1-333 Editorial Note on Illinois National Guard Assignment, October 1933

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 1, 1933

Editorial Note on Illinois National Guard Assignment

October 1933

The Chicago assignment came as an unwelcome surprise. The Marshalls had just finished redecorating their large house at Fort Moultrie and expected to remain there at least two years. Moreover, Marshall was reluctant to leave duty with troops for a desk job in a large city. Making a rare request for special consideration, he wrote to Chief of Staff MacArthur for permission to remain with his regiment. Another long period of detached service, he feared, following so closely on detached service at the War College and the Infantry School, might be fatal to his career. (K. T. Marshall, Together, pp. 17-18.)

The orders stood, however, and on October 20, 1933, the Marshalls left the regiment for Chicago to look for a place to live. Seven days later, Marshall reported for duty as senior instructor with the Illinois National Guard. Mrs. Marshall observed that during their first months in Chicago, “George had a grey, drawn look which I had never seen before, and have seldom seen since." (Ibid., p. 18.)

The Illinois National Guard consisted of the Thirty-third Division and attached troops—nearly ten thousand men, of whom more than half resided in and around Chicago. In addition to their two weeks of field training each summer, the Guardsmen met once each week in their armories; officers and non-commissioned officers usually worked one or two additional evenings per week. Besides armory drills, there was instruction in weapons, gunnery, motor mechanics, engineering, electrical communications, supply methods, tactical map problems, and plans for mobilization in war and for local emergencies. (Illinois Guardsman 2[March 1935]: 22-23.)

The Illinois National Guard’s commander, Roy D. Keehn, was a politically well-connected attorney for the Hearst newspapers in Chicago who had been a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Department prior to his promotion to major general in 1929. The Regular Army officers assigned to the division were frequently critical of the division’s technical ignorance and lack of efficiency. But, one former instructor recalled, any Regular who tried to “buck the National Guard in any way” ran the risk of being “reported as non-cooperative, transferred, and on a poor status with the War Department." (Colonel Charles S. Ritchel, “My Recollections of General George C. Marshall,” n.d. [1960?], GCMRL/Research File [Illinois National Guard].)

Prior to Marshall’s arrival, another former instructor wrote, “the units of the Illinois National Guard were content with some close order drill, limited firing practice, `spit and polish’ and near 100% attendance at Armory Inspections and Summer Camps." (Colonel Arthur Pickens to Forrest C. Pogue, November 13, 1960, ibid.) Both instructors agreed that Marshall soon impressed upon General Keehn and his subordinate officers the need for schools of instruction, tactical exercises, and war games to aid in getting the division combat-ready.

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 405.

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