2-233 Memorandum for the Secretary of War, July 29, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 29, 1940

Memorandum for the Secretary of War

July 29, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

The following is an extract from the President’s Press Conference last Friday:

“The President was asked if he had any further program to submit to Congress that might hold them in session but he answered that as far as he knew now the Selective Service bill was holding their attention and that he had no other measure contemplated at this time that would be of sufficient importance to hold them in session.”

This would seem to indicate that he either did not intend to go forward with the National Guard mobilization or that he had overlooked the legislative possibilities or difficulties connected with the Joint Resolution for that purpose. I called up Saturday morning on the status of the Joint Resolution authorizing the President to order out the National Guard, and while we were not able to obtain definite information, it appears that he has not sent that Resolution to Congress. These delays are daily growing more serious from several points of view: the lack of adequate numbers of trained troops, in the present international situation; and now the dilemma in which the War Department is rapidly being thrown by reason of our inability to start construction in the camps necessary for the National Guard, and for the compulsory trainees, in time to have them ready in the event that the necessary legislative authority is given us.

At the moment the situation is the more serious because we not only have the need for the immediate mobilization of a portion of the Guard, but the longer this matter is delayed the less time we have to make preparations against the cold weather of the early fall.1

I am having prepared for your consideration a memorandum to the President on the subject, in the hope that he may be willing to give us a temporary allotment of a portion of his special fund in order to permit us to enter contracts and get the work started for sewage, roads, water, and hospital layout for a portion of these camps.2

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. This same day President Roosevelt sent a letter transmitting the draft joint resolution to the president of the Senate; it was introduced in the Senate the next day by Morris Sheppard, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee. Within hours of its introduction, a hearing was arranged and Marshall was called to testify. The president’s letter, the draft resolution, and Marshall’s testimony are published in Senate Military Affairs Committee, Ordering Reserve Components and Retired Personnel into Active Military Service, Hearing (Washington: GPO, 1940). After a compromise was reached on the differences in the amendments between the Senate and House versions, Senate Joint Resolution 286 was sent to the president, who approved it on August 27.

2. In his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 5, Marshall stressed the importance of starting cantonment construction. “Shelter is a serious problem at the present moment. We have known for some time where we wanted to put these people. We had decided on the type of shelter to be erected and had plans and specifications for it. We thought that Congress would settle the question of authority to order out the National Guard, and the matter of compulsory training by the 1st of August. On that basis, the Guard was to be brought into the Federal service during September and the first induction of men under the selective service act during October.

“What has happened is that the weeks have been passing and we have no authority to enter into contracts to provide the additional shelter required. We have been trying to find some manner, some means for getting started. We want to proceed in an orderly and businesslike manner. We know exactly what we want to do and exactly where we want to do it, but we have neither the authority nor the funds and time is fleeting. So far as construction is concerned the winter is upon us, because it requires from 3 to 4 months to provide proper shelter.

“We had hopes at first to gain time by providing a progressive mobilization of the National Guard during the summer. We planned to put troops in tent camps, while better shelter was being prepared in the climates that demand special protection against the winter. However, weeks have come and have gone and we have been unable to make a start. The present uncertainties make a businesslike procedure almost impossible. We must make a start toward getting water lines laid; a start on the sewage-disposal systems; a start on the temporary roads and certainly the walks to keep our people out of the mud; and we must get under way the start of construction of temporary hospital facilities. These are fundamental necessities and take time to develop.” (Senate Appropriations Committee, Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill for 1941, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1940], p. 4.) The construction problems are further discussed in editorial note #2-430, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 482-83].

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. 278-279.

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