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Memorandum for General McNair1
March 24, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
I have talked to a number of officers who have been through the fighting in Italy and two days ago I had a lengthy conversation with General Wilbur. He summed up in rather concise, logical fashion, what they all have implied to me regarding the training of our young officers and squad and section leaders, that too much dependence has been placed on their individual estimates of the situation as to what is to be done on the battlefield, and they have not been given enough routine procedure to carry them through the first shocks of battle.
This is almost identical with the situation we found in the First Division in France, though here it was a divisional matter instead of a small unit affair; and we only solved the difficulty by having a set piece arrangement of troops for attack which guaranteed, so far as possible, that we could feed the men in battle twice a day and could communicate with the leading units. I saw the messes in other divisions in the Meuse-Argonne where a blueprint procedure was followed rather than a realistic appreciation of the extreme difficulties of maintaining communications and feeding people and keeping up the momentum.
Wilbur told me that he talked to you about it and explained the training they had developed in the 36th Division and some other units in Italy and that you seemed rather favorably inclined, but when he talked to your staff officers they felt that the present system of training was satisfactory.2 From all I have heard I am not in agreement with them and I shall want to talk to you and to the responsible staff officers about this next week.
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. Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair was commanding general of Army Ground Forces.
2. Brigadier General William H. Wilbur had been relieved as assistant division commander of the Thirty-sixth Division. (See note 1, Marshall to Devers, February 18, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-263 [4: 311].) Wilbur was assigned to the Presidio of San Francisco in June 1944 as chief of staff of the Western Defense Command.
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. 371-372.