3-334 Memorandum for General Somervell, September 23, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 23, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for General Somervell

September 23, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]


I have gone over the attached report and am much interested in the comments and recommendations. I wish you would dictate, offhand, your observations in the matter. By this I mean do not go to the time-consuming trouble of a carefully prepared report but just give me your offhand comments.1

I am strongly of the opinion that our motor transport is organized on too extravagant a scale for divisions and I intend to press this point through G-3 and General McNair. I wish you would provide a similar urge.2

Colonel Walsh, retired or resigned, who used to be in the Ordnance and now I think represents these Machine Record people, is an expert on economies in packing.3 Do you suppose he could provide any ideas for further economies in this direction?

With reference to our recommendation regarding combined loading of military and civilian cargoes, and also having in mind General Eisenhower’s troubles in Great Britain to clarify the arriving cargoes, is there any possibility that we might develop a new technique in keeping track of these cargoes? For instance, in important materiel shipments by freight or express we often send a convoy detachment to follow through in the progress of the shipment and its delivery to destination. Could something of this sort be done with ocean freight that might facilitate business in the destination ports and the later warehousing? I mean by this would there be any gain in sending on the vessel a detachment or three or four men, maybe a larger group, who are familiar with the cargo and its importance and who can follow through on the unloading, keeping track of where it goes and seeing that the urgent packages are culled out from the general cargo. This may all be impracticable but I would like every means to be exhausted in handling such matters.4

I think we must put heavy pressure on the use of local equipment and supplies. I am interested now in the sending to England later of divisions more or less without equipment to be equipped there and to complete their training there.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. The editors have not found the report of the Combined Shipping Adjustment Board, which Somervell returned with his reply. “The historical part of the report is substantially correct,” Somervell observed. “The War Shipping Administration on the whole has done a good job.” (Somervell Memorandum for General Marshall, September 24,1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 570 (9-23-42)].)

2. Somervell noted: “A continuous effort has been made since the first of the year to reduce motor transportation to bare essentials for combat. Some reduction in certain categories was made, but in general increases in other categories insisted upon by the using service neutralized the small gains. The effort will be continued without cessation.” He listed some improved shipping procedures, but he noted that claims that further huge savings in shipping space were possible were “wholly without foundation.” (Ibid.)

3. Colonel James L. Walsh (U.S.M.A., 1909) had retired in 1922 but had maintained close relations with the Ordnance Corps. In 1940 Secretary of War Stimson had appointed him vice-chairman of the National Technological Advisory Committee; in 1942 he was made a special adviser to the chief of Ordnance.

4. Somervell described some of the new procedures being used for cargo control, but he noted: “Eisenhower’s troubles stem primarily from a lack of service troops. Our efforts to get these are constantly delayed with resulting difficulties all along the line.” (Ibid.)

5. “We cannot count on any substantial amounts of supplies from the British and practically nothing in the way of mobile equipment,” Somervell replied. “You will not have shipping enough to send many troops ahead of their equipment to England.” (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. 363-364.

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