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Editorial Note on the Civilian Conservation Corps
In an effort to provide temporary relief for unemployed, young, male citizens, President Roosevelt asked Congress on March 31, 1933, “to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects.” Ten days later, the president signed the “Act for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes.” Executive Order No. 6101, issued on April 5, created the agency officially titled Emergency Conservation Work, but best known by its popular name: the C.C.C.—Civilian Conservation Corps. (The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 13 vols. [New York, 1938-50], 2: 80- 81, 107-8.)
“We were en route to Fort Benning for the annual Corps Area Maneuvers,” Marshall wrote to a World War acquaintance on March 29, “when the concentration was called off because of the President’s emergency employment proposal for 250,000 men.” (Marshall to Captain Germain Seligman, March 29, 1933, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Fort Screven].) The cancellation was precipitated by Secretary of War George H. Dern’s “warning instructions” to the corps area commanders on March 25 to begin preparations to organize, feed, clothe, and house one hundred thousand men for a short period. (Colonel Duncan K. Major, Jr., to TAG, March 25, 1933, NA/RG 407 [324.5, CCC (3-25-33)].)
The army’s role was to be of longer duration and of greater extent than anyone initially realized. By early July, 1933, barely three months after enrolling the first man, the C.C.C. had settled 250,000 young men, 25,000 World War veterans, and 25,000 experienced woodsmen in 1,468 camps of approximately 200 men each. (The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 2: 110.)
To expedite the sudden influx of men, corps areas were divided into C.C.C. districts. While at Fort Screven, Marshall commanded District F: Florida, much of Georgia, and a small part of South Carolina. When he was transferred to Fort Moultrie, he commanded District I: South Carolina.
The new C.C.C. men were sent to Marshall and the other district commanders to be apportioned into companies, housed, fed, clothed, and entertained. The district commander was charged with inspecting and approving potential campsites and supervising the construction of the camps. Marshall’s first group, Company 449, arrived about April 26. By the end of May, he commanded two C.C.C. companies of 406 men at Fort Screven. By the time he left Screven, he had supervised the creation of ten camps housing 1,879 men. When Marshall took command at Fort Moultrie on June 29, District I had a total of eleven C.C.C. camps and 1,915 men. (Weekly Morale Reports, May 1 to June 25, 1933, NA/RG 407 [324.5, CCC (3-25-33)].)
To handle the C.C.C. mobilization, nearly all normal garrison duties were temporarily suspended. According to one of his assistants at Fort Screven, Marshall “ate, breathed and digested the many C.C.C. problems.” (Reuben E. Jenkins to Forrest C. Pogue, October 26, 1960, GCMRL/Research File [Fort Screven].) Writing to Marshall in May, Colonel Laurence Halstead, acting chief of Infantry, doubtless spoke for many Regular Army officers: “This work is onerous and probably distasteful to the Army as it is not exactly military work but I feel that it is the salvation of the Army. In fact, it is my opinion that the Army is the only Governmental agency that was able to handle this proposition. I have noticed a cessation of talk of reducing the Army by four thousand officers since we started in on the conservation work.” (Halstead to Marshall, May 26, 1933, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Fort Screven].)
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. 392-393.