2-224 Memorandum for the President, July 18, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 18, 1940

Memorandum for the President1

July 18, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Existing laws empower the President, either in peace or in war, to make temporary promotions of officers of the National Guard of the United States, and of the Officers’ Reserve Corps when ordered to active duty in the Federal service. But, except in time of war, no such authority exists for the temporary promotion of officers of the Regular Army. Therefore, leadership in our present program of army expansion is jeopardized.

The authority now granted the President to promote officers of the Officers’ Reserve Corps and of the National Guard of the United States should immediately be extended to include the Regular Army, during the present emergency. This becomes the more urgently necessary as we progress with the organization of five new divisions and various special organizations, involving 32 new regiments, 115 battalions, and 729 companies to be completed by September.

For example, the Regular Army now has insufficient captains and general officers, and by the time the foregoing new organizations are formed will be short some 2200 captains for duty with troop units, and will lack 57 general officers for divisions, brigades and important staff assignments, exclusive of the general officers required for the approaching increases of the GHQ Air Force, whose temporary promotion is already authorized by law. Most of our regular divisions are now commanded by brigadiers, and practically all of them lack the two general officers for the infantry and artillery brigades.

For the first time in our history we have been given the opportunity in time of peace to engage in serious preparation to insure the national security. We must have commanders who are outstanding leaders, who possess the requisite initiative and drive to secure the rapid development of the troops, and to insure their success in campaign. The selection of those commanders should not be confined to the oldest colonels, for example, merely on the basis of seniority, as at present, but unless the expedient of temporary rank is immediately adopted, that will be the situation. The temporary advancement of the experienced and specially schooled first lieutenants of the Regular Army is equally important, as it relates to the selection of commanders for these new companies, in view of the large number of Reserve officers now being called to active duty who naturally are less well equipped to organize, train and lead a company unit.

Attached is a draft of an amendment to the National Defense Act which empowers the President to make these temporary promotions. The cost involved is small. To secure the 2200 captains and 57 general officers which constitute our most pressing shortage at present will cost less than $60,000 for the present fiscal year.2

Formal request has been made in the usual manner to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget for information as to whether the proposed legislation would be in accord with your program.

I strongly urge its approval.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Office of the Chief of Staff (OCS), 21151-1, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum.

1. Marshall had written this document for Secretary of War Stimson’s signature.

2. Marshall alluded to this need to advance experienced Regular Army officers in his Senate testimony on the bill. “Time is of vast importance, is really the dominant factor. It is a well-known fact that some men, given a year or 2 years, will do a beautiful job but they are utterly unable to do it in short order and under many difficulties, with the lack of this and the lack of that. That situation was notorious, I suppose that is the right word, in the A.E.F. where time meant so much. It is quite evident right now that we cannot afford to place in a position of great responsibility one of these men who works very slowly and deliberately. We must have somebody that will take one of these units and bring about a result in the most expeditious manner possible. That means we must select the men to give the necessary direction and vigor to units in the field.” (Senate Military Affairs Committee, Uniformify in Temporary Promotions in the Army, Hearing [Washington: GPO, 1941], p. 4.)

3. The bills were introduced in the Senate on July 25 (s. 4207) and in the House on August 1 (H.R. 10279), but only the Senate held hearings before Congress adjourned. The issue was resolved in substance by an amendment to the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill for 1941, and was passed; it was signed by the president on September 9.

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 270-271.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-224

Rights: Public Information