1-204 Lecture at the Army War College, September 10, 1923

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 10, 1923

Lecture at the Army War College1

September 10, 1923 Washington, D.C.

The Development of the National Army.

General Ely has asked me to talk informally on the development of the National Army.2 He wished me to give you the result of my own observations while on duty in the War Department and on inspection trips with General Pershing during the past three years.

It has seemed to me that the preliminary development of our military policy, or the National Army, has had three phases. In the beginning General Pershing was concerned with the reorganization of the General Staff on what he felt would be an enduring basis, not liable to disruption on the declaration of war. Immediately following this, his attention appeared to be directed towards the indoctrination of the General Staff and the War Department with a clear conception of the new order of things; then the Corps Area Commanders and their staffs; and finally, the Regular Army as a whole. The second phase involved the education of the National Guard and Reserve Officers in their positions and duties in this new scheme of things, and the development of the R.O.T.C. and C.M.T.C. The final phase came this summer, when he endeavored to draw to an intelligent support of the military establishment, the Members of Congress, the Chief Executives of States, the businessmen of the communities and the public generally.

It may not seem to you that the education of the Regular Army in its new duties and responsibilities presented a serious problem. As a matter of fact, I believe this has been the most difficult task of all. And it is natural that it should have been, because the present mission of the Regular Establishment is so utterly different from what it has ever been in the past, that a comparatively long time would necessarily be required to change the viewpoint of the personnel, particularly, those long in the service and accustomed to a radically different conception of our mission. . . .

In anticipation of some of the matters to be discussed later, I might say now that the greatest change observed last summer was in the viewpoint of the Regular officers, which seemed in a large measure responsible for the unusual excellence of the results obtained, as compared with those of the two previous years.

As a background for a discussion regarding the future possibilities in the development of the National Army, I will briefly outline the present status of the three components:


. . . As the principal mission of the Regular Army in the United States is the training of the citizen forces, it is unfortunate that the largest concentration of Regular troops should have to be in the Area of least density of population, which is along the Mexican border. With the recognition of Mexico and the stabilization of that country, it might be possible gradually to reduce the garrison in the Eighth Corps Area if shelter for the troops could be obtained elsewhere. Such a re-arrangement will, of course, be determined primarily by political considerations, and undoubtedly would be vigorously opposed by the citizens along the southern frontier for reasons which need not be commented on here.

Vexing problems of the Regular Army within the United States at the present time are recruiting, due largely to the enforced abolishment of a well established Recruiting Service, and the proper training each summer of large numbers of young men with a minimum number of Regular troops. This last makes it exceedingly difficult to give the Regular organizations that training which is essential if they are to be the models for the citizen components.


The development of the National Guard has been most encouraging, tho’ there has been practically no change in its strength in the past year, of approximately 160,000. This failure in growth is largely due to the expiration of three-year enlistments. Six Infantry divisions are complete, except as to Air Service, and eight more will probably be recognized within twelve months. There are to be eighteen in all, and four cavalry divisions. All but one are more than 50% complete. It is expected that before the end of the present fiscal year all organizations required to bring the National Guard to the agreed upon strength of 250,000 will be in process of organization. The present appropriation for this force is thirty million dollars ($30,000,000.)

The great change in the National Guard from the pre-war organization is in equipment and the quality of the officer personnel. The present Guard is thoroughly equipped for its preliminary war mission, except in those essentials not absolutely necessary for peace training, and which would be readily obtainable on the outbreak of war. Horses are the most important item of this nature. The great improvement in the quality of the officers was very noticeable this summer and was frequently commented upon by Governors and their Adjutant Generals. In certain sections of the country which heretofore have had a very weak organization, we found not a marked, but a remarkable improvement, the troops comparing favorably with the best of State troops prior to1917. The recruitment of the National Guard near large cities has been more difficult than elsewhere, due to strong feelings regarding labor questions and similar matters. There it has been found advisable to confine enlistments to very young men. It appears that in those sections of the country where the bulk of the population is of pure American stock, the development of the National Guard is proceeding most rapidly. An exception to this, of course, is the 27th Division in New York State, though many of its units are drawn from the rural districts. . . .


It is in the domain of the Organized Reserves that we reach a new field, without established precedents to guide us. There are now 77,000 officers in the Reserve Corps, the majority of whom are assigned to organizations in 27 infantry and 6 cavalry divisions. Twenty-six of these divisions are more than 60%completed as to officer assignments. One division has only 32% of its officer personnel, due to recent re-allocation of unit areas. In addition, there are 439 separate regiments, largely corps and army troops. It is unfortunate that paucity of funds only permitted 6,000 Reserve Officers to be called out for training this year.

