5-087 Draft of Speech to the Academy, April 4, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 4, 1945

Subject: World War II

Draft of Speech to the Academy of Political Science1


April 4, 1945 New York, New York

While I did not come here tonight to enter into a discussion of the present war situation, it is a little difficult to ignore the tremendous events that are now in progress. The details of the various battles are so well reported that there is no need for me to recite them. There are, however, a few aspects not generally recognized, which may be of interest.

Our present successes east of the Rhine are in a large measure due to the destruction of German fighting power west of the Rhine, especially in the Saar Basin. Apparently Hitler’s unwillingness to give up a foot of ground involved the German armies in that costly fighting where the overwhelming resources of the Allies in men and materiel were close at hand.

The present situation in many respects almost duplicates that which immediately followed the Avranches breakthrough last August in Normandy, with the development of the Falaise pocket, the rush of the Third Army east and southeast across France, and the whirling course of the First Army eastward along the southern border of the pocket and thence north to Mons before turning east towards Aachen. It is rather remarkable that the same Army, the Third, has been carrying out the direct dash while the First Army, as before, has executed the great encirclement from the south and east. Actually the same Army Corps in the First Army, the VII under General Collins, which landed on the Utah Beach, took Cherbourg, made the opening at Avranches and moved along the southern edge of the Falaise pocket and north to Mons and on to Aachen, has been carrying out a similar action around the present great pocket south of the Ruhr in which some 100 to 150 thousand German troops are cut off.

Our situation today, though, differs from that of last summer and greatly differs from that of last fall in that we have adequate ports, railroads, divisions and supporting troops. There has been a marked advantage over the fall and winter in the operations in the air which have been much favored recently by good weather along with their improved technique and equipment for bombing through overcast and guiding planes to safe landings by means of instrument installations on numerous fields in France as well as in England.

The leadership of Divisions, Corps and Armies under the Allied command, I think history will show, has been of unusual and uniform excellence never before attained by us in war. It has been truly magnificent. The staff work and the handling and forwarding of supplies, which has had to be on a colossal scale in view of the distances and rapidity of movements, are a great achievement and a reflection of the highest standards of efficiency.

The conquest of the Philippines has proceeded in a very rapid manner and with a minimum of casualties. We virtually control every key point in the Islands and we have been greatly assisted by the guerrilla activities of the Filipinos. They themselves have conquered large areas, as well as cooperated aggressively with American troops, to our advantage.

The loyalty, the suffering endured by the Filipinos, and their present aggressive fighting spirit, are fine tributes to them as a people and also in part a tribute to the American Government as an evidence of the confidence the Filipino nation have displayed in us under desperately trying circumstances.

Incidentally, the Japanese might profit from some of the discussions of the Academy of Political Science because it is quite evident that they have completely lacked, from a military and governmental standpoint, the ability to inspire the confidence of other peoples or to gain their friendship.

Speaking of the Pacific, I should like to point out that we are approaching one of the most difficult periods of the war, at least from the viewpoint of the military authorities, that is, the transfer of power from the European Continent to the Far East, or the redeployment, as we term it. This period will be one of extreme difficulty for a number of reasons. The transfer represents, I believe, the greatest administrative and logistical problem in the history of the world, so it is not an easy matter for us. We have been working on the details for more than a year and I think are prepared to carry out the procedure in a thoroughly businesslike manner. That is not what worries us.

Once the fighting ceases in the European Theater the natural reaction of almost every man will be an overwhelming desire to return home, to get clear of the tragic scenes of destruction and the surroundings of discomfort in which he has labored so long, to rejoin his family and resume his civil occupation. His family will be equally impatient and probably even more articulate. Appeals will be made to our representatives in Congress to bring pressure on the War Department to do this or that, for this person or that person. The papers, the columnists, the broadcasters, will carry the reflection of this great impatience. At the same time we will be under the necessity of carrying out with the greatest possible rapidity the initial movement of certain large forces from Europe to the Pacific. Some will go by way of the Suez, others by way of Panama; all will wish at least to return to the U.S. long enough for a furlough visit. But the stern necessities of maintaining the momentum of the war in the Pacific in order to shorten it by every possible day, will not admit of a deviation from the plans which we consider essential to the operations in prospect.

Then there will be the reaction from the men who have been informed that they are the first to be demobilized and yet will have to endure a considerable delay before transportation will be available to return them to the States for discharge. There are many permutations and combinations of dilemmas involved in this matter, but we must move with the greatest possible speed towards the shortening of the war, we must economize in lives and billions by thus shortening the war, and the interest of the individual must give way to the interest of the country, and the millions of men who will be carrying our battles forward in the Pacific.

Ship tonnage is our trouble and will continue to be our trouble for a long time to come. The statement is frequently made that we have more ocean tonnage now than ever before in the history of the world. That is true. But we have almost 7 million men overseas engaged in a tremendous expenditure of supplies, ammunition and equipment, generally. It used to be a problem of supplying three or four divisions fighting in Tunisia and a few groups of planes which we had painfully gotten together and transported to some distant shore. Today it is a problem of supplying almost 100 divisions, most of which are constantly engaged in action and every one of which has been in action. At the same time our colossal Air Forces are expending gasoline and bombs at a rate that defies the imagination. I was told the other day that we were dropping an average of 6 tons of bombs a minute day and night and have since been informed that this rate has been considerably increased.

