2-146 Memorandum for Colonel Bradley, March 30, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 30, 1940

Memorandum for Colonel Bradley

March 30, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Try your hand at this Training draft.1 It is far too long, it is pedantic, it doesn’t put across an idea anywhere with a wallop, it scatters the shot, it might just as well be omitted rather than issued in its present form. These comments of course are confidential to you.

In general, what I think the National Guard needs is to get the idea that there must be a more effective use of the armory training periods, and the arrival in camp for the summer training with as little to interfere with straight field training as possible (the accomplishment of small arms firing of known distance practice before summer camps means a great saving in time for things that can be done around the armories.)

If every unit of the National Guard could be brought by tradition and custom to the habit of treating the weekly drill period of an hour and a half from the moment of fall-in until recall is sounded, after the order of West Point, by this mean that during that period every military formality would be observed, there would be nothing casual, no first names, no groups gossiping on the drill floor, no hit or miss drills, no group straggling from one appointment to another. Of course this could not be written into a training directive, but the rough idea might be conveyed in a couple of sentences—as to purpose and method.

A serious weakness of the National Guard is the lack of trained staffs from battalion up, meaning staff teams that know how to function expeditiously and to the advantage of the troops. Extension courses are merely primary for the training of the individual; team work can only be gained by operating on the basis of a team, whether it is in the armory or in the field, whether it is over some matter or a tactical operation. This staff weakness will be destructive of troop efficiency unless it is thoroughly understood as a weakness and everybody works to meet it.

Just what can be said about the use of our too expansive training regulations, by units which have a very limited time at their disposal, I do not know. For example, if the Guard were left to follow McNair’s training preparations for target practice, it would have little time for anything else but that one thing—practically no time for anything else. Yet to leave them to make the choice of what is to be slighted and what is to be done, is bad business.

There is a great deal that can be done in the armories clear up to regimental training, that is actually thought out of the question. For example, An infantry communication and artillery communication system can be set up entirely in an armory just as a matter of drill and operated. Air officers when available can make fine contacts by inspecting the liaison service of ground and air; signal officers can check over all the signal equipment to see that it is effective, and properly understood; all this assuming that signal, engineer, and air officers are available and in the vicinity of the units.

Training in larger problems is rarely done because the Leavenworth system is too ponderous and as a rule it only deals with some distant affair, like a Gettysburg map. I found in Chicago that we could work out a splendid divisional tactical problem on 3-inch maps within three hours’ motor trip of the Chicago Loop, where there was a world of open country accessible to everybody.2 We did things as a practicable problem, over the telephone, or by telegraph, or by direct conversations, and it merged into a CPX [Command Post Exercise]—all indoors, but all based on the map of a nearby piece of ground where the men could, if they chose, look it over on Saturdays and Sundays; finally from the journal of operations, the people would go in the field on the actual ground, without damage to property and check up everything they did—observation posts, battery machine guns, one-pounder positions, locality of kitchens, arrangements of command posts, set-up of dumps—everything without spending a cent.

Of course no such description of this can be written into a training order, but maybe the idea can be expressed in a sentence or two. I found these things could be done away from the city, with a small unit under pretty good conditions if there was imagination, ingenuity and a determination to advance training.

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. Lieutenant Colonel Omar N. Bradley was one of the assistant secretaries of the General Staff. Marshall was referring to training regulations for the National Guard (T.R. 130-10). For Marshall’s views on these National Guard problems, see his speech on armory training Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-367, [1: 448-50].

2. “The Leavenworth system” referred to the policies and procedures published by the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The “Gettysburg Map” was a highly detailed map of the region between Antietam, Maryland, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which was used to lay out school tactical problems. (On Marshall’s concern with map problems, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-258 [1: 320], #1-270 [1 336], #1-338 [1: 410], #1-339 [1: 414-16], #1-391 [1: 478], #1-437 [1: 530], #1-438 [1: 533], #1-562 [1: 704], and #1-565 [1: 707-8].)

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. 181-183.

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