1-085 Editorial Note on Preparations for Departure, June 1917

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: June 1, 1917

Editorial Note on Preparations for Departure

June 1917

Operations officer with the first division sent to France was the job Marshall “particularly desired.” General Sibert’s telegram meant duty in France, but Marshall did not know that the general was to command the First Division, and he did not know in what general staff capacity he was to serve. On June 8, when Sibert formally took command of the division, Marshall learned that he was to be the assistant chief of staff for Operations. (Marshall, Memoirs, p. 5.)

The troops began boarding their hastily and inadequately prepared ships on the night of June 10. The next day, the division’s staff assembled for the first time aboard the United States Army Transport Tenadores, formerly a United Fruit Company banana boat. Marshall shared a stateroom with the division’s other assistant chief of staff, Major Lesley J. McNair (U.S.M.A., 1904), who was in charge of training. Marshall also became friendly with a casual passenger on the ship, Major Frank R. McCoy (U.S.M.A., 1897), who was on his way to become assistant chief of staff at Pershing’s headquarters in Paris. (Ibid., p. 7.)

The troops, Marshall discovered, “had been given their arms on going to the train. They were about 20 percent of the original regiment. The rest of the regiment had been taken to form new regiments. . . . It was quite a messed-up affair when they arrived in Hoboken [New Jersey]. They had no knowledge of how to drill, no knowledge of how to handle their rifles, and they were eighty percent of the strength of the companies. Together with the fact that all the men loading the ships seemed to be bull-necked Germans, it wasn’t a very encouraging outlook.” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 189-90.)

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. 109.

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