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Editorial Note on Mobilization Planning
February 26, 1940
Marshall answered questions from members of the House Subcommittee on War Department Appropriations on February 26, 1940. He explained that the Initial Protective Force (I.P.F.), a portion of the Protective Mobilization Plan (P.M.P.) force, consisted of the entire national Guard and a portion of the Regular Army. “Our present plan contemplates that in time of emergency our initial force will be expanded to the protective mobilization plan force within a period of approximately 4 months. It is therefore obvious that critical items required for the balance of the protective mobilization plan force must be on hand before an emergency arises.” Marshall estimated that an appropriation of $76 million (37 million in fiscal year 1941) was necessary to provide critical items for the I.P.F. For the remainder of the force, another $240 million had to be appropriated. (Military Establishment Appropriation Bill for 1941, p. 28.)
Asking for an additional 4,700 men to supplement existing units of the National Guard, Marshall met immediate opposition form subcommittee Chairman J. Buell Snyder. The chief of staff countered: “If National Guard units are to be effective in the early days of an emergency, it is imperative that they be maintained as nearly as practicable at full peace strength. Consequently, the diversion of any of the increase for the activation of new units is not considered to be in the best interests of preparedness.” (Ibid., pp. 28-29)
Marshall was asked to elaborate the War Department’s policy on the expansion of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. “Could you not establish more of these units over the country?” asked David D. Terry, Democrat from Arkansas. Marshall’s reply is illustrative of his ideas on mobilization in general: “The policy has been and is that, until we are able to provide an adequate number of officers for the existing R.O.T.C. units, we should not establish any additional ones. We have a shortage of officers with the existing units, which becomes more marked as enrollment increases. In the last year the increase was approximately 10,000.
“The shortage of instructor personnel creates an unfortunate situation for the Army and also for the individual officer on R.O.T.C. duty. He is becoming badly overworked.
“We have felt it best to consider the needs of existing units rather than to establish additional ones.” (Ibid., p. 33.)
Marshall seized this opportunity to educate Congress on the growing responsibilities of officers in the modern army. “I would like to present one other aspect at this time which has not yet been discussed. There has grown, up largely since 1919, many added responsibilities of the Regular Army which take an officer away from the important duty of commanding troops of his arm. On duty with the R.O.T.C. we have 826 officers; with the National Guard, a few under 500; 475 with the Organized Reserves. In addition, there are the faculties and students of the service schools, the General Staff, the overhead personnel of the various corps area and departments. All of these details take officers away from troops.
“Today we have a situation where the average line officer has little opportunity to handle men. He is losing the practical experience, and that is one of the things I am thinking very much about. There is a strong demand to have officers assigned to troops, but the best officers are in demand everywhere and if something weren’t done to help them they would rarely serve with troops. We cannot continue to take officers away from troops in the Army without jeopardizing leadership, and I am inclined to think that we have about reached the limit at the present time.” (Ibid., p. 34.)
The chief of staff met stiff opposition that day from D. Lane Powers, Republican from New Jersey, who responded to Marshall’s comments on officer strength in the military establishment: “Year after year it is the same. This is the eighth year I have sat here, and I have heard Army officers come and say, `If you will just do this this year, no matter what happens, we are absolutely set; we won’t require any more. That will give us a nucleus of what we want.” And then the next year something different is advocated. I sat here in 1933 and heard General MacArthur say, `If we had 165,000 enlisted men in this Army, we would not fear anything that might happen.’ Can’t we arrive at some jumping-off place where you gentlemen can come to this committee and say, `Here is our program, and this is what we think it is going to cost over a period of years,’ and then figure out whether we can do it?” General Marshall replied: “To a certain extent we can do it, but conditions change. The present world situation has changed conditions.” (Ibid., p. 40.)
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. 167-169.