3-491 Memorandum for the President, January 31, 1943

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 31, 1943

Subject: World War II

Memorandum for the President

January 31, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]

Subject: Legion of Merit (Executive Order 9260)

On September 15th you notified the Secretary of the Navy that all awards of the Legion of Merit should be submitted to you for approval because “during the early awards and until we get the thing running smoothy, I want to keep a personal eye on just what is being done.” This directive has governed the War Department.

While I was in Africa General Eisenhower and General Patton both urged on me the importance of permitting the prompt award to U. S. military personnel of the Legion of Merit. They stated that there were many instances of outstanding performance of duty which in their opinion did not come up to the standard of the Distinguished Service Medal, therefore the individuals concerned were left with their services apparently unrecognized while others had been honored with the D. S. M.

All the officers with whom I discussed the matter of awards in Africa were unanimous in stating that the fact that the award was made virtually on the field of battle had a profound effect; also that there was far less likelihood of misuse of the decoration if bestowed at the time of the deed rather than at some later period when many outside influences are brought to bear. Favoritism is not likely during a campaign, it too quickly reacts on the troops for a commander to dare indulge in it. However, in the months and years following the event, individuals can draw up quite a statement as to their prowess and frequently it finally becomes a matter of political pressure. Therefore I strongly recommend that we be permited to award to U. S. military personnel the Legion of Merit just as we do the Distinguished Service and Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Soldier’s Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. The Medal of Honor should, of course, be held for very serious consideration.

The Legion of Merit was proposed in order to prevent the abuse of the DSM, and its gradations were proposed in order to permit of some evaluation of the degree of performance. The problem was not that of awards for courage or valor, such as the Medaille Militaire in France where only a General or a Private may receive it.1

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. The Legion of Merit was the first United States decoration to have different degrees (chief commander, commander, officer, and legionnaire) and the first to be created to reward foreign soldiers. It was established by Public Law 671 of July 20, 1942; Executive Order 9260 (October 29, 1942) stipulated that the president was to approve all awards. On February 5, 1943, Roosevelt told Marshall that his approval was no longer required, but he noted that the decoration was “not to be awarded on the basis of rank but must be awarded as a result of an evaluation of the degree of performance.” (Roosevelt Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, February 5, 1943 GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 522-523.

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