The potential strength of this force is probably not appreciated except by those officers now on duty with it who are also familiar with the struggles of the War Department in 1917. When one pauses to recall that our first war measure was the opening of the training camps for officers on May 15, 1917, and that this was not followed by the assembly of the National Army commands until September of that year, and that the newly created officers were even then without experience in the training of men;—and then if one can picture the situation today, and by that I mean this morning,—the change already brought about is so vast as to be difficult of comprehension. Twenty-six infantry and six cavalry divisions are organized today with a sufficient officer strength of men largely experienced in actual warfare, or very well prepared through the R.O.T.C. camps, to undertake the immediate reception of recruits, their equipment and their training. A staff of Regular officers is on the ground to guide and direct. In other words, the machine is ready, with the foremen and general managers in place. A single telegram will set it in motion. Cantonments are unnecessary; even camps may be avoided; non-military supplies can be purchased on the local market.

The serious problem at the present time relates to the method of distributing arms and other distinctly military equipment, to this force. This last, however, need not delay the formation of the units and the preliminary training. As a matter of fact, this difficulty is not believed to be nearly so serious as might be imagined. If the number and location of the railheads for each divisional area are carefully determined in time of peace, the various organizations will undoubtedly find means of transporting their supplies and equipment without burdening division and corps staffs with this problem. In war time many things are possible which would be impracticable in time of peace, and the war spirit of each community can be relied upon to furnish every assistance within its power.

Think how different our position would have been at the time of our entry into the World War if we had had the present machine at our disposal. It is decentralized, has the necessary men who know at least the preliminaries of their job. It has the direct guidance of trained General Staff officers of the Regular Army,—and yet the total appropriation for this force, which will form approximately seventy-five percent of our war army, is only $1,755,000.



As auxiliaries, in effect, to the National Army, are the Reserve Officer Training Corps units and the Citizen Military Training Camps. Their membership, of course, is not in the military service of the United States, but they represent so direct a contribution to the strength of the Army that they may well be considered to all intents and purposes as a part of it.

During the past year there were 104,000 students enrolled in the R.O.T.C., of whom about 7,000 attended camps this summer. $3,100,000 was appropriated for this activity. As to results, we are just reaching the period of material dividends, if measured in the number appointed Second Lieutenants in the Officers’ Reserve Corps. In round numbers, 200 received commissions in 1920; 1,000 the next year; 2,200 the next, and this year 3,100. In addition, there were almost a thousand who qualified, but are yet under age. The possibilities of this school for training lieutenants is great. 126 colleges maintain these units; 52academies; and 47 high schools. The number of graduates who qualify for commissions will materially increase and should provide a steady flow of fine officer material for the Reserve Corps and the National Guard.

These men have not qualified through a short intensive course, as in the old training camps, where it was impossible for the student to absorb all of the instruction attempted. On the contrary, they have had at least three years of training and preparation in which to absorb the instruction provided for them, including at least one summer camp of six weeks. The product of this system of instruction should be far superior to that of the hasty methods followed prior to and during the World War.

The extent of this development is quite surprising. For example, in the University of Illinois there are 2,500 R.O.T.C. students and 22 Regular officers instructing them. Of course, in the essentially military schools, there are many other large groups, but it is in the civil institutions that remarkable progress has been made, particularly in winning the sympathetic cooperation of the heads of colleges and their staffs of professors and instructors.

The Citizen Military Training camps provide a channel to a commission for the young man who cannot afford to go to college or attend a military academy. They also provide a prolific source of advantageous publicity for the National Defense. Four summer camps are involved in this course, but naturally the results will never be so satisfactory as in the R.O.T.C. units.

There were approximately 25,000 students in camp this summer, with a total appropriation of $2,000,000. In all but three Corps Areas, the allotment of students was exceeded, and in these three, special difficulties interfered with the recruiting, particularly in Wisconsin, for example, where a carefully organized effort was made in opposition to the camps.

There has not been sufficient time to produce a material number of graduates from these camps. Approximately 1,700 attended the Blue or final Course this year, and 1,500 are estimated to have successfully completed it.



Now as to the future development of this machine. So far as concerns the Regular Army, we know what we have and the difficulties of maintaining it. We know what additions we hope Congress will give us, and the even greater difficulty of securing them.

The question of shelter is gradually being settled, but few troops remaining in cantonments. The more advantageous location of units depends upon the appropriation of funds for new construction in the desired localities. The principal task of the Regular Army is the development of the most economical scheme so far as time and effort is concerned, of carrying out the training of the citizen forces. This will be discussed later in connection with the Reserve Corps.

