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Memorandum for the Commandant
November 19, 1928 Fort Benning, Georgia
Size of Classes at The Infantry School.
1. A reduction in the size of the Advanced and Company-Officers classes now appears desirable from the viewpoint of efficiency of instruction, limited school facilities, and lack of quarters for officers.
a. Efficiency of instruction. In the majority of subjects it is only practicable for one officer to conduct the instruction. He usually has assistants, but the principal discussion or lecture must be handled by him.
The larger the class the more difficult it is to hold the attention of the entire group. This is especially evident in field work and in the poorly ventilated and necessarily crowded assembly halls during cold or hot weather.
The larger the classes the less practicable it is to give students actual experience with the school troops in field exercises. It is believed that important and much needed practical instruction can be given if students have opportunities to participate as troop officers in some of the demonstrations, somewhat after the same manner as at the Field Artillery School.
It is desirable to mount officers for certain field work, especially in order to utilize terrain not otherwise available. The handling of large classes is difficult and the number of mounts now available is insufficient.
It is believed that the officers selected to take the Advanced Course should be of proved efficiency, especially that they should be of the energetic and ambitious type. The presence of individuals lacking in educational qualifications, dull mentally, or who are unambitious slows down instruction to the direct disadvantage of the majority of the students. This also applies to the Company-Officers Class, though not to the same extent. Smaller classes would make it more feasible to confine details as students to the desired type.
b. Limited school facilities and lack of quarters.
The primitive arrangements for conducting indoor instruction are a constant embarrassment to instruction. Badly arranged section or assembly rooms and poor ventilation are factors which directly and adversely affect instruction. The larger the classes the greater the difficulties in these respects.
Sand table methods and map maneuvers are valuable methods of instruction.1 The present facilities limit these classes of instruction and make it extremely difficult to handle classes of the present size.
The smaller the classes the better the housing facilities in Columbus as to convenience and cost. The present system grows more irksome year by year as living conditions in the army elsewhere stabilize or improve.
2. A discussion as to the advisability of reducing the size of classes necessitates consideration of the probable number of officers available yearly for these details.
Based on the figures available here, practically all officers above the grade of major are graduates of this school or Leavenworth, and a majority of the majors will have completed the Advanced Course in 1929. A large majority of the captains will have completed one of the Benning courses by 1929 and there will be less than 250 to be given the Company-Officers Course. Slightly more than half the first lieutenants will have completed the old basic or the Company-Officers Course by the close of the present school year.
It is evident that there is a sufficiently large number of graduates of Leavenworth or Benning to furnish ample leaven for the remaining personnel of field rank; and the same remark applies to captains and first lieutenants as regards the Company-Officers Course. The time appears to have come to regulate the size of classes with more regard to the flow of promotion and the yearly additions to the officer corps. It is believed that the size of the Advanced and Company-Officers classes should bear a direct relation to the number of officers promoted yearly to the grade of captain and the number of second lieutenants commissioned each year, respectively. This would mean that the Advanced Class should consist of approximately fifty (50) students and the Company-Officers Class of one hundred (100).2
3. Refresher Class.
The limitations for this course are billets and the desirability of establishing very intimate relations between instructors and students. Not to exceed 12 officers above the grade of major should be detailed for this course.
4. National-Guard and Reserve Officers Classes.
The following figures represent the maximum which can be accommodated and handled with efficiency:
Field Officers Class ………………… 25
5. National-Guard Enlisted Specialists Course.
Not to exceed 50 can be handled efficiently for this course.
6. Horseshoers Course.
Not to exceed 20 can be efficiently handled in the practical work of this course with the present plant.
7. In view of the foregoing, the following recommendation is submitted as to the size of classes commencing with the 1929-1930 courses:
National-Guard and Reserve
Field-Officers Class ………………………..…25
National-Guard and Reserve
Company-Officers Class ………………..…125
Specialists Class ………………………..….….50
Horseshoers Class ……………………………..20
8. Reductions in faculty and enlisted personnel.
For reasons given in paragraph 1 a, a reduction in the number of instructors cannot be made in the same proportion as recommended for classes. However, it is believed that by a reorganization of the Academic Department a reduction in instructors can be secured without loss of efficiency. The faculty board is now considering the matter of reorganization, and definite recommendations will be submitted at an early date.3
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1917- (RG 407), 210.63, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. A sandtable was a box or curbed table containing sand which was shaped into relief models of terrain for tactical studies.
2. During the 1928-29 school year, attendance in these two courses was: Advanced, 87; Company Officers’, 142.
3. General Collins’s lengthy first indorsement reinforced and approved Marshall’s proposal. After considerable study in the War Department, and with the General Staff’s Operations and Training Division’s reluctant acquiescence, Marshall’s recommendations were accepted, but only for the 1929-30 school year, in late January, 1929.
Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 331-333.