2-187 Editorial Note on Manpower Increases, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on Manpower Increases

May-June 1940

The chief of staff’s schedule between May 29 and June 5 was indeed hectic. In addition to the normal swarm of visitors, meetings, and conferences, Marshall made four trips to the White House and seven to the Capitol, testifying at hearings on five different days concerning four subjects before three committees. One of his constant refrains at these hearings was that the time the nation had for military preparedness was growing short. He also carefully reiterated that the army’s efforts were directed toward defending the Western Hemisphere. For this he at once needed more money, materiel, and manpower—and given the fluid international situation, perhaps yet more in the near future.

On May 29 Marshall appeared before the War Department Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee for the first time since the German invasion of Norway. Proposed changes in the House-passed army budget of April 4 (i.e., additions by the Senate plus increases contained in the president’s May 16 speech) had more than doubled the original appropriation. When the supplemental funds President Roosevelt requested in his May 31 message were included, the total Marshall was called upon to justify was $2,530,482,624—equal to the total army budget for the previous five years. Some committee members wished to know if this amount was sufficient and could be spent properly. Marshall replied that funding for materiel was adequate.

“Personnel happens to be our tragic shortage at the moment. There is no doubt in my mind of the extreme importance of getting this materiel of the more modern types and, I stated before this committee in February, that I put materiel ahead of anything else. I even put it ahead, in view of the conditions at the time, before we had seen Norway blow up, of the desire for the small number of 15,000 men.

“In the past, it has been a question of the costs involved. We have our American standard, which we have to live up to. If we are going to maintain a volunteer Army, we must provide pay, food, shelter, and medical attention on a basis that is far beyond the requirements of other countries, particularly of those with conscript or universal-service requirements.

“The materiel items we are dealing with always are, of course, for the protective mobilization plan force of 750,000 men, plus replacements; where as the personnel items were for the existing troops of the Regular Army and National Guard. But, the Senate amendment, adding to the enlisted strength for the Regular Army, only carries the total up to 515,000, including all of the National Guard.

“Personnel at the present moment is our most serious deficiency, in the light of the requirements that are being brought to bear on the War Department particularly in the past week or more, and the necessity of having seasoned, trained men, who can use the new weapons effectively and immediately and with a state of discipline that makes them completely dependable.

“I have struggled in the past to hold the personnel requirements down because the materiel is a permanent asset, good for 20 or 25 years, with a low cost of maintenance and, whatever the economies that may be forced on us, we would still have the materiel on hand to capitalize our man power at a later day. But now the situation has changed and personnel is the only thing, in a large measure, that can produce immediate results, within a period, roughly, of 6 months.” (House Appropriations Committee, Senate Amendments to the Military Establishment Appropriation Bill for 1941, pp. 6-7.)

This added manpower would come mainly from volunteers for three-year enlistments in the Regular Army. These had been running at about 8,000 per month; Marshall expected the European crisis to increase that rate substantially. He was certain that the goal of 280,000 enlisted men in the Regular Army would be met by September. (House Appropriations Committee, Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill for 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1940], p. 66; House Appropriations Committee, Senate Amendments, p. 30.)

Second, Marshall attempted to persuade Congress to fund the Enlisted Reserve Corps, authorized by the 1920 army reorganization act but never implemented. Under this program 200,000 volunteers would be given three or four months of training and then returned to their civil pursuits. (Unsigned Memorandum for Harry Hopkins, May 25,1940, NA/ RG 165[0 CS, Emergency File]; House Appropriations Committee, Senate Amendments, pp. 22-23.)

Third, Marshall’s staff drafted an amendment to a bill, which Senator James F. Byrnes introduced, aimed at using the Civilian Conservation Corps to recruit and to train service personnel (e.g., cooks, mechanics, and radio operators). Despite Marshall’s favorable testimony, this bill was defeated in mid-June. (Senate Appropriations Committee, Emergency Relief Appropriation Act, Fiscal Year 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1940], pp. 191-97. Marshall testified on May 31.)

Marshall never mentioned the possibility of conscription at these hearings. Neither did he wish to mobilize the National Guard. It was less than half its authorized strength, and it would take a long time to close this gap by recruitment. Moreover, Guard units would require extensive training before they became militarily effective. “In order to delay or to avoid the possible necessity for mobilizing the National Guard, or a part of it,” Marshall told the House Appropriations Committee, “there is a requirement for a further increase in the strength of the Regular Army of 55,000 men on a voluntary basis pure and simple.” As a second priority, 40,000 more men were needed for the Air Corps. “We wish to enlist the additional 95,000, however, on the basis of a purely temporary force for the emergency.” The cost of this was an additional $321,921,898. He did not, however, have the president’s permission to request this increase, he told the committee.

“Beyond a Regular Army strength of about 400,000 we can arrive at additional trained and seasoned units more rapidly by utilizing the National Guard than by expanding further the Regular Army. The reason for the difference is that the odd companies and battalions in the Regular Army provide a leaven to a new unit that will enable it to be very quickly organized and trained. When a strength of about 400,000 is reached, that leaven will have been absorbed.” (House Appropriations Committee, Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill for 1941, pp. 68-72.)

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. 230-233.

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