5-019 Memorandum for General Handy, January 12, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 12, 1945

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Handy

January 12, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]


Subject: Relationship of ROTC Activities with

Compulsory Military Training Proposals.

The other day in a conversation with General Smith,1 I understood that the War Department was planning a 4-year ROTC course, three months of field training to be interpolated at the half-way point. That is my text for the following discussion.

I am fearful of the Staff so seeking for perfection of system that they will end by wrecking our efforts to have the law enacted for compulsory training. In my opinion, we must be very careful to consider the peace-time state of mind of the average young man and not propose plans which would fairly gorge the Officer Candidate with military obligations immediately following a strenuous year of compulsory training, and that would long delay him from entering into civilian life pursuits. If I am right as to the present idea, the man who has proved to be desirable ROTC material and who probably has been at least a corporal and more probably a sergeant in his year of training, would be confronted with four more years of military instruction, with one vacation devoted to three months additional field training, and all this followed by a long period of active duty with the army in training the annual crop of inductees.

I do not believe such a system would work—would be accepted.

In the past we had four years of ROTC training where we had to start at zero with the most elementary training, in the midst of college or university academic work. A year’s compulsory training would present an ROTC Candidate about three years in advance of his predecessor in 1939, and I think I am being over-conservative. Now the War Department, as I understand it, is still considering a 4-year course on top of which we must add a long period of active service if we are to have officer personnel with which to handle the compulsory training inductees.

My conception, on very superficial consideration I admit, would be to cut the ROTC course to two years, to drop the idea of three months’ field training as a compulsory requirement, and to calculate on six months of active duty to be required before the commission which would be issued at the end of the 2-year ROTC period carried with it the qualification for commanding combat troops. I would hope that this active duty training would be taken by about half the men in one period of the year, and the other half in the remaining period.

It is my opinion that unless some such arrangement as this is made we are shooting at the moon and will only draw into active service the type of officer we least desire and not the man who probably will be a success in his profession or in business, just as has been the case in the past. And, what is far more serious, we might easily wreck our prospects for getting compulsory training.

I would have in mind giving a larger allowance to the ROTC candidate, giving the young officer who participates in six months of active duty a bonus at the end of that period, so that the men of small means would be facilitated in the progress of their college career by their army connection. These, of course, are mere details while the length of the course is a major consideration, but they all have in mind the integration of the college aspirations and civilian ambitions of the individual with our military requirements.2

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. Brigadier General Edward W. Smith served as Executive for Reserve and R.O.T.C. [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] Affairs at the War Department.

2. The Special Planning Division held a conference on January 24 to discuss the chief of staff’s memorandum. As a result, the Executive for Reserve and R.O.T.C. Affairs was directed to prepare a study based on the two-year course. (W. F. Tompkins Memorandum for the Executive for Reserve and ROTC Affairs, January 27, 1945, and Handy Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, February 14, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, SGS].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 28-29.

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