3-153 Memorandum for Mr. Marvin H. McIntyre, April 3, 1942

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 3, 1942

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for Mr. Marvin H. McIntyre1

April 3, 1942 Washington, D.C.


Dear McIntyre:

The other day Colonel Taylor2 gave me your tip-off to the effect that there was a growing criticism as to the number of Army Generals around Washington. This moves me to the following outline of the situation:

In 1917-18 there were in Washington some 6,000 officers. At Chaumont, General Pershing’s headquarters, there were approximately 800 officers, and at Tours, General Harbord’s SOS Headquarters, about 2,000 officers.3 These included a great many general officers, but they were scattered among these widely separated places.

Today, due to the fact that we have a number of overseas theatres and are engaged in a colossal program of military material for our Allies, all of the responsibilities of the War Department of the first World War, and most of those of General Pershing at Chaumont and General Harbord at Tours have all centered here. Furthermore, we are involved in a vast and complicated air expansion for which the old AEF had no counterpart.

This means a large number of officers with very high and responsible positions. Almost without exception, the officers of the line of the Army—air and ground—wish to get out of Washington. They feel that their advancement is penalized, which it is, by staying here. For example, I have three Assistant Chiefs of Staff with the rank of Brigadier General, all of whom would be Major Generals and division commanders were they not held on duty here.4

All of these men will do their duty without regard to rank, but for two reasons, failure to promote is against the public interest. In the first place, promotion gives seniority, which permits me to place a junior, usually a younger man, in a position of control. Otherwise, I must take a senior, who may be on the side of mediocrity, or I have to relieve everybody senior to the junior officer who I think should be the head man. The other reason is that when an officer has a tremendous responsibility, for thousands of men or hundreds of millions or maybe billions of dollars, and is working about fourteen hours a day, it is only human that the individual should feel that he is receiving very poor treatment when he is denied a promotion—usually that of brigadier general—which would give him prestige and therefore assist him in his job, and which literally does not cost the Government a nickel.5

G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Papers, President’s Secretary’s File, Confidential, War Department, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. McIntyre was secretary to the president.

2. Assistant Secretary of the General Staff Colonel Maxwell D. Taylor.

3. Between August 1918 and May 1919 Major General James G. Harbord commanded the Service of Supply of the American Expeditionary Forces.

4. According to Eisenhower, Marshall had informed the General Staff that “the men who are going to get the promotions in this war are the commanders in the field, not the staff officers who clutter up all of the administrative machinery in the War Department and in the higher tactical headquarters. The field commanders carry the responsibility and I’m going to see to it that they’re properly rewarded so far as promotion can provide a reward.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1967], pp. 248-49. The assistant chiefs of staff referred to were: Dwight D. Eisenhower (War Plans Division), John H. Hilldring (G-I), and Harry L. Twaddle (G-3).

5. For Marshall’s views on seniority and leadership, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-430 [2: 482-3].

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. 156-157.

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