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Draft Memorandum for Major General Surles
February 24, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
In the present discussions of manpower the factor of trained troops seems not to have received understanding consideration. By this is meant the length of time that is required to produce a division which will endure the trial of battle against accomplished veterans. The headlines recently have played on the expression “green troops” in relation to the fighting in Tunisia but no reference is made to “green troops” in connection with proposals to reduce the 1943 program for the development of the Army.
There is probably nothing the American people would more severely condemn than the employment of troops in battle with the Germans or the Japanese which had not had a full opportunity to be disciplined, trained and hardened into powerful teams capable of using their complicated weapons with high efficiency and complete cooperation. Yet the discussions as to the strength to which the Army should be developed in 1943 involve this very point to a maximum degree.
Should we delay in the formation of units in order to economize in manpower we actually would be losing just that much time in the development of efficient combat units. The War Department has accepted one year as the minimum time for the organization and training of a division prior to its being sent overseas. The Germans found two years to be necessary, not withstanding the number of veterans that were available to stiffen up the ranks. Our position on the various battlefields of this global war would be far stronger if we had more than a year for the training of divisions.
During the period July to November, 1942, the Army shortages in manpower were such that at least nine divisions had to be robbed of large portions of their personnel in order to maintain existing forces overseas and to create needed supporting combat units, antiaircraft, engineers, etc. This procedure resulted from a serious shortage in July of men supplied to the armed forces which in turn resulted in delaying the completion of the training of the nine divisions referred to by almost a year in some cases and at least a half year in others.
Should the decision be made to reduce the training establishments and cadres the Army has found wise to maintain in continental United States for the organization and development of the war Army, this in turn would be merely reducing the standard of training of the men and organizations who are to go into battle.
Crops are of vital importance. War production is of equal importance; but in neither of these cases do the factors of life and death enter so far as those immediately concerned are involved.
The War Department is responsible not only for the problems of a vast expansion which introduces personnel factors much more difficult than those in any production plant or on any farm, but it has the terrible responsibility to the American people that their sons or husbands are not sacrificed in battle through lack of adequate training, and it has the further and even more important responsibility to see that the battles result in victories and not in defeats.
The War Department is aware of food requirements within the country and overseas and is equally and even more fully aware of the war materiel requirements and the effect on world strategy of a slowed-down production schedule; but it would appear that the people are not fully aware of what it means to have too few troops or poorly trained troops to sustain a battle against enemies of the character of the Germans and Japanese.1
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. A March 2 note by Marshall’s secretary, Mona K. Nason, at the bottom of the draft’s first page, stated that “Gen. Surles said he was using parts of this in different places, where he could.”
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 562-563.