1-299 Memorandum for the Infantry Board, March 2, 1931

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 2, 1931

Memorandum for the Infantry Board

March 2, 1931 Fort Benning, Georgia

The following indorsement, regarding the statements in Tables of Organization submitted by the Chief of Field Artillery, is suggested:1

1. The frontages given in the first paragraph of the indorsement of the Chief of Field Artillery are correct according to our present view of the four infantry regiment division with the new infantry organization.

2. It is still the opinion of the Infantry Board that its recommendation for a division of three infantry regiments is sound. Furthermore, and in accordance with the recommendation of the Commandant to the Chief of Infantry in letter of January 21, 1931, it is our opinion that the new infantry battalion and regimental organization should be further studied and experimented with before a final decision is made.2

3. With regard to the discussion of the Chief of Field Artillery in the 1st Indorsement of the original communication, the following opinions are submitted:

a. The conclusion of the Chief of Field Artillery that the organic artillery of the division should not be increased and that added artillery power should be secured by reinforcement from corps and army, is concurred in.

b. Under paragraph 5 b of the Chief of Field Artillery’s indorsement, the statements of disadvantages of appreciably increasing the organic artillery are concurred in so far as they go, but it is believed that a most serious disadvantage has not been mentioned.3 Experience has shown that if the artillery component of a division is large, it is usually found impracticable to withdraw it from the battle with the infantry when the latter has become exhausted. This results in the organic artillery being separated from its divisional infantry and only returned to it when conditions as to time and space make this possible. With the more frequent movement of the foot soldier by bus than was the practice in France, this separation will be an even more serious matter. Statistics will show that in the latter phase of the Meuse-Argonne battle only four divisions (1st, 2d, 26th and 42d) could be maintained with their organic artillery, and it is understood that even this was managed only through a very special effort in each case. It is a great disadvantage to the infantry to operate with strange artillery. If, in an effort to avoid this condition, the division is given practically all the artillery it is believed that it will require in heavy fighting, the cure will almost certainly result in having none of its organic artillery in succeeding phases of the operation or campaign.

c. As to the discussion of the effect of the present increase in the infantry special weapons, under paragraph 4 of the Chief of Field Artillery’s indorsement, the following is submitted: The increase in frontage of the infantry units brought about under the new organization is due primarily to the increase in the automatic fire power per man. We expect the defense to be similarly armed and similarly extended. We believe that the conditions as to infantry against infantry will continue to be a stand-off. As to the artillery requirements of this situation, we believe with the increased frontages any given defensive installation will have more space in which to conceal itself, rather than that there will be more numerous groups so that the interval between them will be as heretofore. Under such conditions we believe that the need will be not so much for more density of artillery fire as for more accurate artillery fire. It would appear that this increased difficulty of locating targets will have to be met largely by infantry special weapons.4

d. There is, in our opinion, an additional view of this entire matter which apparently is not given much consideration in the artillery discussion. We are preparing for open warfare primarily, with the additions and subtractions which are imposed by static warfare as secondary considerations. In the opinion of the Board, great masses of artillery not only will not be available for a long time but seldom could be maneuvered in warfare of movement. The ammunition supply, even if available in the zone of the interior, would present an almost impossible problem at the front. It would seem that among the considerations which are to govern the solution of the division artillery problem, should be a judicious decision as to the character of organization which will satisfy conditions to be expected during the first six months of campaign and will be adapted to accommodate the changes which are inevitable as the situation grows static and quantity production of war materiel gets under way.

G. C. Marshall, Jr.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Chiefs of Arms (RG 177), 400.112, Chief of Infantry, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. On November 29, 1930, the Adjutant General’s Office had requested that the chief of Field Artillery (Major General Harry G. Bishop) comment on the proposed reorganization of the Infantry division. Bishop replied with a long, detailed indorsement on February 5, 1931. The Office of the Chief of Infantry sent this to the Infantry Board, of which Marshall was an ex-officio member. Marshall’s memorandum was accepted with only minor changes as the board’s reply of March 7.

2. The “square” divisions that the United States fielded in the World War consisted of approximately twenty-seven thousand men divided into two Infantry brigades of two regiments and one machine gun battalion each, an artillery brigade of three regiments, and special troops and staff. American divisions were nearly twice the size of European divisions, and many officers considered them unwieldy and inflexible. Proposals for change generally centered on some sort of “triangular” division of twelve to sixteen thousand men divided into three Infantry regiments and four Field Artillery battalions. The changes under discussion here maintained the square organization, but they increased Infantry manpower by about twenty-five percent.

3. The disadvantages foreseen by the Office of the Chief of Field Artillery were that “any appreciable increase in the organic artillery [would] greatly decrease the flexibility of the brigade and render the proposed division still more extended and unwieldy.” (First Indorsement on TAG to Chief of Field Artillery, November 29, 1930, NA/RG 177 [400.112, Chief of Infantry].)

4. This paragraph was taken from a memorandum by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph W. Stilwell, head of the Infantry School’s First Section (i.e., tactics). (Stilwell to the Assistant Commandant, February 26, 1931, ibid.) The chief of Field Artillery, noting numerous instances during the World War when insufficient artillery fire had led to increased Infantry casualties, suggested that in order to maintain a high Field Artillery-Infantry ratio, “a reduction in size of the infantry element of the division might well be considered.“ (First Indorsement on TAG to Chief of Field Artillery, November 29, 1930, ibid.)

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. 372-374.

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