5-268 Article for the Army and Navy Journal, November 6, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 6, 1945

Subject: World War II

Article for the Army and Navy Journal1

November 6, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

The most lasting monument of the global war brought to a close by Japan’s surrender will always be to me the magnificent performance of our citizen-soldier. The men who fought our battles from December 1941 to September 1945 were drawn from every walk of life. Except for members of the National Guard already in Federal service and the comparatively small number of inductees undergoing training when war came, these men had received no preparation for the terrible ordeal into which the nation was plunged by the Pearl Harbor attack. That the average American reacted so remarkably in battle, often rising to the heights of undiluted courage, is a tribute to the basic strength and adaptability of our peoples.

No amount of native courage, however, could have achieved the success won by our troops in battle without thorough training. Individual and team instruction gave our men not only the knowledge of how to perform the multitude of tasks incident to combat in the air or on the ground but the self-confidence to carry them out amidst the confusion and hazards of battle. The efficiency of our field forces was solidly founded on training doctrines learned in classroom, camp and maneuver area. Throughout the war the training technique was in process of being perfected, not only by Army personnel but by civilian specialists called in to speed up and intensify the process. In our service schools prior to the war and more recently under the stress of war there were developed expeditious methods and techniques in teaching which played an important part in the rapid development of our forces and will, I believe, have a definite effect on the general art of teaching in this country.

An Army today is a complicated structure, and instruction must be provided for a wide variety of jobs. Initially, all men should receive the same basic training. In the early weeks the individual aptitudes and skills would be measured as a basis for a suitable Army assignment. The soldier would then enter into the specialized duties of the branch of the Army to which he had been assigned. The first training phase in his new assignment would be concerned with individual instruction for the specific job he was expected to perform. After he had mastered his own part, he would engage in small-unit training, learning how to work as a member of a team. He would then move on to the next phase in which the small-unit activities would be fitted into the larger machine, later to be combined with the functions of other arms. In the final phase, the unit would participate in extended field exercises under simulated campaign conditions.

The new weapons—atomic explosives, supersonic rockets—and those even more devastating that unquestionably will come in the years immediately ahead make the careful preparatory training of all personnel the more imperative.

The old frontiersman was skilled with the rifle, the tommyhawk and the knife. Self-survival forced him to a state of constant training. The “minute-man” owned and knew his rifle intimately. But what he had of rifle skill and patriotism was frequently canceled by lack of discipline and ability or willingness to operate in a team. The development of artillery introduced a trifle of mathematics into the technique of battle. The telephone, the ground wireless and the machine weapons of the last war further complicated the business of developing a team. Along came the motor vehicle, the mechanized car and tank, introducing an additional technique of immense importance in campaign. Air and antiair equipment vastly complicated the requirements. Radar became a highly specialized factor in the efficiency of air, ground, and naval forces, and while the scientist labored with us, the individual officer or soldier had to be trained to handle elaborate and sensitive equipment. Cooperation between air and ground forces became a highly complicated and sensitive business. And now the atomic age has arrived.

It is clearly the lesson of history that the more complicated the techniques of war the more intensive must be the training. It also seems clear to me that the more sudden, far reaching and devastating the weapon the greater the necessity for highly trained units ready to react with speed and power.

If Universal Military Training is approved by the people, for the first time in our existence this country will be the real master of its own destiny. Together with an active body of scientific research, a substantial trained civilian reserve behind our permanent establishments will guarantee our security in case of attack by an aggressor state. But, in my opinion, it will do far more than that. It will present to the world an available power that will discourage any plans to upset the peace of the world.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Categorical Materials, Speeches and Writings, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. A slightly edited version of this essay was published as “Training for Victory and for Peace” in the fourth volume (covering the period December 7, 1944, to December 7, 1945) of the Army and Navy Journal’s annual magazine-format United States at War, pp. 16, 184. Other high-ranking civilian and military leaders also contributed essays.

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 350-352.

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