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Memorandum for the Secretary of War
April 1, 1941 Washington, D.C.
Subject: Authority for the transfer of Construction to the Engineer Corps.
I find that the procedure to obtain this authority was so informal that there is little of positive record. So far as I can recall, and General Moore and General Reybold remember, Senator McKellar was induced to introduce an amendment to this effect on the floor of the Senate. This amendment was adopted by the Senate on August 29, 1940 as part of Section 102, Public 281, which finally became law September 9, 1940.1
Later when I was before the House Appropriation Committee I took up the matter, off the record, to meet an attack on the Senate amendment which was being conducted, so far as I could learn, by at least a portion of the General Contractors’ Association. There was involved in it a Reserve officer who was helping out in the office of the Quartermaster General. There was also involved in the matter, as reported to me, General R. C. Marshall,—a one-time Regular who was in charge of construction during the World War, later resigned, and now holds a Reserve commission.2 Some Members of Congress thought I was the General Marshall being referred to. To meet this situation, I made a very strong statement to the Committee that any idea of opposing this amendment would be an outrageous restriction on the War Department, particularly on me personally, in the discharge of a tremendous responsibility. I stated that every resource of the Government should be employed to meet the burdens of the day, and to deny us the right to use the highly organized and beautifully decentralized Engineer Corps to lighten the burden was unthinkable. As I recall, General Hartman was present at the time, and I told the Committee that the Quartermaster General and his Construction Chief were opposed to this amendment, which all the more convinced me of the necessity for having it included in the law, as they were being overwhelmed with the enormity of their task.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.
1. For Marshall’s opinion on the controversy surrounding this matter, see his April 1, 1940, Memorandum for General Watson, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-148 [2: 184-85]. In August 1940, Chief of Engineers Major General Julian L. Schley, with Marshall’s support, persuaded Assistant Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson to propose an amendment to the appropriation bill S. 1884. Senator Kenneth McKellar, Democrat from Tennessee, proposed the amendment that would allow the Secretary of War to “allocate to the Corps of Engineers any of the construction works required to carry out the national-defense program.” (Lenore Fine and Jesse A. Remington, The Corps of Engineers: Construction in the United States, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1972], p. 250.)
2. Brigadier General Richard C. Marshall, Jr. (V.M.I., 1898), had been commandant at V.M.I. during Marshall’s last year. During World War I, he had been chief of the army’s Construction Division. He was general manager of the Association of General Contractors of America. Brigadier General Charles D. Hartman (U.S.M.A., 1908) was chief of the Construction Division.
3. On the transfer of the construction function to the corps of Engineers, see Memorandum for Senator Truman, June 4, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-473 [2: 523-24].
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. 463-464,