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Memorandum for General Richardson
May 17, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
I am wondering if it might not be a good thing to have some clever writer, whose stuff gets national circulation, prepare an article, a little of humor, and more of serious implications, as to what is now going on in relation to the work of the War Department in mobilizing and training an Army, and meeting the other requirements of planning, vital conferences, etc.
I have had as many as six letters in the same mail from a single Congressman, each one requiring some investigation, a well-prepared and courteous reply, and in view of the importance of our relations with Congress, usually a reply by me personally. Two or three days ago we had six letters from a single Senator, each requesting data, some of which required a considerable time to prepare. This, of course, was serious preparation for a speech or debate, but a little later from the same Senator comes a letter stating that an individual of the 1,300,000 reports to him that the food is neither sufficient nor palatable, and he requests me to reply on that subject.1
Yesterday I had five congressional calls, three visits at the request of important members of Congress which could not well be refused by me, and about twelve congressional telephone queries. Meanwhile, I have to confer with the Secretary of War, with the Secretary of State, with the President, with the members of the Staff, make some inspections and attend to the business of the Army.
A democracy makes certain requirements which have to be treated in a philosophical manner, but the matter is now progressing beyond the point of feasibility as to the functioning of the War Department in its designated field.
I am not mentioning hundreds of letters from mothers that come to me personally, because they are inevitable and natural reactions from the situation, and I can arrange to handle them and wish to sense their point of view.2 The survey of tentative cantonment sites has provoked letters and pressures in an appalling manner. We have regarded this as somewhat inevitable, but when reflected through congressional representations from important men, it becomes an exceedingly serious matter if the War Department is to conduct its business with a fair degree of efficiency. One important member of the staff has been harassed until his efficiency is being, I think rather seriously affected.
With reference to the foregoing, this point should be made clear, that the great majority of the Members of Congress have not disturbed us at all, have never written a line, have practically never made any request on me; but the minority is sufficiently numerous to create a burden on the War Department which involves 25% of its staff to meet.
Think this over and talk to me about it. It is useless to expect that we can terminate the legislative pressures, but possibly we can moderate them; however it is to be done, we must not antagonize the group.
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. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Democrat from Virginia, had written to Marshall on May 15 regarding a constituent’s complaints about army food. Marshall responded immediately. “We receive complaints and suggestions ranging from criticism of the weather to plans for major joint operations, and we give all of them courteous consideration regardless of the time and effort required, but a statement that anyone in the military service lacks adequate and nourishing food is more than we can accept gracefully.” He had had the complaint investigated informally, Marshall wrote, and “it developed that the complainant had gained 16 pounds in one month and that his letter was propaganda to get a cake from home.” While conceding the pressures under which Congress was working, Marshall suggested that the senator “pay an unannounced visit to one of the nearby camps and inspect some of the organization messes. . . . I am confident that your impressions will be as favorable as those of other members of Congress who have made similar visits.” (Marshall to Byrd, May 16, 1941, NA/RG 165 [OCS, SGS Reading File].)
2. For a typical letter from the chief of staff to a soldier’s mother see Marshall to Mrs. Rose Lumetta, June 28, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-499 [2: 553].
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 515-516.