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December 31

"You know, I know, all of us know that the time factor is the vital consideration - and vital is the correct meaning of the term - of our national defense program; that we must never be caught in the same situation we found ourselves in 1917". ~ George Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army

Birth of ill-fated General George Marshall, FDRs scapegoat for the attack on Pearl Harborin 1880, on this day in alternate history George Catlett Marshall Jr. was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Virginia Military Institute, and member of the Kappa Alpha Order he launched a five decade career in the elite leadership of the American military.

But as the Chief of Staff in December 1941 he would only be remembered by history as the ill-fated officer who sent the late telegram to General Walter Short, the Army commander in Hawaii, Pearl Harbor. As events were to transpire the telegram arrived just in the very nick of time for Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel commander to raise the torpedo nets and save the U.S. Pacific Fleet from certain destruction. But inevitably the unjustified delay behind this narrow squeak forced the blame away from the Navy and back to Washington, where the disgrace would eventually lead to Marshall's downfall.

And rightly so because after the War, Secretary Stimson ordered a secret report into the Army's role. The investigations by Henry Clausen were critical of Short and also of Intelligence Chief Colonel Bratton who claimed he had been unable to get in touch with Marshall, a piece of of vital evidence which proved decisive1. As the officer in charge, there remain disconcerting questions about some of the actions or whereabouts for most of the twenty-four hour period which elapsed before the attack. But of course these fault lines trace back to FDR's vacillating and his own mysterious failure to call Marshall after reading the Japanese intercept. We know now this was probably a cynical attempt to place the blame on Marshall or at the very least an indication of FDR's lack of confidence in him.

Because the Imperial fleet had not been able to deliver its blow against the Americans the repulsion of the attach on Pearl Harbor would have even bigger consequences in Tokyo. The remaining attacks on the European Imperial possessions in Asia were called off, and the Army was able to muster the support necessary for a renewal of their fight against the Russians and expanded operations in China. The significance of the switch from southern to northern strategy would become apparently clear when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa because twenty-five Siberian Divisions were already committed to another front.

Author's Note: in reality (1) it only "nearly destroyed" Marshall.
OTL when the warning message was finally delivered in Hawaii, however, the attack was already underway. The telegram messenger on his way to deliver it was forced to abandon his bicycle and take cover in a ditch and the naval commander in charge of the Pacific fleet Adm Husband Kimmel didn't receive it until after the attack was over.