1-191 Major General David C. Shanks to The Adjutant General, July 7, 1922

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 7, 1922

Major General David C. Shanks to

The Adjutant General

July 7, 1922 Washington, D.C.

Services of Major George C. Marshall, Jr.

I. Since October, 1921, the Board of officers of which I am President has been engaged in making a study of the subject of promotion and the arrangement of officers on the single list. This board was appointed by the War Department upon the request of the Senate Military Committee.1

II. Major George C. Marshall, Jr., was recorder of this board, and upon him fell the important duties connected with securing, tabulating and preparing the voluminous records required by the board in the prosecution of its work. There were numerous classes of officers who would be affected either favorably or adversely by the various changes in the law proposed for consideration of the board. These changes were naturally suggested to the board by representatives of those classes of officers who would benefit from the changes which they proposed. Upon Major Marshall devolved the duty of seeking out and bringing before the board representatives of those classes of officers who would be adversely affected.

III. In all of the onerous duties outlined above as well as in the preparation of its final report Major Marshall showed a grasp, an ability and an energy which were simply invaluable to the board. The Board therefore desires to place on official record its appreciation of Major Marshall’s services, and requests that a copy of this letter be filed with his official record.

David C. Shanks

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Personal File (201 File), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed letter signed.

1. Always a subject of great concern, promotion policy was the focus of considerable contention both before and after the passage of the reorganization act of June 4, 1920, particularly as reorganization was combined with the necessity of reducing the officer corps to peacetime levels. Before 1890, officers normally served with the same regiment for most of their careers; promotion was slow, erratic, and from within the regiment only. In 1890, the army adopted a system of promotion by branch, thereby equalizing the waiting time among all regiments of a particular branch. Cavalry and Infantry continued to lag behind Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, and Engineer regiments in promotion rate. The question of creating a single list of officers—distributing promotions among all eligible officers, regardless of branch—was a point of contention between General Pershing, who favored the single list, and General March, who supported a modified branch promotion system. Whether by branch or by single list, promotion in peacetime was strictly by seniority.

In response to numerous complaints of inequities resulting from the 1920 reorganization act, Senator James W. Wadsworth wrote to Secretary of War Weeks on September 28, 1921, to request that the War Department "detail a committee of officers to make a new, fresh study of the whole question" of the promotion list. The four men appointed to the board, in addition to Major General David C. Shanks (U.S.M.A., 1884), were Colonel Charles H. Martin (U.S.M.A., 1887), Colonel Sherman Moreland, Major George C. Marshall, Jr., and Major Raymond S. Bamberger. The board met more than thirty times between October 17, 1921, and May 4, 1922, to hear witnesses and to discuss letters received from officers reporting injustices before concluding that the single list should be maintained. Records pertaining to the Shanks Board are in NA/RG 407 decimal files 210 and 334.

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. 213-214.

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