The peril of the Regular Army appears to lie in the fact that so few of its officers can be given experience in the actual command of troops. Prior to 1916,about 80% of the officers were on troop duty. The knowledge of commanding and leading men was our great asset, which enabled us to overcome an almost equal lack of knowledge of the higher machinery of assembling armies and deploying them on battle fields. Today the situation is exactly reversed. About 75% of the officer personnel in the higher grades and possibly in the lower grades, is not on regimental duty, and opportunities of acquiring experience in the art of exercising command are rare. A Colonel of Infantry today cannot expect to have a regiment for more than about two years in ten or twelve of service. Without careful management, it is conceivable that we might reach a point where the most experienced regimental officers will be in the National Guard and not in the Regular Army. The consequent loss of prestige would be fatal to the leadership of the latter force. The small number of units at our disposal and the tremendous number of tasks away from troops imposed by our present military policy, make this issue appear to me the most serious con-fronting the Regular Army today. If we specialize on the development of a few men as battalion and regimental commanders we will be unable to furnish efficient instructors and, in many cases, virtual commanders for the units of the Reserve Corps and to assist the National Guard. An officer without adequate practical experience in the command of men has no place as instructor of the R.O.T.C. students at our colleges or in the summer training camps. He is not an asset on the General Staff or in the Office of a Chief of Arm. If he be utilized in the Inspector General’s Department, he would be put in the position of inspecting those who were efficient in the command of troops. The problem is a very difficult one.

In the training of the citizen forces, the future development of the Regular Army is largely a question of a state of mind. We are attempting a new mission, a new problem, utterly different from that of the past. We are dealing directly with the civil population which necessitates a thoroughly sympathetic and comprehensive understanding of the civilian viewpoint. We are very limited as to time and also as to funds. We are training men who volunteer their services as a sideline to their business and ordinary occupations in life. By every dictum of the law and plan of the War Department we are frankly engaged in creating a citizen force to fight our battles, rather than a small, highly trained, professional army to campaign in Mexico, Cuba or the Philippines. If we fail in the development of a citizen army we will be impotent in the first year of a major war.

It takes time to arrive at this new viewpoint, and more time to renew intimate contacts with the civil population. The officer who has devoted most of his life to training a man, over a period of two or three years, who is absolutely subject to his authority, is treading on virgin soil.

In going about the country with General Pershing two years ago, we saw Regular Army officers struggling with this new problem, some very half-heartedly. A year later we found them carrying out the orders of the War Department with more uniformity. But this summer, the more experienced had come to visualize our new mission and the dominant part it was to play in the career of a Regular Army Officer. They had arrived at a new state of mind and what they were accomplishing was truly remarkable. Around the corner, however, we found other individuals who continued to believe solely in a professional army, blindly hoping for a larger one, and who antagonized the civilian instead of winning his support. It is apparent that once the Regular adjusts himself to this new conception of duty, amazingly satisfactory results can be obtained. It hinges on his state of mind.


. . . It is in the cooperation of the National Guard and the Organized Reserves that a new field has been opened with many possibilities for effective results. This can be discussed more conveniently in connection with the Reserve Corps. The principal point to be realized is the fact that the National Guard now constitutes about 80% of the first line of defense within the continental limits of the United States. It, therefore, demands our best efforts, in connection with the State Officials, to promote its efficiency.


It is in the methods to be followed in the training of the Organized Reserves that we have an entirely new problem for which numerous solutions have been offered. Up to the present time it has been necessary to deal with this corps of officers as individuals. Small appropriations have made it impossible to call out more than nine or ten percent for yearly training. Correspondence courses are as yet in a formative state. The personnel is abnormal, consisting largely of veterans of the World War who received their initial commissions in the higher grades rather than as second lieutenants. These men have really been the promoters of the new organization and have had to be treated as such. The systematic development of the Reserve Corps, however, depends upon the reception of annual increments of second lieutenants from the R.O.T.C. and C.M.T.C. It is on such a development that the corps must be built and in building up the organization consideration of the demands and requirements of the present abnormal personnel must be treated as a passing phase, though a vitally important one.

As an economic proposition the return on the money invested is many-fold greater than for the other categories of troops. The present system of training reaches but few officers and is entirely theoretical. It does not hold the interest of the larger portion of the corps. Some other method must be followed and more adequate appropriations demanded. . . .

