1-496 Editorial Note on War Plans Division Assignment, July 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Editorial Note on War Plans Division Assignment

July-August 1938

Marshall reported for duty on July 6, 1938, as assistant chief of staff in charge of the War Plans Division of the War Department, a junior brigadier general in a protocol-conscious city where one-star generals were socially insignificant. (K. T. Marshall, Together, pp. 37-40.) In theory, each of the five divisions of the General Staff (G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and War Plans) was equal in stature; but in fact the War Plans Division was superior to the others. Army Regulation 10-15 (August 18, 1936), which defined the organization and general duties of the General Staff, designated the War Plans Division as the nucleus of the army’s general headquarters in the event of mobilization. The brief period Marshall spent in that office (July 6-October 14, 1938) was essentially one of training for the post of deputy chief of staff.

On September 1, 1921, the post of deputy chief of staff was created, although prior to July, 1939, the office had no statutory basis. The deputy’s jobs were to assist the chief of staff, to act for that officer in the War Department in his absence, and to report directly to the secretary of war in all matters not involving the establishment of important policies. His office was charged with “the preparation of plans and policies in connection with legislation and with military estimates for funds; with processing budgetary matters in the General Staff; with reports concerning legislation and requests for legislation that come within the purview of The General Council or that are referred to the General Staff; and with such other duties as the Chief of Staff may prescribe.” The deputy also supervised and coordinated the activities of the five divisions of the General Staff. (War Department, Army Regulations, No. 115 [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1936], pp. 1-2.) The deputy’s office was not an inevitable stepping stone to the chief’s office. Since 1921, of the eleven men who had occupied the deputy’s post before Marshall, only John L. Hines had become chief of staff.

Although it had increased in size by one-third since Marshall had left the Infantry School six years before, the army had made little progress toward rearmament or modernization. Marshall was anxious to proceed with those tasks and also to reconcile the divergent tactical and strategic views of the air and ground officers. When he became deputy chief of staff on October 15, 1938, he found that in addition he had to reconcile the divergent views of the various army branches with the realities of congressional budget appropriations. He told Major General Keehn of the Illinois National Guard: “I change jobs, on an order issued today making me Deputy Chief of Staff. I fear that this will carry with it a great deal of grief, because it will be my job to struggle with the budget, which is more or less the genesis of all ill feeling within the War Department and among the various components of the Army.” (Marshall to Keehn, October 15, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) A few weeks later, writing to invite some friends to visit him in Washington, D.C., he remarked: “All this, of course, if I am still here, because I am spending most of my time with my neck out, and there is a great deal of shooting going on.” (Marshall to Mrs. William B. Tuttle, January 23, 1939, ibid.)

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. 611.

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