2-458 Editorial Note on Officer Training Camps, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on Officer Training Camps

February-March 1941

During the summer of 1940 some 36,151 young men had completed the summer Citizens’ Military Training Camps in the nine corps areas; 2,318 completed the advanced course, and 245 of these accepted appointment as second lieutenants in the Officers’ Reserve Corps. An additional 2,160 older men had completed the special business and professional leaders’ course; over one-third of these were from the New York-New Jersey area. (War Department, Report of the Secretary of War to the President, 1941 [Washington: GPO, 1941], pp. 137-38.) But the preparedness advocates associated with the Military Training Camps Association, which was particularly strong around New York City, had been disappointed with General Marshall and the army’s opposition to expanding the camps and to making them the chief training facilities for new officers. (See Marshall to Davis, July 20, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-227, [2: 273-74].)

The M.T.C.A.—strongly supported by Secretary Stimson, Under Secretary Patterson, and newly appointed Assistant Secretary John J. McCloy— believed that the experience of 1917-18 had demonstrated that “three months would be ample” to turn “the best brains in the country” into second lieutenants. Brigadier General Wade H. Haislip, the assistant chief of staff, G-1, argued the General Staff’s position that twice as long was essential. (March 12, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 33: 83-84].) Moreover, the M.T.C.A. believed that those “best brains” would not be attracted to the army if, rather than taking Reserve commissions and returning to civilian pursuits after camp, they first had to train as enlisted men and then to serve on active duty for a year; desirable men might prefer the navy, which was not imposing such restrictions. (William T. Sexton notes on Conference in the Office of the Chief of Staff, February 8, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

The secretary of war noted in his diary that Patterson and McCloy gave him “a long and worrisome talk” about the issue. They “felt that we ought to have training camps and think that the Army’s opposition to it is simply a mark of incompetence and narrow-mindedness.” (March 27, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 33: 118].) On that day Marshall had threatened to resign as chief of staff if such training camps were instituted. Marshall had discussed the possible necessity of threatening this action at a March 22 meeting with Deputy Chief of Staff Richard C. Moore and Secretary of the General Staff Orlando Ward. Five days later Ward wrote in his diary: “The Chief of Staff and the Sectary of War had it out on the matter of training camps for the sons of the rich with out their going thru the draft. He the C/S told him that aparantly the New York General Staff thought one thing and that the War Department General Staff thought another and that he could not stay as Chief of Staff if the SW took the advice of the NY out fit. It evidently was rather embarrassing to the SW but the C/S came out on top and It should be a red letter day for the army. It should seat us a little frimer in the saddle. God knows wer nearly out of it enough of the time.” (Orlando Ward Diary, March 22 and 27, photocopy in GCMRL/Research File.)

Marshall later told his authorized biographer that he did not like having to take this position with Secretary Stimson. “I thought it was a very bad business for a public official to come up with a resignation proposition just because the thing didn’t go his way—which is so often the case with political appointees—and I didn’t think an army officer had any business doing it unless it was a matter of such great moment that he couldn’t continue himself with the thing or with the affair because of a violent difference in principle. However, I was trying to save the situation and that was the only way I could think of at the time. I regretted it afterwards, though it partly accomplished its purpose.” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 502-3.)

Having stopped the movement to make Citizens’ Military Training Camps the primary officer training facilities, Marshall then turned to solving the last-minute problems arising before the opening of the army’s first Officer Candidate School on July 1.

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. 511-512.

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