1-438 Memorandum for the Deputy Chief of Staff, April 13, 1937

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 13, 1937

Memorandum for the Deputy Chief of Staff

April 13, 1937 Vancouver Barracks, Washington

Command and General Staff School.

As a preliminary, I should explain that I have not been on duty at Leavenworth since relieved as an instructor there in 1910. In 1928, I visited Leavenworth and other schools to examine into the instructional systems. For five years at the Infantry School, where most of the seventy instructors were Leavenworth graduates, I was constantly engaged in efforts to modify or change the type of problems, the instructional methods, the marking system, and the method of securing accurate data for efficiency reports. I corresponded with General Brees (then Assistant Commandant at Leavenworth) over the type of problems, and had a lengthy correspondence on this subject with General Heintzelman. Since then I have observed the results of the school system in the work of Leavenworth graduates as instructors for the National Guard and Reserves, and at the GHQ-CPX and 2d Army Maneuvers.


a. Group instruction.

b. Elimination of marked problems.

c. Change of name of school.

To these three questions I find myself in general agreement with Colonel E. L. Gruber in his memorandum of March 30th, so there appears to be no need for detailed repetition by me of the various arguments.1

Colonel Gruber’s comment regarding the method for effecting changes at Leavenworth is, in my opinion, of first importance in considering material or fundamental alterations. To issue an edict or regulation would probably do more harm than good. The job must be a personal one, to be effected slowly as faulty minds, physical means, and other tangible factors are gradually rounded into shape for each step. Sudden changes in an educational plant are bound to be destructive, and any material changes must be timed by the man on the ground.

As to marked problems: I am strongly opposed to the present type and system and, at the same time, I am strongly in favor of marked problems. (There may have been recent basic changes with which I am unfamiliar.)


a. Entrance Examinations.

b. Substitution of extension courses for nongraduates.

a. Any system for the selection of officers for the Leavenworth detail will be opposed. This cannot be avoided. But, I think the introduction, as a two-year experiment, of some form of examination would be desirable. The efficiency report seems too valuable a criterion of an officer’s character and ability to be ignored. Therefore I would propose a fifty-fifty combination between efficiency report rating and examination results.

b. I think temporary measures should be taken to meet the present abnormal situation regarding the large number of able men who have been passed over in the Leavenworth selection: by temporary I mean, a procedure to meet the present dilemma only, to be in force for a short period, about five years. A special extension course, developed with some consideration for the current work of officers, seems to be a desirable remedy for the present situation as to morale.


Aside from the specific questions discussed, and without a basis of recent intimate contacts with the school, there seem to be certain fundamental practices or policies at Leavenworth which I believe seriously lessen the tremendous benefits which should accrue to the national defense through the graduates of that great institution, and which bear a direct relation to the type of problems employed and to the marking system.

In the first place, to base most of the instruction on well-trained units, of full strength and complete as to corps troops, materiel, etc., is to qualify officers for something they will never find during the first years of an American war. As a matter of fact, we must be experts in the technique—and the special tactics—of handling hastily raised, partially trained troops, seriously deficient in corps and army establishments and heavy materiel; we must be experts in the difficult technique suitable to small-scale maps lacking most of the convenient details common to the Gettysburg variety; we must be experts in meeting the confusion and chaotic conditions of the first methods of a war when discipline is poor, officers green and information of the enemy invariably lacking; we must be specially trained in when to make decisions rather than concentrating almost entirely on what decision to make. All these things are far more difficult to learn than the related ponderous technique and formal tactics of Leavenworth, and for which to an important extent, in my opinion, the marking system has been partially responsible. There may have been changes in recent years, but I am told that this is not the case.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Colonel Edmund L. Gruber (U.S.M.A., 1904) was the chief of the Training Branch, G-3, at the War Department. He had been an instructor at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Staff School (1927-32). His memorandum of March 30 is not in the Marshall papers.

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. 531-533.

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