2-130 Memorandum for Colonel Burns, February 23, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 23, 1940

Memorandum for Colonel Burns1

February 23, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Colonel Burns:

These are some notes regarding Maneuvers which Mr. Johnson asked me for the other day.


In brief, the situation as to maneuvers is this:

The Regular establishment in continental United States is scattered in more than 100 posts. To concentrate regiments and brigades for maneuvers involves a heavy and unavoidable expense, possibly four-fifths of the cost of the maneuver. There are only two solutions, from the viewpoint of economy, to this situation. One is to abandon a number of small posts and concentrate the Army with more relation to training necessities. This would require years to accomplish, if politically possible. The other is to abandon the idea of maneuvers because of the unfortunate location of our troops.

The second choice though proposed as an economy measure, would actually be a great governmental extravagance. The expense of maintaining our Army is heavy, but to maintain the troops without properly training them would be inexcusably wasteful, as well as highly dangerous in the present world situation.

The Army has never been permitted to train in time of peace except on a basis so limited that the officers have been largely without practical knowledge of the management and leadership of brigades, divisions and army corps. Battalions and regiments have had little or no experience in the necessary adjustments and mutual contacts common to large deployments. The Army in continental United States has been largely a collection of battalions. The battle team is an army corps of two or three divisions, with some 10,000 (peace strength) corps troops of heavy and antiaircraft artillery, engineers, anti-tank battalions, observation planes, quartermaster truck trains, signal corps units, medical organizations, etc. This team in action covers a wide zone, and a sector of great depth. It involves very skillful handling, the more so with mechanized and motorized units and considering the increasing ranges of weapons.

We now have our division and corps troops in the field. Some of the divisions have not yet been able to engage in divisional work, as it has been necessary to recruit, organize and train entirely new units, and there is a serious lack of motor transportation for all units. We have not yet assembled an army corps.

The first corps maneuver, to be only a one-sided “try-out”, cannot be initiated until the first week in April because of the lack of transportation, motors for weapons, equipment and supplies. The larger general maneuver should get under way the second week in May. In results, it should dominate the teaching at the Army Schools, particularly Leavenworth and the War College; it should cause the amendment to a more practical basis of many of our regulations and tactical directions; it should vitalize the Army from the standpoint of leadership in campaign and a general knowledge of how to go about the modern business of fighting.

The duration of the maneuver has no relation to the cost. The principal expense is for transportation. Pay, rations, and similar charges go on whether in the field or in the post.

An Associated Press dispatch conveyed the impression to the public that $26,000,000 was to be expended for the coming maneuvers in the Southeast. This $26,000,000 provided for training, including ammunition for combat practice, in the Philippines, Hawaii, Panama, and Puerto Rico; it provided the money for the Joint Army and Navy exercise of last January on the West Coast; it permitted small concentrations and field training for regular troops in the North who were not moved to southern latitudes; it provided the money for the concentrations of the divisions in the Southeast, and it must yet provide the money for their return to their home stations. In other words, the major portion of this money has already been expended or must be expended by the end of May to return these troops to their home stations, regardless of whether or not we have a corps maneuver.

Throughout its history the Regular Army has been the victim of scattered posts, high costs of transportation for concentrations, limited areas on which to maneuver when concentrated, and complicated appropriation items and restrictions covering costs for training. This year a great emergency, and the wise direction of the President, has given the army, for the first time in peace, an opportunity to learn how to fight as a team against the necessity of safe-guarding American interests. It has not meant a period of indulgence or pleasurable opportunity for the officers and men. It has meant hardships, great hardships at times, living in tents or actually in the field in zero weather, and it has meant separation of families and added expenses. But all have been enthusiastic at this long last opportunity. Morale is high, we are actually building a field Army.

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. Colonel James H. Burns (U.S.M.A., 1980) was the executive officer in Assistant Secretary of War Louis A. Johnson’s office.

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. 164-166.

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