2-082 Editorial Note on 1940 Appropriations

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on 1940 Appropriations

November 27-30, 1939

On November 27 and 30 the chief of staff testified before a special session of the House Appropriations Committee regarding the necessity of Congress providing a supplemental appropriation of $120,000,000 for fiscal year 1940. The funds were essential, Marshall told the congress men, to pay for increasing the strength of the Regular Army and the National Guard under the president’s executive order of September 8, for equipping the reactivated units, for reinforcing the Panama Canal and Puerto Rican garrisons, for improving the army’s training program, and for providing motor transportation for certain units.

In concluding his prepared remarks on November 27, Marshall reemphasized “the deficiencies which have existed for years in the training of our larger units. Of the total annual War Department appropriations we have usually been able to devote less than the proverbial one-tenth of 1 percent to this phase of our problem, and the annual average of all direct charges against training of every kind has for some years been less than 5 percent. The unsoundness of such a procedure, particularly in view of the present critical world situation, is evident, I believe, to all of us, and it is hoped that the Congress will decide that the Army should never again be permitted to return to the condition of ineffectiveness which results from such a policy.” (House Appropriations Committee, Emergency Supplemental Appropriation Bill for 1940, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1939], p. 4.)

Marshall was careful to explain in detail the request for $16,000,000 for motor vehicles already ordered. “That sum will furnish motor vehicles for the five new triangular divisions, for the corps troops for one Army corps and for certain G.H.Q. and Army troops. . . . There has been a great deal in the press about the Army having a streamlined division. The discussions have indicated that the division is one which is completely motorized and which, as a unit, can travel at a high rate of speed. However, these are not motorized divisions in that sense. The motors take the place of animals. In the old divisions the mule or the horse carried ammunition and drew machine guns and cannon and supply trains; the men rode on the caissons of the artillery or on the artillery horses. In the new divisions, if the gun goes by motor the men also go by motor; but the infantryman, the rifleman still walks, except when it becomes necessary to move him rapidly, then motor trains, if available, would be employed.” (Ibid., p. 6.)

Although trucks were faster and less expensive to maintain than animals, the horse and mule were not wholly outmoded, and there were no plans to eliminate them completely. Marshall observed that the German Army had opened its assault on Poland with animal-drawn divisions. “We have to be careful that we do not cut down on our horse-drawn elements to the point where we will lose the knowledge, the technique of handling animals. In France, for example, lack of this knowledge cost us a large part of over 50,000 animal casualties. In contrast, almost every boy in this country knows how to handle a motor vehicle and many of them understand a great deal about the repair of motor equipment. But we only have a few who know how to handle animals, and blacksmiths or farriers are hard to find. So, we have to be careful that we do not go below the point where the knowledge of horse-drawn equipment and the care of animals would be seriously lacking. We might find ourselves in a serious predicament if we had to operate in a country where we would be forced to employ that type of transportation.” (Ibid., p. 7.)

In his testimony on November 30, Marshall discussed in considerable detail the need for funding the large-scale maneuvers that the army had planned for the next eight months. The additional money was needed primarily to cover transportation costs—pay and rations being largely fixed whether the army was in garrison or on maneuvers. The United States Army’s lack of experience in large-scale maneuvers during the two previous decades and its lack of specialized corps troops meant that “we have been forced to build up our technique of command and control and even our development of leadership, largely on a theoretical basis. We have, I believe, the best military school system for the training of officers in the world, but of necessity the instruction has had to be based largely on theoretical conceptions in relation to units larger than a brigade. This is a source of weakness, just as it would be a source of weakness for a football team never even to have had team practice until the day of the game. What appears satisfactory on paper too frequently we find quite impracticable in actual operations. Organization and planning, based too largely on theoretical grounds, result in cumbersome organizations, too large staffs and too lengthy and complicated orders.

“Training the ground forces of an army for actual campaign in battle is a difficult business at best, as there is little that can be done in time of peace to simulate closely the conditions under which troops operate in war. Therefore, it is all the more important that we make every effort to learn the practical business of troop leadership and teamwork, utilizing field maneuvers for this purpose, and especially to wash out the over-theoretical or academic conceptions. We must have more simplicity of procedure, and that requires teamwork, and teamwork is possible only if we have an opportunity to practice as a team.” (Ibid., pp. 134-35.)

The American Expeditionary Forces of 1917-18, he reminded the committee, was fortunate in having had “allies to protect it for more than a year, while it found itself. The future problems of our Army visualize no such protected period for overcoming peacetime military deficiencies. We must be prepared to stand on our own feet.” (Ibid., p. 138. The bill—appropriating $109,416,689—became law on February 12, 1940.)

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 110-112.

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