3-593 Memorandum for General John McA. Palmer, April 4, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 4, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General John McA. Palmer

April 4, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


In the late fall, I talked to you regarding the policy that should be adopted governing the initial statement to the troops as to the procedure of demobilization. I am concerned to have the matter well thought out in advance so that in the event of a sudden armistice the War Department within twelve hours can flash a broad outline of the policy to be followed as to demobilization of men, and particularly as to the return of men from distant and isolated overseas stations.

Most confidentially, General Somervell, within his organization of the Army Service Forces, is about to start a secret study on demobilization, which is bound to be a most complicated and intricate affair. However, I am especially interested in your views on the general question I brought up to you personally last fall. We can leave the complications to Somervell’s people.1

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. Marshall had talked with retired Brigadier General Palmer on December 29, 1942, regarding Palmer’s study of postwar military policy. On April 5 Palmer replied that only a partial demobilization would occur following the defeat of the Axis. A transition period between the Axis surrender and the establishment of a peaceful world order would require the United States to maintain “powerful military forces to serve as temporary armies of occupation or for other emergency purposes.” The temporary emergency forces, smaller than the existing war army but larger than the permanent peacetime military establishment, should be “selected” under an “equitable principle,” probably requiring special legislation. (Palmer Memorandum for General Marshall, April 5, 1943, NA/RG 407 [OCS, 370.9].) Major General Idwal H. Edwards, assistant chief of staff, G-3, agreed with Palmer’s memorandum but concluded that the problem was too large for G-3. “A special group, small at first and not involved in current operations,” Edwards recommended, “should be composed to define the problem, research experience and mistakes of the last war, prepare a plan and the necessary implementing legislation.” He believed that the personnel phase of demobilization might be included among the duties of the group that Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell proposed to organize. (Edwards Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 8, 1943, ibid.)

On April 14 Marshall sent a memorandum, drafted by Edwards, directing Somervell to “initiate preliminary studies exploring the field of basic policy and broad planning for demobilization of our military organization after the cessation of hostilities.” (Marshall Memorandum for the Commanding General, Army Service Forces, April 14, 1943, ibid.) Within a week the Project Planning Division was established in Major General George Grunert’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Service Commands to study demobilization procedures. Brigadier General William F. Tompkins (U.S.M.A., 1915) was chosen as its director. The Project Planning Division, assisted by Palmer, submitted a Survey of Demobilization Planning to the chief of staff in June 1943. (John C. Sparrow, History of Personnel Demobilization in the United States Army [Washington: GPO, 1952], pp. 3233; James E. Hewes, Jr., From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900-1963 [Washington: GPO, 1975], p. 131.) Thanking Marshall for his opportunity to work with the planning group, Palmer wrote: “It is a fine thing for an old soldier, long past the retiring age, to be given a chance to help younger men in the completion of a task that he has worked on all his life.”(Palmer to Marshall, June 24, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 633-634.

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