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Essay on Archival Research
by Cadet John Borchick ’17
Virginia Military Institute
George C. Marshall was a man devoted to his duty, isolated by his work, humble, and professional. Many observers took him as impersonal. Marshall rarely participated in interviews, often refused recognition, and only ever aided one author, Dr. Forrest Pogue, in writing a biography of his life. The same humility and seclusion that made Marshall a respected and admired Army officer also brings about complications in researching the many accomplishments of Marshall. Due to the lack of memoirs, aside from a World War I memoir found by his step-daughter after his death, historians are forced to either regurgitate facts written by other authors or search through archival documents to find aspects of Marshall’s life not yet discovered. The study of Marshall’s assignment at the Infantry School is usually relegated to a paragraph or short chapter in a biography on Marshall or a history of U.S. Army officer education. Some historians, such as Dr. John Maass of the U.S. Army Center for Military History, have realized Marshall’s contribution to the leadership of World War II and the mechanization of American tactics and strategy. Though these historians treat Marshall’s tenure at Fort Benning, the works inadequately cover the origin, application, and legacy of Marshall’s pedagogy.
Due to the widely-unstudied nature of Marshall’s tenure as the Assistant Commandant at Fort Benning archival research generally presents the best illustration of Marshall’s tenure at Benning. Primary searches yield new information on Marshall’s administration of the school, but the search is often difficult as the letters, memorandums, pictures, newspapers, and reports are scattered in repositories across the nation. Other difficulties arise because many of the primary sources that showcase “The Benning Revolution” are produced by entities other than Marshall and his staff. Historians cannot simply limit themselves to searching Marshall’s correspondence or biographies of the man. Much of the evidence supporting the notion that Marshall revolutionarily changed the Infantry School and officer education in general comes from records of the Adjutant General’s Office, the Office of the Chief of the Infantry, and the Office of the Inspector General. The documents assembled here allow students and scholars to view essential documents with summaries on the relevance of each. The documents are only a portion of the archival sources that cover Marshall’s assignment at Benning. This essay therefore outlines the repositories and collections most beneficial to historians studying Marshall’s time as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School.
The foremost source for archival resources on George Marshall’s time at Benning is the George C. Marshall Research Library in Lexington, Virginia. The first and easiest location to find primary sources on the Infantry School is found in the Forrest C. Pogue Research Notes collection. Within Box 2 of the collection notes, copies, and documents used by Dr. Pogue are filed in folders. The collection contains 2 folders containing research notes from the Benning years. One folder, labeled notes by Dr. Pogue contains mostly handwritten, mostly illegible, personal notes Pogue made for the book. The most relevant sources for historians are found in the second folder, containing Notes made by Pogue’s associates Dr. Coffman and Mr. Markin. The Coffman and Markin file contains a multitude of copies of government documents from the Adjutant General and other entities. The collection contains mostly copies of memorandums and regulations. In terms of correspondence the Marshall Papers Collection contains numerous letter written to and from Marshall during his time at Benning. These materials are contained in Box 1 of the collection. Notable letters include those to Stephen Fuqua, the Chief of the Infantry, and Major General Heintzelman of the Command and General Staff School. Other correspondence in the collection are mostly personal, however, the formerly noted are very relevant to research on the Infantry School. The collection with the largest quantity of primary sources on the Infantry School can be found in one of the library’s most recent additions, the George Catlett Marshall series of the George Catlett Marshall and Kathrine Tupper Marshall Collection (commonly referred to as the Winn Collection). Box 9 of the George Catlett Marshall series contains a multitude of letters written by Marshall during his time at Benning. The problem with the collection is that many of the letters are personal in nature and the letters are organized in folders by the name of the recipient. Although it is required to go through the entire box, the letters that do contain information on the Infantry School make it worthwhile. Marshall tended to be a secluded man so the letters offer a different perspective on Marshall and his duty at the Infantry School.
Aside from those archival sources found at the Marshall Library, primary sources can been found in other repositories, most notably the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland, and the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The National Archives contains numerous documents that leave clues as to how Marshall left his legacy on officer education. The documents at the archives, however, cannot be found in an Infantry School collection. The archival sources from the Infantry School during Marshall’s tenure come mainly from three collections: The Adjutant General’s Central Files 1926-39, The Office of Chief of the Infantry Correspondence 1921-1942, and the Records of the Inspector General, specifically the inspection reports for Fort Benning. It is important that historians know what years they want to focus on as the collections are organized in boxes by year. Other sources present at the National Archives are a small holding of publications from the Infantry and a small holding of copies of Infantry School Quarterly. These holdings are somewhat difficult to come across since, like other Infantry School sources, they are found within collections of broader entities. In the case of the publications and copies of Infantry School Quarterly, they are located in Record Group 337 (Records of Headquarters Army Ground Forces). Within that record group they are found in a sub-group labeled The Infantry Center/The Infantry School. Unfortunate for historians of Marshall, though highly relevant, the sources in the collection are scarce, with only two boxes containing sources from Marshall’s era.
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is another good place for Infantry School publications and letters written from students of the school. The USAHEC offers an easy to use online catalogue that allows one to search for the Infantry School and immediately find relevant holdings. At the USAHEC many of the sources are secondary. However, letters and records from students at the school can be found using the database as well as numerous publications from the school. Notably the USAHEC has a copy of the Infantry School book list for students, showing the curriculum and material being taught, a curriculum personally assembled by Marshall. Aside from government documents and sources, much can be found on the school from a civilian perspective by researching copies of the Atlanta Constitution and other local newspapers, which can be found at the University of Georgia (Athens, GA) and digitally through the Library of Congress.
George C. Marshall’s tenure as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning is understudied. This lack of investigation has an adverse effect on our understanding the U.S. Army victory in World War II. The reason that Marshall’s tenure at Benning helped shape the victory in Europe is simple. Marshall became a mentor to his subordinate instructors and shaped their ideas of tactics and leadership at Benning. Many of those instructors, notably Omar Bradley and Joseph Stillwell, went on to be division, corps, army, and even theater commanders during the war. Among Marshall’s students, whom Marshall bestowed a new curriculum of combined arms and mechanized warfare on, were the company, battalion, regimental, and brigade commanders of the war. To understand the battlefield leadership in Europe during World War II, historians must understand their experiences as part of Marshall’s Benning Revolution. The lack of current research brings about a problem for future research. Many repositories do not have collections dedicated to the Infantry School, but rather records must be found by investigating the records of outside entities such as the Adjutant General. This essay sheds light on the location of records that are vital in studying Marshall’s improvement of the U.S. Army Infantry School in order to encourage students and scholars to explore this important period in greater depth.
Digital DownloadsLTC George C. Marshall’s Tenure at the Infantry School
CollectionFort Benning, Georgia, Subject Guides
Holding Rights: Copyright 2016. May not be reproduced without the express written permission of John Borchick.