1-396 Major Truman Smith to George C. Marshall, January 2, 1936

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 2, 1936

Major Truman Smith to George C. Marshall

January 2, 1936 Berlin, [Germany]

My dear Colonel Marshall:

I had nothing whatever to do with the translation of Infantry in Battle. I sent it to you primarily to indicate to you the importance which foreign nations gave to our Benning work. So far as I know, it is the only American work on pure tactics which has ever been translated into German. The book has received high praise from German critics and these criticisms will appear translated at an early date in the Infantry Journal.

You say in your letter you wonder what our work consists of other than formalities. I assure you that the formalities are many, very trying and very boring. They are rather, however, the impediments to work rather than the work itself. The German military expansion is the greatest which the world has ever seen in time of peace. The most powerful if not the largest army and air force in Europe is coming into existence under a strict veil of secrecy. Piercing this veil is proving a difficult task, particularly as the Germans are not furnishing us information in a lump form. We have to dig out each detail bit by bit.

I am fortunate in a very able assistant: Captain James C. Crockett, an infantry officer who was formerly General Preston Brown’s aide. He is a real soldier of great ability and capable of the hardest work.

We know already of 31 new types of organization and some 50 new weapons. We are trying to prepare thorough studies of between 10 and 20 pages on each new type of unit in which we present in war college study form the weapons, organization and tactics of each new unit. In each case we visit one of these new types of units for several days, consolidate our personal experiences with the German tactical textbooks on the subjects, and prepare a thorough report which is not only of value to G-2 but which can be used in the service schools. In the last two months we have finished about five and we hope to complete 20 or 25 during 1936.

I have long been very disgusted at the trivial contents of most of the reports received by G-2 from Military Attaches, and am trying my best to set out on new paths. So far the War Department seems very pleased. I hope we can continue to please them.

The military changes here are so profound and so numerous that we have, I am sure, two years more work ahead of us before things get down to normal. When that time comes, I shall apply to come home.

Here are some of the interesting military developments of Germany:

1. The creation of three armored divisions with a total of some 2500 new, speedy and powerful tanks organized into 9 tank regiments.

2. The new motorized rifle regiments.

3. The motorized reconnaissance battalion.

4. The corps and divisional reconnaissance regiments.

5. The motor bicycle companies.

6. The “infantry accompanying” batteries. (a 75M Howitzer)

7. The 200 or more new anti-tank companies, each equipped with 9 new type armor piercing 37 mm. guns.

8. The radio telephone for infantry artillery liaison.

9. The new and extraordinary 2 cm. anti-aircraft machine guns which I think are the best thing of their sort in the world.

10. The practical abolition of the cavalry.

11. The adoption of the Kampfgruppe: a regiment of infantry and a battalion of field artillery, as the essential battle tactical unit.

12. The abolition of the field gun and its replacement by the 105 mm. howitzer as the standard field piece.

These are but a few of the many military changes coming out of Germany.

By next fall the peace army of about 600,000 men should be ready. Several years, however, will be required before the reserve units are organized, trained and equipped.

As the army is still coming into being, I do not look for any aggressive policy by Germany until the work is finished, and that will not be until about 1939. Germany is preserving strict neutrality between Italy and the League in the Abyssinian dispute.

Major von Schell has become one of the very noted instructors at the German War Academy. The Chief of the General Staff, General Beck, told me the other day that he considered Major von Schell one of the half-dozen finest tactical instructors of the German Army. He seems to have grabbed off for himself about the finest job open to an officer of his length of service: that of operations officer of the new German armored corps (tank corps). He will be transferred to this post in June. He remains a devoted friend of America and is usually detached to accompany any American officer who comes to Berlin. He has written an article on anti-tank tactics which will appear in the Infantry Journal in the spring.

The government here is an astounding combination of good sense, nonsense, brutality and ultra-militarism. No German whom you meet likes it, but it is nevertheless all-powerful. Inasmuch as this government will shortly be backed by one of if not the most powerful army in the world, I look for eventual trouble. Germany is either going to expand in Eastern Europe or the western nations are going to have to stop it. From the way Europe looks now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find France and England giving Germany a free hand to help herself to Russian territory. Stopping her will cost just about 3,000,000 men. The strength of Germany’s position is that she intends to leave France and England strictly alone and she is absolutely respecting the Rhineland neutral zone.

This letter from its contents I beg you to hold confidential.

I am trying in my new job to remain a soldier and to do the best I can in a very difficult situation.

I hope you will get hold from G-2 some of our reports, read them and send me a letter of criticism. I particularly ask you if you would get hold of our reports on the Silesian maneuvers (No. 14,281), the Anti-Tank Company (No. 14,336), and the Minenwerfer Company (No. 14,327). I know G-2 will be glad to let you have them.

With best wishes,


Truman Smith

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Illinois National Guard, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter signed.

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. 482-484.

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