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Memorandum for Admiral Stark
July 7, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Personal and Confidential
I have very carefully gone over Admiral Towers’ memorandum and that of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy Department regarding General Arnold’s rank, and I am sorry that this issue has been raised.1
The legal opinion of the Judge Advocate General of the Army might have been written as Admiral Towers indicates. However, this would have been with very serious consequences to the command situation in the Army. The Navy has quite a different problem, remote from our difficulties in creating a unified force out of three components, among which the professional Regular Army group is decidedly in the minority. For example, in approximately 90,000 officers now on active duty only about 13,000 are Regulars and about half the Generals are National Guardsmen.
Arnold’s case came up in connection with three others, and the decision involved will apply to a great many others.2 As a matter of fact, Arnold while the Chief of an arm actually commanded the entire Air Corps—the GHQ Air Force being under his control—during most of his term of office. If the decision of your Naval Judge Advocate in relation to your Bureau Chiefs were to be applied to the Army, General Arnold would drop approximately 60 files among the Major Generals heretofore his juniors, and General Bryden, the senior Deputy Chief of Staff, would suffer almost as great a loss. Though in his case there is no question of a Bureau Chief status, there is the problem of a temporary commission over-lapping a permanent commission. The same issue occurs in the case of General Brett. He occupies, through definite arrangement last October, a certain seniority in the Air Corps. The decision of your Naval Judge Advocate would drop him below most of the senior officers controlling various sub-divisions of Aviation under General Brett’s direct control. Similar topsy-turvy leap-frogging of rank will be the rule whenever officers of one component of the Army are appointed in another component notwithstanding the change in component occurred without hiatus and without change in powers and duties. It is this anomalous and militarily impossible condition I wish to avoid. Such a condition, moreover, would be directly contrary to the national policy of treating all components of the Army as of equal dignity and importance, and what is more important, of facilitating transfers among the components. To bolster up the National Guard I am forced at times to place temporary Major Generals of the Regular Army or Brigadier Generals in command of such units. Compared with such matters, the question of who sits senior on a board appears to me as insignificant, especially as the two individuals concerned have sat on the board for a long period in a certain order of rank.
Confidentially, I am distressed by this issue, which was raised over what seems to me to be an irritatingly small matter, because it is just such business as this that will create for us a Department of National Defense or a separate Air Corps. It comes with singularly bad taste to me at this moment when I have just deferred in the case of an Army commander who clearly ranks the Marine officer that you and I thought should be in command of an important force. Contrast this with the matter of seniority on a board, and I think it suggests an unfortunate attitude.
I am very glad you sent this to me informally so that I could reply to it informally. You and I, I think, have both done our level best to maintain a complete accord between the Army and Navy and to foster an intimate relationship. This reaction of Admiral Towers, it seems to me, is plainly contrary to that policy.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. The editors have not found Rear Admiral John H. Towers’s memorandum or that of the navy judge advocate general. (For information concerning the Joint Air Advisory Committee, of which Arnold and Towers were members, see Memorandum for Admiral Stark, February 24, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-131 [2: 166-67].)
2. For information about Arnold’s promotion, see Memorandum for the Secretary of War, May 16, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-456 [2: 508-10].
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 562-564.