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Memorandum for Mr. Stettinius1
January 10, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
I have had only a brief opportunity to scan Mr. Folsom’s resume on the Aluminum situation, but I will take the paper home to read at my leisure tonight.2 Meanwhile I would like to make this comment on my own observations with regard to aluminum:
I found in going into an Aviation plant myself, and in checking on other plants through some of my subordinates exactly the same situation with regard to several matters, one of which is aluminum, that I find on every inspection I personally make or members of my staff make in the field regarding construction, and more particularly clothing and items of equipment of every kind. From every trip I return to the War Department with a number of deficiencies, and without exception, after investigation by the Staff the day following my return, I am informed that the procedure is all right, the conditions are all right, but there has been a failure on the part of the people in the field to do the right thing. When I call up the Corps Area Commander or his staff, I get the same reaction from them. But the fact remains that I find the soldier without the pants or without the mess-kit or the battery without certain equipment.
We had some of the troops in the concentration of a year ago pass through the coldest weather in 22 years with but three blankets. I was assured here in the War Department that they would have the fourth almost immediately after I had called attention to it, but it took five weeks to get that blanket into the soldier’s hands, and there is not much warmth in a blanket in a table of figures.
I found this in innumerable instances, and it has not always been confined to the War Department. I found it in the CCC; I found it in France, and I am quite certain I found the same condition with relation to aluminum in the manufacture of airplanes—there was only a difference of terminology.
My reaction to this thing is that there is a long-time involvement between availability and delivery, especially when there is not a large surplus of the particular materiel on hand. I suggested to Mr. Knudsen this morning the immense importance of having a field inspection service to ascertain by the most direct measures the actual conditions in the various plants so that he (Mr. Knudsen) would have a basis for running down troubles.
In our organization at the present time I have to depend in a large measure on a quadrupled Inspector General’s Department, and on continuous trips by members of the staff whom I send out to look for certain things and who report to me personally. I do not normally learn these things, at least not in time, through the usual channels, and I am convinced that the only way to boil down these conflicting reports, excuses, difficulties, delays, etc., is by supplementing the routine statistical reports with a special inspection service to find out the facts at first hand.
I do not know to what extent either you or Mr. Knudsen have organized an outside inspection service. I do know that Meigs,3 of Knudsen’s office, has been going through the various plans; but as far as I can learn, there is not an extensive organization for this purpose. I am embarrassed in the matter because I am getting somewhat outside my own bailiwick, but I am finding the Army Air Service in a Very serious situation regarding the steady dwindling of deliveries. Most confidentially, in July our contracts promised 94 tactical planes in November; the first of November, this prospect was reduced to 33; on the 30th of November, I found we had actually received but six planes. This is growing more and more serious for us and, within the family, I have been trying to do everything I can to help out rather than to complicate matters.
I would like very much to talk to you personally about all this.4
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. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., was one of seven members of the National Defense Advisory Commission (N.D.A.C.). His sphere of interest was industrial materials. Also important in this organization was William S. Knudsen, commissioner for industrial production. On January 7, 1941, President Roosevelt created the Office of Production Management, which assumed the functions of the N.D.A.C. in production, materials, and employment. Knudsen was the principal administrator of this office; Stettinius became director of the Priorities Division. (R. Elberton Smith, The Army and Economic Mobilization, a volume in the United States Army in World War II Washington: GPO, 1959], p. 103; on the public reaction to the formation of this office, see the Army and Navy Journal, January 4, 1941, p. 458.)
2. Marion B. Folsom served as a member of the Industrial Materials Division of the N.D.A.C. He reported that, according to October 1940 procurement schedules, there would be a shortage in aluminum forgings for army aircraft by July 1941. Additional productive capacity was needed and Folsom had already discussed the matter with industry officials. (Folsom Memorandum for Mr. E. R. Stettinius, Jr., January 7, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Mar shall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
3. Merrill C. Meigs, a Chicago, Illinois, publisher, was an adviser on aircraft production to the N.D.A.C.
4. Stettinius reviewed Folsom’s report with Marshall on January 15, 1941. He told the chief of staff that a production representative system had been established by the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). A representative was at each aircraft production plant to report on the use of aluminum. Alcoa would then communicate these estimates to Folsom at the new Office of Production Management. (Stettinius to W. Averell Harriman, January 17, 1941, Virginia/E. R. Stettinius, Jr., Papers.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 383-384.