The student training camps in the summer afford an interesting possibility for the development of the Reserve Corps. At the present time the resources of the Regular Army in personnel are heavily taxed to provide instructors and overhead for these camps. The training of the first year men is identical with the problem which will confront the Reserve Officer in the first weeks of his service in the event of war. It has, therefore, been proposed that the young training camp students form the second, third and fourth platoons of Regular organizations; that regiments or battalions of the Organized Reserves be called to camp as such and superimposed on these Regular organizations; that the preliminary training of the first two days be handled exclusively by Regular officers, but that gradually they be withdrawn from active participation, permitting the reserve unit to carry on the instruction through the elementary school of the soldier. As the program progressed the tour of the Reserve organization would expire and the Regular personnel would carry on, having the benefit of handling their units at war strength, and those officers of the Reserve who were aspirants for advancement could be retained, with or without pay, until the end of the month.

Such a system has certain decided advantages. It effects a greater economy in time, the R.O.T.C. and C.M.T.C. camps being combined in one period instead of extending over the entire summer; it avoids the necessity of creating temporary organizations with the consequent demand for administrative overhead; it enables the Reserve organizations to be handled as units rather than as individuals, and affords an opportunity for the prompt elimination of those officers who fail to demonstrate their ability to handle their organizations. In other words, it determines today whether or not the Reserve officer is qualified to organize and train his unit during the period of mobilization. It enables the Regular Army to complete its training task in a minimum of time and provides war strength organizations.

Of course, many objections have been offered, the most serious probably being the possibility that the training received by the young students would not be as effective as when under the exclusive control of a Regular officer. I doubt the importance of this objection. The Regular Officer would start and complete the training and would be in constant supervision during the period in which the temporary control had passed to the Reserve officer. The latter is not fed up on such work and consequently will approach it with enthusiasm; he has more to gain or lose than the Regular officer. As a matter of fact, Reserve officers were on duty with C.M.T.C. companies throughout the country this summer and no unfavorable comments were heard. As the corps develops the junior officers will be thoroughly experienced in training camp work, as they will all be graduates of such camps. On the whole, this seems the most effective proposal offered.

Reference has already been made to the fact that during the past three years the War Department has been compelled to deal with the personnel of the Reserve Corps as individuals. The time has now arrived when we must deal with organizations through their commanders. This holds out many interesting possibilities, particularly for the winter period. The officers of the Corps complain that so little is demanded of them that their interest is not sustained. . . .

Valuable assistance can be and already has been rendered the Reserve Corps by the National Guard authorities. The use of armories, temporary assignments of Reserve officers to fill temporary vacancies in National Guard organizations, and the use of horses and other non-personal equipment. The Reserve Corps can be of assistance to the National Guard in many ways, and nearby Regular organizations are in a position to offer much in the way of help.

The strength at which the Officers’ Reserve Corps should be maintained remains something of an open question and this, in turn, leaves undecided the extent to which the R.O.T.C. and C.M.T.C. are to be developed. The minimum number of Reserve officers sufficient to meet the initial requirements of mobilization, appears to me to be the desirable figure, whatever it is. The larger this Corps, the more difficult it will be to train its personnel, as the funds available will always be very limited. It is thought by many that a corps of 50,000 apparently well trained officers, is distinctly more of an asset than a much larger force of less individual efficiency. The great problem at present is to arrive at a definite policy regarding the method of developing the Reserve organizations. We have been experimenting for three years and the time has come to reach a decision.

Document Copy Text Source: Army War College Papers, United States Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. In a letter dated November 23, 1923, to Colonel George S. Simonds, War College assistant commandant since May 10, 1922, Marshall wrote: “[Lieutenant Colonel Upton] Birnie has pressed me to prepare in written form the talk I gave at the War College in September. While reluctant to spread out in written form the very free and personal comments made by me at that time, I have undertaken to do this and am enclosing the manuscript. Its preparation has necessarily been hastily undertaken and should any palpable errors he noticed, please do not hesitate to make the necessary corrections.” (USAMHI/Army War College Papers.)

Approximately two-thirds of this lecture is printed here. The deleted portions include a quotation from General Pershing’s June 28, 1923, War College graduation speech, Three paragraphs of technical details which Marshall noted were “more or less quotations from a paper prepared by General [John McA.] Palmer,” and discussions of the distribution of troops within the United States, the development of National Guard reserves, the future of the National Guard, new regulations affecting the Organized Reserves, National Guard-Reserve relations, and a summary of the mobilization and concentration plans in the event of a major emergency.

2. Major General Hanson E. Ely had been Army War College commandant since July 1, 1923.

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. 235-244.

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