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Memorandum for the Secretary of War
March 28, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
I learned this morning that a representative of Mr. Knudsen conferred with officers of the Judge Advocate General’s office yesterday to ascertain whether or not there was any legal objection to the use of Federal troops for the purpose of guarding industrial plants that we might have to take over. The OPM representative was advised that there appeared to be no legal objection, but that the proper course to pursue was to submit formally the question to the War Department.1
I have had no opportunity to give this particular request any consideration other than to dictate this memorandum. However, I feel that from the viewpoint of the development of our war army, aside from the matter of materiel, this is a very serious matter; that by every possible means we should seek to avoid the use of Federal troops for this purpose, in order to avoid a reaction which might be seriously damaging to the Selective Service procedure—given expert propaganda service, which would undoubtedly be the case.
I noticed that you talked about this in connection with the necessity for the early development of Home Guards, in your press conference yesterday.2 This seems to me to be the correct line of action, and by every means we should avoid the implication that we are going to use Federal troops for this purpose, until it is evident to us that the situation demands such action and we have reached the decision to do it. In other words, when the public becomes aware of our intention to use Federal troops, the troops themselves should be enroute to the place of trouble.
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. Preparing for labor-management mediation on March 27, 1941, the Office of Production Management, administered by William S. Knudsen, listed thirteen defense-related strikes—mainly in steel and automotive equipment—which involved 40,000 workers. Knudsen requested that both sides reach an agreement at the long-idled Allis-Chalmers Corporation, a major engine and machinery producer. (New York Times, March 28, 1941, p. 14; Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 33: 119].)
2. In a press conference on March 27, Stimson claimed that mobilization destabilized prices and prompted “disturbances between capital and labor.” He urged the states to create Home Guards, armed by the federal government, to control these disputes. Regiments already organized in New York, Massachusetts, and Florida received his praise. (New York Times, March 28, 1941, p. 14; on the coal miners’ strike, see Marshall to Chaffee, April 7, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-417 [2: 468].)
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. 457-458,