2-408 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, March 29, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: March 29, 1941

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

March 29, 1941 Washington, D.C.

Subject: Causes for Under-Estimates on Construction.1

The following are general comments by me. The attached, however, is a carefully prepared memorandum on the subject, and the report of the House Committee on the Deficiency Appropriation which enumerates reasons, and which quotes from my testimony, to which I referred the other day:2

a. The World War cantonment construction formed the general basis of estimates for mobilization studies in the succeeding years. However, that construction was for temporary occupancy only, pending shipment of units to France. In succeeding years no one anticipated a world situation which would determine our people to undertake a full mobilization in time of peace. The present cantonments are for continued occupancy of at least a year by the same units. Morale, as well as other features to be mentioned later, therefore greatly affected the later construction. The decision of the people was not taken until September 1941 [1940].

b. Another misleading factor in the calculations resulted from the experience gained in the Air Corps augmentation, on which hearings were conducted before Congress in the spring of 1939. At that time estimates were on the basis of $400 per man for cantonment type and $285 for tent camps. This construction, however, involved little basic utility development as the temporary barracks in most instances were located alongside of permanent set-ups. Also the barracks were of a poor type compared with those erected to meet the great augmentation of the National Guard, Selective Service, etc.

c. In making estimates for construction under the full augmentation program we lacked funds for adequate engineering surveys, we lacked definite commitments by Congress until September 1940; we tried from the end of May 1940, to secure authorization for the progressive mobilization of the National Guard to begin July 1st under summer conditions. We secured this authority in September, and after securing the authority we then had to proceed to get the funds through Budgetary, House, and Senate hearings. At this time on several occasions I made clear the difficulties of getting into the winter season for this construction and pled for the immediate provision of funds. Quick action was given me then by the Committee, including a joint resolution for the Selective Service increment of construction funds. But October was on us before the money could be put to work.

d. Along with the foregoing situation under c, the following developments affected the construction requirements, and resulted in marked increased expense. The data gradually being collected, on a factual basis, as result of the incredible happenings in Belgium and France, made clear the necessity for certain changes in organization, notably the Armored Force and increased motorization throughout the Service. Some fully motorized units, notably the 4th Division, were decided upon. All this occurred after the preparation of the elaborate estimates. These changes involved wider roads, more extensive roads to maneuver areas, less congestion of buildings—all of which involved a greater expense. Even so, changes in plans were urged by the Chief of Field Artillery and by the Chief of Infantry, brought about by this motorized situation, which I refused to authorize because of the increased expense involved in the alterations.

e. I personally directed the painting of the buildings, the building of quarters for division, brigade, and in some instances, the equivalent of regimental commanders, and certain increases for recreational purposes. This is my definite responsibility. I failed to require sufficient recreational space for camps such as that at Hinesville, Georgia and others in similarly isolated regions. Each company should have had a day room.

f. There were, in my opinion, two contrasting errors throughout this procedure; one was, the constructing quartermaster did not decentralize sufficiently into zone control. On the other hand, he was forced by circumstances to make his estimates with little data as to the special conditions in the various camps. Also, he had to make the best use he could under the pressures—which included a political campaign—of civilian assistance. And I am under the impression, which General Moore confirms, that a portion of his difficulties came from the misjudgment of civilian architects as to lay-out. I spoke to you specifically about [Camp] Blanding as an illustration of this matter.

G. C. Marshall

Note: Please see attached papers

I have not discussed increased labor and material cost nor increases due to necessity for overtime labor in vile weather conditions.

G. C. M.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Office of the Secretary of War (RG 107), Secretary of War Safe, Hearings [Senate Investigations], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. This memorandum was created as part of the War Department’s preparations for testimony before the special Senate committee investigating the national defense program. See editorial note #2-430, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 482-83].

2. Marshall had testified at length on February 12 concerning the army’s construction problems. See editorial note #2-368 Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 420-21]. The attachments mentioned here—”Memorandum of Statement of the Chief of Staff in re Delays in Construction” and “Statement of Increased Construction Costs for Emergency Housing”—have not been printed.

3. This note was added in Marshall’s handwriting. One cause of the construction problem which Marshall did not wish to discuss publicly was raised by a member of the G-4 division; Lieutenant Colonel Stephen J. Chamberlin (U.S.M.A, 1912) argued that the army’s mobilization plans had been based on the assumption that the troops raised during mobilization would move immediately into the theater of operations, which had not happened. Marshall observed that making such a statement before Congress “might be dangerous.” (William T. Sexton notes on the Conference in the Office of the Chief of Staff, January 10, 1941, NA/ RG 165 [OCS, Chief of Staff Conferences File].)

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. 459-461,

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