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Memorandum for General McNair
April 12, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
I wish you would have one of your people make a complete examination of the Air Corps procedure for handling men returned from combat service overseas. I have seen their Miami installation and I know a little about that at Atlantic City and I believe they did have some arrangement at Mitchel Field.
What I have in mind is that we must have a well developed system for handling these people, both officers and men, particularly noncommissioned officers who are returned from overseas physically exhausted, wounded, etc. Otherwise we shall have many embittered people. I directed the establishment of the Air Corps system because we found that the pilots coming in after a large number of missions usually did more harm than good when we attempted to use them in training. Now I believe they work out very well. However, my major consideration at the moment is the poor devil who fell because he did not have sufficient physical stamina.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. On April 25 the commanding general of the Army Ground Forces replied that his headquarters staff had studied the Air Corps procedure of handling returnees and found it to be wasteful. “The Air Corps procedure, while attractive to returnees and their families, is virtually a vacation at government expense and is unwarranted. The necessary processing and medical attention when involved can be accomplished much more simply, more expeditiously, and inexpensively.” He concluded, however, that a standardized procedure should be established for all returnees of all branches. (Brigadier General J. G. Christiansen, for the Commanding General, Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, April 25, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 201.601].)
Major General Miller G. White, assistant chief of staff of personnel, disagreed with these conclusions. He reported on April 29 that several Ground Force unit commanders had indicated that “many of the men returned from overseas and assigned to their units are more harmful than helpful because of their morale or general attitude.” White recommended that all soldiers returned to the United States after combat or arduous overseas service should be provided with the same high quality of treatment accorded Air Force personnel. He reported that the present procedure for the Ground Forces was not producing desirable results. “While the approximately fourteen days that a man stays at an AAF Redistribution Center may have much of the atmosphere of, or may in fact be, a vacation at Government expense, it is worthwhile if it produces results, and from my own observation of the Center at Miami Beach I am convinced that it is producing results.” White noted that the average cost of operating the center at Miami Beach was $1.25 per man per day, “which is certainly not an extravagant expenditure on men who have earned the right to considerate treatment, and who can be of inestimable value if they are restored to the proper attitude before they are permanently reassigned in the United States.” White recommended that the Army Service Forces establish and operate redistribution centers similar to the Army Air Forces model. (White Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, April 29, 1944, ibid.)
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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 402-403.