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Memorandum for General Somervell
June 11, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
I had a lengthy talk with General Olmstead. He expressed a willingness to accept our decision in a soldierly manner.1 He is concerned to be eliminated from further military consideration during the progress of the war.
I told him that the decision was taken for his relief and General Ingles’ appointment in his place at the head of the Signal Corps.2 He told me that there had been a proposition made to him as Chief Signal Officer by the State Department to provide someone to head a board in relations to matters concerning Fly3 and similar international communication matters. He would like that job for himself.
I told him to have a memorandum for me by Monday morning stating exactly what the proposition was and of what nature the appointment would be.
Please look into the legal status of matters for me. My understanding is, based on how we disposed of the Chief of Coast Artillery and the Chief of Infantry, that we can assign chiefs of branches any way we choose. If this is the case, and the State Department affair appears a suitable proposition, we could assign Olmstead to this job and allow him to remain on active duty at least for the time being. He could be relieved in a letter order from the active duties of Chief Signal Officer and Ingles, who is already a Major General, assigned as Acting Chief Signal Officer.
Please look into this and let me know.4
I am attaching your draft of a letter for him to sign which I did not use, pending consideration of the State Department affair.5
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. Major General Dawson Olmstead had been chief of the Signal Corps since October 1, 1941. Problems with army communications had prompted the creation of the Board to Investigate Communications, which took testimony between May 11 and June 8, 1943. Olmstead’s relations with his immediate superior, Lieutenant General Brehon B. Somervell, head of Army Service Forces, had deteriorated steadily since early 1943, to the point where Somervell had told the investigating board on June 4 that Olmstead had to be replaced. (George Raynor Thompson et al., The Signal Corps: The Test, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1957], pp. 561-62.)
2. Major General Harry C. Ingles (U.S.M.A., 1914) had served as chief signal officer and then chief of staff of the Caribbean Defense Command during 1942, then briefly as head of the Panama Mobile Force and deputy commander of the European Theater of Operations.
3. James L. Fly (U.S.N.A., 1920) was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and of the Board of War Communications.
4. Somervell opposed reassigning Olmstead and appointing Ingles as acting chief signal officer. “As long as any one is ‘acting’ he lacks proper prestige and authority, is not in a strong position to make the reforms which are needed.” (Somervell Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 13, 1943, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 201 Olmstead].)
5. Somervell had prepared a letter of resignation for Olmstead to sign; despite Marshall’s comment, Somervell succeeded in getting Olmstead to sign it on June 11. Olmstead was relieved and retired on June 30, 1943. He was immediately recalled to active duty and spent several weeks during the summer serving on the Interdepartmental Telecommunications Committee, a State Department initiative. He retired permanently in January 1944. (Thompson et al., The Signal Corps: The Test, pp. 562-63.)
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. 9-10.