In connection with this redeployment I have not mentioned two other very important factors, one is the possibility of a general letdown in this country on the basis of their own respective calculations of what is required to put the Japanese out of action. I shall only make this comment: that we intend to expend far more ammunition and similar supplies in the Pacific than we did in the Atlantic, as being a necessity in dealing with the Japanese fanaticism and at the same time avoiding heavy casualties. The other factor which is of great importance, is the effect of the public reaction on the morale of the Army during this period of redeployment. Morale is a word that is very carelessly used. It is one that means much to me. I can best explain it briefly in this way: no matter how good and plentiful the weapons, no matter how large the numbers of men or divisions, or Air Forces, without morale they are worthless, little more than an expensive encumbrance, and the confidence and morale of an Army can be very quickly and adversely affected by the thoughtlessness of the people behind that Army in their political actions, in their public statements, and in their letters to the soldiers. We recently had a very difficult situation in Italy due almost entirely to the mail from home reflecting the speeches and other ill-considered statements that were being made.2

I talked to the Academy of Political Science about two years and a half ago at a very critical moment in the history of our war effort. I think it would be pertinent to my further comments tonight to read to you what I said at that time, just two days after our landings in Africa.3

In the past two days we have had a most impressive example of the practicable application of unity of command, an American Expeditionary Force, soldiers, sailors, and aviators, supported by the British Fleet, by British flyers and by a British Army, all controlled by an American Commander-in-Chief, General Eisenhower. They are served by a combined staff of British and American officers. Officers of the British Army and Navy senior to General Eisenhower, men of great distinction and long experience, have, with complete loyalty, subordinated themselves to his leadership. The instructions of the British Cabinet to guide their Army commander serving under General Eisenhower furnish a model of readiness of a great nation to cooperate in every practicable manner. I go into detail because this should not be a secret. It will be most depressing news to our enemies. It is the declaration of their doom.

My particular interest at this time in your affairs rests on the fact that after a war a democracy like ours usually throws to the winds whatever scientific approach has been developed in the conduct of the war. This is an historical fact. It is the result of the immediate post-war aversion of the people to everything military, and of the imperative demand of the taxpayer for relief from the burden imposed by the huge war debt.

We are in a terrible war and our every interest should be devoted to winning the war in the shortest possible time. However, in view of your interest in the science of government and the intimate relationship that it bears to military requirements, I would ask your very careful consideration of these related military factors in whatever studies you make regarding the readjustments which must follow this war. The theories on the subject will have to be compressed into the realities. The attitude of the taxpayer is human and inevitable. The differing reactions of the people in the center of the country, of those along the coasts, of the people who face the Pacific and the people who face the Atlantic, must be considered. The extreme distaste for things military to which I have already referred and which always follows an exhausting war will have to be taken into account. Then with all of these reactions, how can we so establish ourselves that we will not be doomed to a repetition of the succession of tragedies of the past thirty years? We must take the nations of the world as they are, the human passions and prejudices of peoples as they exist, and find some way to secure for us a free America in a peaceful world.

In the midst of great victories and the rapid crumbling of the German military power I find myself profoundly depressed over the evident prospect of another repetition in our history of an impractical idealism or a submission to ulterior motives or a frank avoidance of burdensome taxes, in the statements which are now appearing regarding the military posture to be adopted by this country in the post-war period. I stated that I would come here tonight if I could talk off the record and had two reasons for this specific request: first, I do not have the time these days to make a careful preparation of a public statement in which every sentence is weighed and frequently without regard to the context. But my most important reason was that I wished to talk to you a little about our post-war military affairs and I do not feel it proper for me to make public statements (I am regarding this as a private statement to a select group) until I have first discharged my official responsibilities by reporting my views to such Committee of Congress as goes into the matter. In view of the purposes of your Society, I feel it important that you should have at least a little in advance of the main debate, some idea of the military point of view.

I referred to my feeling of depression over what I now read and hear regarding our post-war military posture and I think I am justified in a depth of feeling such as few others can appreciate.

I sailed for France in the last war on the first transport of the first convoy along with one of the most complete exhibitions of utter unpreparedness I have ever imagined. I personally saw the first American dead on the ground, east of Luneville. I wrote the order for the first American offensive and I wrote the order for the cessation of hostilities by the First Army at the close of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. I saw all about me the delays and losses, the confusion due to our previous unpreparedness. Most of the lesson was lost in the illusion of oratory here at home.

I returned here to General Pershing and participated with him in the hearings which led to a really excellent beginning of a national military policy, though it lacked the backbone of an adequate training system. I saw the Congress enact this law and the Army start to build up under its provisions and then during a period of three years I witnessed the complete emasculation of what little Army we had left, the practical destruction of almost every provision of the new law by the limitation of appropriations.

