4-389 Memorandum for General McNarney, May 17, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 17, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General McNarney

May 17, 1944 Washington, D.C.

While I was inspecting troops on my last trip I looked over some of the reservations, rather hurriedly I admit, and I came to the conclusion that in some cases we might release considerable acreages while still continuing a cantonment in operation. This is only urgently important when the land is valuable for farming or for special crops such as fruits or nuts.

For example, at Camp Adair near Corvallis, Oregon, there is a two-division cantonment with only one division present, I imagine that cantonments on the West Coast must be held operational in preparation for return to the Pacific. However, our training requirements are such that it seems to me we could immediately lop off large sections of reservations. I found at Adair that valuable nut groves were going to seed, as it were, and that rich land was lying idle except for maneuver purposes. But there is so much acreage in the reservation that there should be ample for the character of training now required of troops. Therefore the earlier the date at which we release sections of these reservations the quicker they will get back into cultivation with the productive results to follow. Also I understand we would probably obtain better prices and it will assist in a gradual demobilization rather than a sudden and violent one.

In this connection I think we should have in mind that the original cantonment policy which provided such generous acreage all over the United States for the Army was based on the necessity for an exceedingly rapid development of the Army. Therefore all the facilities must be immediately at hand so that the training of the various units could proceed without any delay of one by the other and firing could be conducted with facility under the most favorable training conditions. That situation no longer exists and we should be prepared to move into a more conservative policy. You will probably find the Ground Forces opposed to any restrictions but I don’t believe we are justified in such a stand. We have been given the most generous authority on which to build up the Army and I think we should be meticulous in our effort to return to ordinary civil use so much of these facilities as will not seriously affect our military procedure.

On my return I talked to Somervell, he having brought up practically the same point with me as a result of a letter I had received from the head of the Government agency which is interested in this matter—I have forgotten what individual and what agency.1

Please have the foregoing in mind in considering this business, particularly the desirability of moving progressively and rapidly, and avoiding long delays which would be involved in disposing only of complete cantonments, as I think in many instances a partial disposal is a more efficient method of procedure.2

G. C. M.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 400.93, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. William L. Clayton, administrator for the Surplus War Property Administration within the Office of War Mobilization, wrote to General Marshall on May 8 that he had received information that numerous military posts and properties held by the War Department were in excess of current military needs of the army. Clayton urged that such facilities be declared surplus as soon as possible to restore the lands to useful agricultural production and to maximize the benefit to the government of disposal through resale. He recognized that some properties not currently in use might need to be retained for future employment, but any properties clearly surplus should be disposed of immediately. Since Marshall was on the West Coast on an inspection trip, Clayton’s letter was referred to Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell, chief of the Army Service Forces, who told Clayton that the War Department was in agreement with him and would collect information on the facilities as a means to consolidate activities. (Clayton to Marshall, May 8, 1944, and H. Merrill Pasco Brief for the Chief of Staff, May 17, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 400.93].)

2. A conference concerning this matter was held in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph T. McNarney on May 19 at which representatives of the Army Air Forces, Army Ground Forces, Army Service Forces, G-3 (Organization and Training), and G-4 (Supply) were present. McNarney stated that excess or underemployed facilities should be closed in the interest of manpower conservation. He directed that an investigation be made of such facilities to determine why they were not being operated at maximum capacity, why small posts were being maintained rather than consolidating them into larger posts, and to make recommendations for maximum consolidations. The report should state the total capacity for all facilities under each command headquarters and recommend the total acreage that could be released to civilian use pursuant to General Marshall’s May 17 memorandum. (Minutes of the Conference in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, May 19, 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. 458-460.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 4-389

Rights: Public Information