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September 7, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
FACTS CONCERNING DEMOBILIZATION
Following the surrender of Germany the Army’s greatest effort was devoted to the rapid movement of men and materials to the Pacific to bring that war to a prompt conclusion. Consequently men overseas eligible for discharge had to give priority of movement to the men headed for the final operations against Japan—ocean shipping and air transport were the limiting factors. This condition was soon and suddenly reversed upon the capitulation of the Japanese. The demobilization of long service veterans in the fairest, fastest, and most understanding manner is now the governing policy of the War Department. This must be done, however, without lowering the quality of the troops on duty in Europe, in Japan, and the Pacific islands.
The Army is planning to discharge 6,050,000 men and women in the next 10 months.
Ordinarily the men with highest rank, in other words, the leaders—those in the most responsible positions—are the men with longest service. Therefore the demobilization under the policy now being carried out denudes the troops of the greater part of their leadership which must be replaced by new men. Naturally General MacArthur’s troops moving into Japan could not safely undertake their grave responsibilities if not operating under trained leadership. Also, and quite naturally, the men in those organizations who on an average had been overseas longer than those in the European theater, would be deeply resentful of the discharge of men in the United States who had had much less or no service abroad. The War Department could not afford to strike a heavy blow at the morale of the Pacific armies just as they were undertaking a task without precedent in history, securing the surrender in Japan alone of an undefeated, completely equipped Army of two and a half million men.
Another complication which has made the rapid process of demobilization extremely difficult is the fact that the Government requirements for discharge, which are largely in the future interest of the individual, require expert and somewhat time-consuming procedure by a highly trained personnel. Financial papers, exact records of service, physical examinations, X-ray photographs, rights of the individual under the G-I Bill of Rights,2 new uniforms, and number of other details, all have to be handled for every individual of the millions of men going through the process of demobilization. The trouble is, that the necessary experts to carry out this process accurately and rapidly are largely themselves due for discharge and equally impatient with the men they are preparing for discharge. Another example is the Air Transport service, the crews of the planes flying thousands of men across the oceans to the United States. It takes a long time, a minimum of a year, to train an already qualified military combat pilot to operate with the necessary degree of safety, these large trans-ocean transports. Here again we find long-service men anxious for discharge engaged in the business of transporting men home for early discharge and here we have the problem of at least a year required for training of a proper replacement for them. There are many similar complications which react directly against each other. However, the War Department feels assured that it can conduct the demobilization at a rate which will separate from the military forces of over six million men by the end of the next 10 months.
In considering the interests of eight million men it is naturally impossible to find a solution satisfactory to all, equally just to all. The present point system on which discharges are based is the best system the War Department finds it possible to set up on the basis of the greatest good for the greatest number. It was largely determined after a year or more of investigation on the basis of so-called Gallup polls taken in all theaters, where every phase of the matter was considered. It must not be too complicated and it cannot possibly meet everyone’s desires. The problem is colossal. The interest of the War Department is solely directed to the rapidity of an orderly demobilization with every consideration that is possible to give the individual when dealing in terms of millions.3
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. Marshall’s draft was intended to provide information for members of Congress to use in replying to constituent mail on the subject. This version was sent to James R. Shepley, a war correspondent for Time magazine whom Marshall had recruited in April and made a captain in the army in order to help write and edit his 1945 biennial report.
2. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the GI Bill of Rights, was signed by President Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, following a five-month legislative campaign by supporters, led by the American Legion. The bill provided six benefits: education and training (tuition, books, fees, and a subsistence allowance); loan guarantees for purchasing or building a home, business, or farm; unemployment pay ($20 per week for up to fifty-two weeks); job-finding assistance; highest priority for building materials used for Veterans Administration hospitals; and a review by the military of dishonorable discharges (persons with such discharges were excluded from benefits). (U.S. Statutes at Large, 1944, vol. 58, pt. 1, pp. 284-301, Public Law 346.)
3. Shepley considerably changed Marshall’s original, increasing its length by 260 percent in order to add more explanatory information; he also changed the tone to one more popular, if still official-sounding. The typeset final version was a single folded sheet and had an initial press run of fifty thousand copies (roughly one hundred for each member of Congress). Marshall sent each legislator a brief letter enclosing and explaining the statement and telling them where they could get additional copies. (Marshall to the Members of Congress, September 10, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
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. 298-299.