Out with the troops I struggled with this situation through the succeeding years, here in the U.S. and in the Far East, and finally I came to Washington in the summer of 1938, when because of the tragic sacrifices then occurring in China and the fighting developing in Spain, and the reports of the development of a great German military force, our people were just beginning to have a feeling that maybe the U.S. was not properly prepared for the situations which might develop in this war. I finally became Chief of Staff in the summer of 1939 when the struggles of the mountain were just giving forth little more than the proverbial mouse. The past 6 years are familiar to all of you in a general way but I do not believe any but a very few of you dimly comprehend the struggle we have gone through to save ourselves from utter defeat and to build up the great fighting force we have today. How narrow the margin was will be judged by history but quite evidently it will not be either realized or remembered by the present generation whose thoughts are so quickly turning to more pleasant considerations.

I spoke of feeling justified in a depth of feeling such as few others can appreciate and I particularly refer to the daily agony which must be mine over the casualties that we suffer, the letters I receive from mothers, the protests against using our fine young men, the criticisms of this, the deploring of that, all this is my daily burden and now, judging from what I hear and read I sense that our people are going back to the same utterly illogical, impracticable, visionary concept which had led us into these ghastly tragedies in the past. No one hates war more than I do and I think few hate it as much, but somehow we must not repeat every single weakness we displayed in 1920 to 1939.

All of this has to do with your considerations as an Academy of Political Science, if I understand the term, and the use of the word Science implies a certain exactitude in the fundamentals upon which decisions are reached. I beg of you to be intolerant of the superficial statements, the specious reasonings, and above all, of this devilish ulterior motive that would destroy our best efforts to do something towards securing the future peace of the world.

I am told that we should not raise any question, for example, regarding compulsory training until after the peace. Now that to me means a complete lack of comprehension of what is going on in this country today. For example, I have a responsibility for three million command installations. Now I mean by that three million places of varying size, such as Governors Island here in New York, Camp Upton, Fort Bragg, Fort Benning, Fort Myer—three million. That number seems hardly finite and I am told that we should do nothing about this. We shall know nothing of the use to which this is to be put, we shall have no basis of determining to what extent we can close this or close that and return it to civil use, no basis for determining what repairs we are justified in putting on this place or that place, no understanding in a business sense of anything regarding three million installations, in many cases almost cities. We must wait for one, two or three years. We cannot wait. That would be one of the greatest wastes that I can imagine.

There is another consideration. I think everyone recognizes that if you allow a great enterprise to disintegrate, it is an extremely expensive and difficult task to recreate such portion of it as you wish to maintain. If you dismiss a faculty, let the roof leak and the rains pour in, the student body be dispersed, I submit you are going to have a very difficult time in reconstituting that installation. We have a great machine, so great it is very difficult properly to describe it. Is that to fall apart? Certainly we cannot afford to keep it all while we are waiting to find out something of what is to [be] done.

I maintain this. That it is not conceivable that any form of peace that may be established will render unnecessary a definite military strength on the part of the U.S. and of Great Britain and of Russia. We do not propose that details shall be decided now but I do feel that we must determine on general policies so that there will be some guidance in the handling of these millions of men and these vast properties or installations.

Governments are proverbially unbusinesslike, but this would be on a scale that has never been dreamt of before and I am not mentioning the tragic consequences of a failure properly to appreciate the general requirements for a world peace. I am not talking about details or definite numbers. I don’t know them myself, and I wouldn’t attempt to guess at the present time but I do feel this, I was about to say, I know this, but that would not be tactful—that unless you have some form, and by form I mean a really efficient form, of compulsory military training you cannot possibly maintain any adequate military force. We can’t buy it. We can’t pay for it. You can’t persuade the men to join the ranks. Therefore if my judgment is correct and the decision is not to have compulsory training you are not going to have any military force worthy of the name, but even so it will cost you a sizeable portion of your budget and to little consequence.4

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. General Marshall delivered his off-the-record speech at the Hotel Astor dinner meeting of the Academy of Political Science, and he wrote at the top of the first page: “delivered without notes but approximately as below.”

2. For information regarding low troop morale at the Italian front, see Marshall Memorandum for Colonel Pasco, January 9, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-017 [5: 25-27].

3. On November 10, 1942, General Marshall had spoken to the Academy of Political Science during their annual meeting held in New York City at the Astor Hotel; see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-402 [3: 432-35].

4. “In addition to demonstrating yourself a master of your subject,” wrote A. N. Kemp, president of American Airlines and sitting in the audience, “you have the faculty of presenting it with a clearness and enthusiasm which indeed impresses the listener. Your task is an enormous one—far from complete, as you pointed out—but you sold yourself thoroughly to us all so that you have our full confidence.” (Kemp to Marshall, April 6, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].) James A. Farley, chairman of the board of the Coca-Cola Export Sales Company and former postmaster general, wrote that the chief of staff “made a mighty fine speech. . . . Without any attempt to flatter you, I think it can be truthfully said that there is no man in the country today, with the possible exception of Secretary Hull, who enjoys the confidence of the American people as you do. That position you have merited because of your splendid leadership, and the simple and humble manner in which you have officiated.” (Farley to Marshall, April 10, 1945, ibid.) For General Marshall’s comment regarding the event, see the following document (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-088 [5: 126-27]).

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. 119-126.

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