2-456 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, May 16, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 16, 1941

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

May 16, 1941 Washington, D.C.


Subject: Nominations for Promotion.

A serious complication has developed with regard to your recent proposals of nomination for permanent promotions in the grade of major general, including the Chief of Infantry, the Chief of Chemical Warfare Service, and the Chief of the Air Corps.

The President apparently declines to accept the nominations because of his objection to Arnold. There is a bill before Congress—still in committee—which would permit the retirement of a Chief of arm after 2_ years of service.1 This, if passed, would permit General Arnold to retire in the grade of major general. I understand, via Smith and Watson,2 that the President now has in mind waiting until this bill is passed in order to permit Arnold to retire, or to be protected in his right to retirement as a major general, and only nominated as a brigadier general of the line.

Apparently the President will approve the remainder of the list, but even so this would not permit the appointment of General Brett as Chief of the Air Corps.3 The present half and half arrangement between Arnold and Brett, one Acting Chief of the Air Corps, and the other by law still required to perform certain functions as Chief of the Air Corps, leaves an unfortunate uncertainty and promotes discord.

For Arnold to step down to a brigadier generalcy while Deputy would involve so much loss of prestige that he would be entirely ineffective in that position, one grade below the Chief of the Air Corps, his former junior, and two grades below the Chief of the GHQ Air Force, also a former junior.4

This matter is serious and is affecting our administrative management of affairs. I think you should have a frank talk with the President. Incidentally, Smith tells me that he now thinks the President’s hostility to Arnold results from the influence of Steve Early,5 who was representative of the Associated Press in the War Department in the early 20’s, when Arnold was a junior Air Corps officer at the Information Desk in the office of the Chief of the Air Corps. General Patrick then was head of the Air Corps (Chief Engineer of the AEF) and was promoting a reorganization of the Air Corps within the Army similar to the Marine adjunct to the Navy.6 Arnold gave a press release on this and had to take it on the chin for his Chief when a great to do was made over the matter. This seems to be the background of the feeling against Arnold, which was accentuated by Mr. Morgenthau’s hostility when the War Department and the Treasury Department were at cross purposes in the matter of sales of planes abroad.

Additional Nominations.

In connection with influencing the President in the foregoing matter, Smith thinks it very important that you do not raise the issue at this time of Colonel Adler’s promotion. Smith gathers from Watson that the President would probably accept your recommendation in Colonel Adler’s case if you urge it, but that it will increase his resistance to the Arnold matter and to future lists, which are now overdue.7

Please do not allow Smith’s connection with these matters, particularly in relation to Early, to go further than your personal knowledge.

G. C. Marshall

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), 15102-892, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed memorandum signed.

1. In his memoirs, Major General Henry H. Arnold commented: “I was `taboo’ at the White House for a long time. I was not wanted there during the conferences. . . I had a genuine worry because I had lost the President’s confidence at probably the most critical period of my professional career.” (Arnold, Global Mission. p. 186.) The bill to which Marshall refers, H. R. 3135, was never reported out of the House Military Affairs Committee.

2. Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Smith was the administrative liaison between the chief of staff and the president’s secretary and military aide, Major General Edwin M. Watson.

3. Major General George H. Brett had been appointed acting chief of the Air Corps on October 1, 1940; he was made chief of the Air Corps on May 31, 1941.

4. While he was chief of the Air Corps, Arnold was a major general ex officio. But his permanent rank was still colonel, because he had not yet notified the War Department of his acceptance of the promotion to permanent brigadier general made on December 2, 1940. On May 31, 1941, he accepted his promotion to permanent brigadier general, was promoted to the permanent rank of major general, and accepted that rank.

5. Stephen Early was the president’s press secretary.

6. Major General Mason M. Patrick (U.S.M.A., 1886), chief of the Air Service from 1921 to 1927, advocated the creation of both aviation support units for the ground forces and an offensive air force with a separate command structure. The Joint Board rejected this proposal in 1923. (Craven and Cate, Plans and Early Operations, p. 26.)

7. Secretary Stimson had noted on March 26, 1941, that Watson claimed that the president opposed the promotion of New York Times general manager and Reserve officer Julius Ochs Adler. Stimson suspected that Watson was the source of the opposition. (Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary 33: 115].)

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. 508-510.

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