3-612 Memorandum for General Somervell, April 19, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 19, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Somervell

April 19, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]


I noticed an article in the paper yesterday about the conditions at Leesville, near Camp Polk. Will you have the matter looked into.1

I don’t know whether drastic action is indicated nor whether it would be advisable to do what I am about to suggest, but I do feel that if conditions are as bad in some of these places as represented, we should take determined action to correct matters.

If we put a town off limits we hurt the Army women, who have accumulated, more than we do the town because presumably it would later on be put on limits. I wonder if there would be unfortunate reactions from such procedure as this:

To put up quietly a temporary tent camp to accommodate approximately the women involved, including a mess—all as a temporary measure. After such a camp had quietly been completed and organized, to put the town off limits and move the women into the tent camp if they so desired while the issue of the “clean-up” was being decided. This may be wholly impracticable as well as unwise, but I don’t think we ought to allow these communities to submit our people to the indignities and avarice that seem to be common to some localities.

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. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson replied on April 27, 1943, to a letter from Louisiana Senator Allen J. Ellender regarding an article appearing in the April 18 issue of the Washington Post which dealt with conditions at Camp Polk near Leesville, Louisiana. Senator Ellender had requested an inquiry in his letter of April 21, and Secretary Stimson assured the senator that an investigation had commenced. He promised Senator Ellender a report at the conclusion of the inquiry. (Stimson to Ellender, April 27, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 250.11].)

In a May 25 letter to Senator Ellender, Stimson quoted at length from the report of Major General Richard Donovan, commanding the Eighth Service Command, who suggested that improvements had been effected. Camp Polk had received a new commanding officer. The venereal control officer at Camp Polk who had feuded with local authorities was replaced. The military authorities held a series of meetings with state and local officials regarding the improvement of sanitary conditions in “business establishments patronized by military personnel.” In addition, the governor of Louisiana cooperated with military authorities in making a survey of rental conditions and in arriving at rent ceilings. Donovan stated that measures were being effected to improve U.S.O. (United Service Organizations) operations around Leesville, and he expressed the belief that the various actions taken would improve the conditions around Camp Polk. (Stimson to Ellender, May 25, 1943, 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 653-654.

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