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Editorial Note on Manpower Growth
Manpower growth was the dominant theme for War Department leaders during the last three months of 1940; it suffused every issue and brought with it a host of problems for the chief of staff. The net gain in enlisted men and officers during this period (182,000) was nearly equal to the total in the Regular Army when George C. Marshall became acting chief of staff on July 1, 1939. Despite the passage of the nation’s first peacetime conscription law, drafted men constituted only slightly more than 10 percent of this increase. The largest component came from federalizing National Guard units. Six Infantry divisions, five additional Infantry regiments, three Coast Artillery units, nine Observation squadrons, and nine other Guard units were called up during the last quarter of 1940 and added to the four divisions, eighteen Coast Artillery regiments, and four Observation squadrons that had been federalized in the last two weeks of September. (War Department, “Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff, July 1, 1941,” in Report of the Secretary of War to the President, 1941 [Washington: GPO, 1941], Chart 9, Table D, and p. 134.) The construction of cantonments and the manufacture and distribution of materiel lagged, presenting Marshall with political, social, and morale problems.
Marshall’s already busy schedule became even more crowded and the pressures of his job increased. “To be perfectly honest,” he wrote, “when I leave the office I find it necessary to completely detach myself from Army affairs in order to clear my mind in preparation for the next day’s business. The pressures these times are terrific.” (Marshall to Mrs. Elizabeth Conger Pratt, October 4, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) To a friend in Portland, Oregon, Marshall again wrote of his strenuous days but noted: “I am blessed with a remarkably able staff. I think very few people in this country appreciate the tremendous expansion, with all its involvements, that we have been carrying out during the past six months, and particularly the past three; so much of it has been done efficiently that it has developed quite unobtrusively.” (Marshall to Aaron M. Frank, October 4, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
While declining an invitation to address the Bankers Club of Chicago, Marshall wrote to his longtime friend Charles G. Dawes that “engagements made a few days ahead are usually impossible to keep. My weekends and lulls, if any, in affairs here have been used for inspections of concentrations in the field. With Congress in session, I have necessarily had to remain close to home to be available for Committee meetings. During this time I have depended on others to make inspections, which are increasingly vital, and now I feel that to attempt engagements would further tie me to a set schedule, which I must avoid.” (Marshall to Dawes, October 15, 1940, Northwestern/C. G. Dawes Papers.)
Despite the press of momentous events and the army’s massive growth in size and budget, Marshall continued to concern himself seriously with the individual soldier’s morale and welfare. “More than ever before,” he told a national radio audience, “the efficiency of an army depends upon the quality of its soldiers.” (N.B.C. Radio Address on the Progress of National Defense, November 29, 1940, p. 359.)
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. 323-324.