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Memorandum for General Gasser
September 8, 1939 Washington, D.C.
Subject: Increases in the Army.
1. The President decided yesterday to announce—or authorize—increases of the Army and Navy by Executive Order, instead of by a more informal method, as he previously intended.
2. He stated that he cannot consider at this time more than the first increment, as he thought that was all the public would be ready to accept without undue excitement. He indicated that he would give us further increases up to the figures we proposed, but this prospect would have to be treated as highly confidential.
3. The draft of an Executive Order being sent to the Department of Justice this morning provides for an increase of the Regular establishment to 227,000, and of the National Guard to 235,000 enlisted men. It permits such increase of officers for the Regular Army as may be necessary, from those already authorized—but not appropriated for—under the Thomason Act.1 It also authorizes such additional officers for the National Guard as may be necessary for “command duty.”
4. If this draft proves to be acceptable to the Department of Justice and to the President, it will be announced at a press conference of his today, at which time he will issue the Executive Order or Proclamation announcing a state of national emergency, of a restricted nature, as pertains to the maintenance of neutrality and to national defense requirements of the military forces. The increases of the Army and Navy, by Executive Order, are based on this national emergency and proclamation.2
5. Our people can proceed in their planning on the basis of an increase to 250,000 for the Regular establishment, and an increase of 126,000 (?) for the National Guard—provided that no publicity is given in connection with the arrangements for orders of execution and the fact that further increments are anticipated.
G. C. M.
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917- (RG 407), Classified, 320.2 [9-7-39], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.
1. The April 3, 1939, revision of the 1935 Thomason Act (Public Law 408, 74th Cong., 1st sess.) permitted the army to recruit 4,300 Reserve officers each year for one year’s training with the Regular Army. At least 50 ground officers and up to 300 airmen could be selected from this group to receive commissions as second lieutenants in the Regular Army. The April 3 act also established the army’s maximum commissioned strength at 16,719 beginning on July 1, 1939. (Public Law 18, 76th Cong., 1st sess.)
2. On September 8, 1939, President Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2352 stating that “a national emergency exists in connection with and to the extent necessary for the proper observance, safeguarding, and enforcing of the neutrality of the United States and the strengthening of our national defense within the limits of peace-time authorizations.”
The same day, executive orders were issued authorizing increases in military strength. The Regular Army (authorized peacetime enlisted strength of 280,000) was instructed to increase its enlistments by 17,000 to a total of 227,000 men; while the National Guard (authorized peacetime enlisted strength of 424,800) was increased by 43,000 to 235,000 men. (Executive Order 8244.) The Regular Navy was ordered to increase its enlistments to 145,000 men; the Marine Corps was increased to 25,000. (Executive Order 8245.)
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. 53-54.