQ SWPA; Brig. Gen. Dewitt Peck (USMC) and Capt. Miles R. Browning (USN), Halsey's war plans officer and chief of staff; and Capt. Forrest P. Sherman (USN) of Nimitz' staff. General Wedemeyer, who had been to Casablanca, and was en route from China to Brisbane to explain the Casablanca decisions to MacArthur, accompanied the group.

9. Memos, King for Marshall, 18 Feb 43, sub: Development of Opns in South-Southwest Pacific; Marshall for King, 19 Feb 43, same sub, OPD 381 (PTO), sec. 3.

10. ELKTON II, 28 Feb 43, ABC 370.26 (6-8-42), sec. 2. The minutes of the conference are separately bound and located in section 4 of the same file.

11. Mins, 2d Mtg, Pacific Mil Conf, 12 Mar 43. Strength figures are from Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-44, p. 92.

12. Memo, Handy for Pacific Conferees, 13 Mar 43, sub: Deployment of Forces, OPD Exec Files; Mins, 3d Mtg, Pacific Mil Conf, 13 Mar 43.

13. For estimates of Navy and Marine aircraft, see Memo, Cooke for Pacific Conferees, 13 Mar 43, sub: Availability of Navy Forces, Incl. to Mins, 4th Mtg, Pacific Mil Conf, 15 Mar 43.

14. Memo, Sutherland and Harmon for Joint Planners, 14 Mar 43, no sub, ann. A to Mins, 4th Mtg, Pac Mil Conf, 15 Mar 43. The South Pacific planners also took into account naval and Marine forces, but they still needed twenty-heavy bombers and additional fighters, half of which, they said, should be P-38's.

15. Mins, 4th Mtg, Pacific Mil Conf, 15 Mar 43.

16. Memo, Wedemeyer for Marshall, 16 Mar 43, sub: Conf on Opns in Pacific, ABC 370.26( 7-28-42), sec. 4.

17. Memo, Cooke and Wedemeyer for JCS, 16 mar 43, sub: Plan for Opns for Solomons-New Guinea-New Ireland Area, JCS 238.

18. Mins, JCS Mtg, 16 Mar 3.

19. JCS 238/1, 18 Mar 43, Plan for Opns for Solomons-New Guinea-New Ireland Area.

20. Ibid.

21. Outline History of the Pacific Military Conference, cited in Hayes, the War Against Japan, ch. XI, p. 38; Mins, JCS Mtg, 19 Mar 43. See also George C. Kenney, General Kenney Reports (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949), pp. 215-16, which implies that the President exercised some influence on the final decision.

22., Miller, CARTWHEEL, MS p. 19.

23. Mins, JCS Mtg, 19 Mar 43.

24. Memo, Sutherland, Spruance, Browning for JCS, 20 Mar 43, sub: Offensive Opns in South and SWPA, JCS 238/2.

25. Mins, JCS Mtg, 21 Mar 43.

26. Ibid.

27. Rad, Marshall to MacArthur, No. 2226, 23 Mar 43, OPD Log.

28. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, C-1162, 25 Mar 43, CM-IN-13827.

29. Miller, CARTWHEEL, p. 18.

30. Though the official records contain no mention of command problems during the meeting of the Pacific Conference, General Kenney states that there were heated discussions about it with the delegates, Kenney, General Kenney Reports, p. 213.

31. Memo, King for Marshall, 19 Mar 43, sub: Offensive Opns in Solomons-New Guinea Area, with comments, ABC 370.26 (7-28-42), se.. 4; Cooke for Wedemeyer, 22 Mar 43, no sub, and Cooke for Handy, same date, no sub, both in OPD Exec Files.

32. Memo, Cooke for Handy, 23 Mar 43, sub: Comd in Pacific, OPD Exec Files.

33. Memos, Marshall for JCS, 26 Mar 43; Handy for Cooke, 25 Mar 43, both in OPD Exec Files; Deane for King and Marshall, 27 Mar 43, sub: Directive for Opns in South and Southwest Pacific; Handy for Marshall, same date and subject, ABC 370.26 (7-28-42), sec. 1.

34. JCS 2838/4, 27 Mar 43, Opns For Seizure of Solomons-New Guinea-New Britain--New Ireland, ABC 370.26 (7-28-42, sec. 1.

35. JCS 238/5/D, 28 Mar 43, Opns for Seizure of Solomons-New Guinea-New Ireland Area; Rads, JCS to MacArthur, Nimitz, and Halsey, 29 mar 43, CM-OUT 1091-92-93; Mins, JCS Mtg, 28 Mar 43.

36. Outline History of the Pacific Military Conference, cited in Hayes, The War Against Japan, ch. XI, p. 52.

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