3-422 Memorandum for General McNair, November 24, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 24, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General McNair

November 24, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


North African operation

I listened yesterday to Major Starbird’s (OPD) description of what occurred at Oran.1 He made a beach landing and stayed around that city for seven days. I believe you had several representatives with the various task forces. Now that I am taking a back-sight it seems to me we should have had at least a half a dozen officers & double the number of noncom. officers from eight or ten divisions next to go overseas. There might have been some trouble in getting these men home promptly but certainly it would be of incalculable benefit to the troops if each division had with it a nucleus of officers and men who had actually made such a landing and had seen the confusion and fighting as did Major Starbird. Of course we can draw officers and men away from those units but it will be some time before we feel free to do this.

I mentioned the foregoing to be considered with relation to future operations. To send men over now requires very special transportation arrangements unless they go in on some of the convoys, but even so, unless they go to Tunisia they probably would not see much of action.


Do you think it advisable to promote 2nd lieutenants to 1st lieutenants in two or three months after they have received their first commissions? It seems to me that whether or not a man is a 1st lieutenant or a 2nd lieutenant is of little importance in connection with his company duties. An excess of one or the other does not make any particular difference. An excess of captains would be an embarrassment, because there would be an adverse morale effect to put captains in command of platoons. I mention this because I have found my stepson promoted within three months after he had joined the headquarters, on a limited duty status, at Richmond, Virginia. I admit his morale was improved but I do not see any selection in the process because as I understand it this was a block promotion.

There is another phase of this promotion matter that troubles me. We establish a troop basis, as it were, for officer requirements, but I find them jumping kids to high rank without any particular demonstration of efficiency, but merely because the position permits of that rank. This is particularly true in staff jobs. What is your view of the matter?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. Alfred D. Starbird (U.S.M.A., 1933) had been assigned to First Division headquarters between November 1 and 22.

2. McNair replied that the Operations Division controlled the number of observers that Army Ground Forces could send to a theater and that transportation shortages were the chief cause of the strict limitation. He admitted that some officers in the lower grades were being promoted too rapidly, but he noted that the cause was commanders filling the vacancies that had been created by the recent shortage of officers. “I favor setting up a requirement of three months [the file copy indicates that at this point Marshall wrote in the margin ‘actually on duty with a unit’] in the grade of 2d lieutenant before promotion,” even for U.S. Military Academy graduates. (McNair Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, November 30, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 210.2].)

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. 450-451.

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