1-063 Editorial Note on Second Philippine Assignment, January 1914

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 1, 1914

Editorial Note on Second Philippine Assignment

January 1914

Marshall was struck by the changes that had taken place in the Philippines since his previous tour in 1902-3. “The greatest difference of all was the fact that under a very fine road policy, when they built these macadam roads and had men to tend them and sweep the macadam_it wasn’t rocks, but powder dust_back into all the places where the water would accumulate, so that the Philippines really had a better road system at that time so far as extensiveness and being connected up, than there was in most places I knew in the United States. Living condition, of course, were very much better because you had good houses and very good servants. And you had a very good general commissary to bring things out, so that you got good things to eat and sufficient fresh things. So it was a tremendous improvement over the Philippines of the old days when maybe you got it and maybe you didn’t.” (Marshall Interviews, p. 178.)

Sometime during 1914, Marshall purchased a new Model-T Ford from his Fort Leavenworth colleague Major Clarence O. Sherrill of the Corps of Engineers. This facilitated Marshall’s study of the military campaigns during the Philippine Insurrection. “I got very much interested in visiting the battlefields,” he said later. (Ibid., p. 171.)

Marshall had been somewhat “ashamed” of his lack of knowledge concerning the Philippine Insurrection. When the War Department offered free copies of its voluminous reports on the Insurrection, Marshall took all he could get. When he returned to the Islands in 1913, he began to study the books seriously. “I went through them all in great detail,” he recalled. He was particularly struck by the reactions of the troops and their officers to the problems they faced in a guerrilla war in the jungle, noting the possibilities for their actions getting “out of hand when they are on their own in critical situations.” Furthermore, he was interested in the conflicts between the civilian government then being established and the soldiers who had suffered during the Insurrection. It was, he later observed, “all together a regrettable situation” in which both sides were wrong. (Ibid., pp. 139-40.)

A few weeks after he arrived in Manila, planning began for a major training exercise to be held early in 1914. Marshall was appointed adjutant for the “White Force” (also called “Detachment No. 1”) that was to act as the invader who, having landed at Batangas (about 115 kilometers south of Manila), would attempt to capture the Philippine capital. This provided Marshall some relief from the routine of garrison duty with Company F, Thirteenth Infantry, at Fort McKinley.

Planning for the exercise continued into early January, 1914. The White Force of 4,842 officers and men was to face the defending “Brown Force” (or “Detachment No. 2”) of 3,245. It had been customary in arranging such maneuvers to furnish detailed information concerning the starting date, concentration points, and so on, to the troops and supply departments thirty to ninety days beforehand. But General Bell, the Philippine Department commander, kept the exact date secret. Rumors put the starting date about February 15. (Colonel James B. Erwin [chief umpire] to Bell, March 20, 1914, NA/RG 165 [War College Division].)

Shortly after eight o’clock on the morning of January 22, a surprised Marshall was called away from a company skirmish-run to report to headquarters in his “soaking wet flannel shirt.” Having received their maneuver instructions, Colonel William C. Buttler (U.S.M.A., 1876), Twenty-fourth Infantry, White Force commander, and his staff went to Marshall’s quarters to eat lunch and begin their preparations.

Marshall, whose duty was to issue all the detailed orders to the various units, recalled that he spent most of the luncheon “on the telephone mobilizing this outfit and arranging for it to move to Batangas. It came from all sorts of places in northern Luzon and had to move by various ships and all, and I had to get the whole thing together.“

“I was having a great deal of trouble. I didn’t realize the full reason for the trouble, because I was mobilizing the larger detachment of the two and I was just a lieutenant. On the other side two full colonels were at the top, and they were mobilizing their detachments and they were getting all the preference on account of their rank. So I was having a very hard time. I finally had to go in and see the Quartermaster and tell him I had to get this, and finally he said I didn’t have approval to see him. I said I came in because it was the only way I could get in. I had to get this outfit underway and I had to have stalls on the boats for some eighteen hundred horses before we could get that part of the command out. He said he couldn’t talk to me then. I said, I’m sorry, but we’ve got to have an understanding. If you are not going to deal with me except as a lieutenant, I will communicate with General Bell, who is in the southern provinces, and find out what he wants me to do. Well, of course, then he wilted and right away gave me a reasonable break as to what I should get. But I was always up against the fact that I was dealing with a colonel, and my opponents were colonels, and I was just a lieutenant.” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 172-73.)

Captain Jens Bugge (U.S.M.A., 1895), a close friend of Marshall, despite being over six hundred files senior, and one of Marshall’s former students at Fort Leavenworth, had been detailed to act as the detachment’s chief of staff. But on the trip to Batangas, Bugge suddenly became ill and had to be sent back to Fort McKinley. Marshall was designated to replace Bugge, making him de facto commander of the White Force.

As Marshall recalled, “the commanding officer was found ineffective by the Inspector General, who was cruising around. He was about to retire very shortly, I think, anyway. General Bell wrote him a letter and notified him that he could either be retired immediately, or he could continue through the maneuver, but he would have to leave all the commanding to be done by me. The reason they did it just that way was because the next man in rank was about as bad as he was. They told me they were going to relieve this first fellow, who was a very courtly gentleman, very nice fellow. He carried a zinc-lined suitcase with him which he worked on most of the time. He would ride in the spring wagon and I would ride the horse. But every time we would stop, the suitcase would be opened and he would refresh himself against the Philippine heat. But when they told me they were going to . . . retire him, I objected, because I knew I was going to have a much more difficult time with the other man. So the arrangement was made whereby he continued through maneuvers, but he must agree not to give me any instructions of any kind, but leave me free to act. So I had the advantage of being a first lieutenant with the largest force of troops in the Philippines, which I could command in a very extensive maneuver campaign.” (Ibid.)

The following are two of the documents—typical of the dozens Marshall issued from White Force headquarters during the January 25-February 4 maneuver—included in the chief umpire’s report to General Bell.

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), pp. 76-78.

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