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Memorandum for General Haislip
June 6, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
My recent inspection trips and the letters that are coming to me now, either directly or by reference, indicate the development of a serious situation, particularly in the National Guard with relation to the older men who have been drawn under the Selective Service Act.
During the first five or six weeks of their service the problem of physical hardening occupies their minds. After that their reaction is that of an older man who finds himself feeling better than he has for years with a brain correspondingly alert. The trouble then begins because the noncoms and the junior officers in the National Guard, and some of the other junior instructors are unable to provide the necessary stimulating instruction. If they are in the Armored Force or with the few concerned in the Air Corps, the problem is not quite so difficult. But in the Infantry in particular, in the Cavalry and in the Engineers, the situation becomes serious.
We do not want second lieutenants who are, comparatively speaking, old men, but I think we have to take into account the fact that many of these Selective Service men have a mental equipment and executive and administrative experience which should enable them to do certain things much better and much more quickly than the young selectees.
What are the expedients we should take in order to meet this situation? What can we do to better the situation? It is definitely affecting morale, but what worries me is that given three or four more months, it will be a serious matter in the way of public reaction.
I hope there will be sufficient judgment in the units to promote the outstanding men to noncommissioned grades at an early date. Maybe we should advise such a course, but there must be other adjustments or we are walking into serious trouble. We must provide the cure before the disease has fully developed, and I am convinced that we are on the way to trouble.
In considering this question we must avoid the ordinary calculation of the time required to train a soldier, thinking of a boy of 18 to 22 or 23. I have found in my limited inspections men of outstanding proven business capacity standing in the ranks alongside of a kid of 21 who did not even complete high school. I understand we have a collection of certified accountants; I know there is a large number of men of proven ability. We must treat this matter in a realistic fashion and not by rule of thumb.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
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. 528-529.