2-056 Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 [Andrews], September 26, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 26, 1939

Memorandum for the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 [Andrews]

September 26, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

I have been reading the attached memorandum from the Chief of Infantry regarding the Infantry situation as of September 1st. The following comments occur to me, regarding which I would like to have an informal statement, orally if desired, from someone in the G-3 office:1

What are the prospects for weapons-ammunition carriers, within a reasonable time?

What is to be said in regard to the rifle or carbine for the members of special crews?

The low infantry strength in riflemen is a serious consideration. To my own mind, there are two points of view. Our large companies in the World War incurred a great many unnecessary casualties by reason of their size, as well as clumsy handling of the men. In other words, I do not think we derived a fighting effect in direct proportion to the strength of the company. From this point of view the new company would seem to have advantages over the old, of course assuming a fairly high degree of skill on the part of the riflemen with the new weapon.

My other thought on this matter suggests the necessity of more than routine arrangements to replace casualties. Just where would the replacements be just prior to a battle, under what control, and when fed to the unit? We have always discussed and debated at great length the exact position of the squad, a section, a platoon, and then these organizations have practically never had the exact strength finally decided upon due to a wide variety of reasons, camp ailments, especially at the outset being one of the heaviest contributing factors. I would assume that in an army of our character, at the opening of a campaign into which we have had to move without a delay of a year for preparation, that our temporary sick casualties would be very heavy, and our low rifle strength, therefore, correspondingly depleted. Therefore, replacements assume a great importance to my mind.

As to tactics, I wish a careful watch to be kept on this to see that if possible the fundamental principles are expressed in language that would impress the ordinary fellow, rather than in the usual colorless pedantic form. It required about three battles in France to demonstrate what was meant by tactical principle, and the reason to a large extent lay in the form of expression of the principle. To go back a bit, General Morrison at Leavenworth taught tactics and he was the only instructor I ever had on this subject who made any impression on my mind. And the reason was, he would not bother with small matters of technique or minor phases of tactics, but he slashed in units instead of tenths—as did the other instructors, when a fundamental principle was violated.2 Practically all the tactical instruction I have seen in the Army has been 90% technique, and 10% tactics. So the form of the Infantry Field Manual on Tactics is of great importance, and it should be written primarily to impress the mind of the National Guardsman or the Reserve officer, rather than for consumption by Regular Army personnel, who have years to employ on their training.

Under Training, I do not quite agree with the Chief of Infantry as to the effect of the CCC on regimental commanders. My observation has been that there is a tendency to too much control by the regimental commander, usually accentuated by the desire to use every moment of his brief two years to demonstrate capacity for promotion. It has appeared to me that the battalion commanders were exceptionally well qualified to train their battalions, and that the particular function of the regimental commander might well be to provide opportunities for training, personnel free from routine employment, terrain privileges acquired one way or another, problems arranged, etc. The CCC, it seemed to me, provided exceptional opportunities for developing leadership, in influencing young men, and in matters of administration and supply on a large scale. I know this was my own personal experience.

I thoroughly agree with the Chief of Infantry as to the too strong tendency of regimental commanders to rely on the service schools for the education of their officers. This is particularly the case with regard to new lieutenants in small posts. When there have been schools, I have been inclined to the opinion that too much of the school was on paper, with too much importance to fixed hours, etc. There was not an adjustment of instruction to the routine activities of the post, of training, etc., and the arrangements for school training were too formal, ignoring splendid opportunities.

Above I have been referring to the Regular Army in its peace-time garrisons, but there is much the same thing to be said in regard to armory training of the National Guard. I wish to emphasize the importance of the G-3 Section influencing all War Department doctrine, texts, training instructions, and inspections, towards their application to the citizen-soldier, who will compose the major portion of the Army. Many of our regulations, notably on rifle marksmanship, have been written to a large extent without regard to the time limitations of the National Guard. To leave the necessary modifications to the man on the ground, usually a partially trained officer, is bad practice and shows to my mind a lack of appreciation of what our war army is really to be. We have the National Guard and we must make it more efficient, and this can only be done by a very real understanding of the training opportunities, and possibilities. The same factor is dominant, and there are a world of things that can be done to carry out training more expeditiously and effectively than we now manage.

The Chief of Infantry’s comments on lack of regimental duty are pertinent. I think this should be discussed with G-1 in an effort to reach some solution of a very serious situation. I fear that the knowledge of command and leadership is diminishing to a serious degree in the Regular establishment.

With regard to the necessity for closer supervision and observation of the training of units, I think this should be corrected through divisional command and the creation of army corps command and control.

Under Personnel, I think there is a fine opportunity here to meet the depletion of Regular officers in the summer season by building up a more effective use of Reserve officers. Our methods in this respect I think have been faulty, in that they consisted largely of having Reserve officers tag along and learn largely by observation. Americans do not respond quickly to such a method, they have to be thrown in to sink or swim. I know from my own experience that very satisfactory, really valuable results can be secured, and Regular officers greatly assisted—as well as freed from too close retention on duty for the summer period, by the proper use of Reserve personnel. I would like to talk this over with the G-3 Section.

The foregoing notes have been hastily dictated, and are not to be treated as a final word in any respect, but merely as a basis for discussion.

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. No copy of the memorandum by Chief of Infantry Major General George A Lynch was found in the Marshall papers. Some of Lynch’s ideas at this time are expressed in his essay “Fire Power. . . Man Power. . . Maneuver,” Infantry Journal 46 [November-December 1939]: 498-505, 606. The editors have not found a written response to this memorandum from G-3.

2. In 1935 Marshall recalled his impressions of John F. Morrison: “He spoke a tactical language I have never heard from any other officer. He was self-educated, reading constantly and creating and solving problems for himself. He taught me all I will ever know of tactics.” (Marshall to Colonel Bernard Lentz, October 2, 1935; Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-036 [1: 45-47].) By “units” and “tenths,” Marshall is referring to the minutely detailed grading scale in use when he attended the Infantry and Cavalry School. (Ibid., p. 37.)

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. 64-66.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-056

Rights: Public Information