2-438 Memorandum for the Staff, May 2, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 2, 1941

Memorandum for the Staff

May 2, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]

At midnight last night General Watson telephoned me that the President had received a telegram from the Governor of Arkansas to the following effect: That he had a serious situation at Arkansas City; that a negro was to be tried for rape; that he was sure they could not bring the negro to trial without troops for protection; that he requested two companies of infantry from Camp Robinson for duty probably not to exceed 36 to 48 hours. General Watson informed me that the President desired compliance with the Governor’s request.1

General Watson was informed that under the terms of the present law, the President had to issue a proclamation. General Watson stated the President had gone to bed and had left the arrangement of the matter with him. He was going to notify the Governor and I told him not to do that, but to leave the notification of the Governor to be made by the Commander of the corps area, General Strong, and I would telephone him.2

I talked to General Gullion over the `phone, who explained the legal requirements as to the proclamation.3 This is based on an address to people assembled for unlawful purposes. There is no assembly and action is in anticipation of an assembly. General Gullion thought the proclamation might be signed by the President but no publicity given it. He suggested that it be delivered to the U.S. Marshal. I objected to this because under the President’s direction the troops would be sent to the scene and I did not wish the military commander to be exposed to the hazards of action against his command or in the face of his command with someone, possibly at a distant point, determining whether or not the President’s proclamation should be publicized. He suggested sending it to the Governor. I opposed this for the same reason. If the troops were to be present at the scene of possible disturbance the commander should not be left dependent on some other party to take the determining action. General Gullion agreed. It was arranged that the proclamation and as later advised should be ready early in the morning—this morning.

I telephoned General Strong at Fort Omaha. He had already arranged for a plane to stand by with his Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Colonel Fred Miller, prepared to leave on short notice. He had not discussed the matter with General Truman, the Division Commander at Fort Robinson, Little Rock. General Strong had previously been advised to have no contact with the Governor, but to arrange matters so as to take prompt action if the President decided to authorize the use of the troops.4

I instructed General Strong to communicate with the Governor immediately, particularly to learn when the trouble was expected. The President apparently thought it was an immediate matter. General Gullion had informed me that Senator Caraway’s secretary had told him during the afternoon it would not come to a head for about three days.5

I instructed General Strong to arrange with General Truman to send two companies to Arkansas City. I explained to him the legal technicalities with regard to the proclamation and that our intention was to have the proclamation delivered to the troop commander. General Strong requested that it be delivered to Colonel Miller, his representative, who was an officer of excellent judgment and who would be present. I told him I thought this would be the arrangement and would notify him this morning.

I had covered these details with Colonel Smith, of my staff, who was instructed to notify General Lear, the Army Commander, to release the two companies referred to and to notify General Strong accordingly. Incidentally I had told General Strong that these were my orders, even if he had not heard from Lear. General Lear had been notified earlier in the day to that effect, but General Strong did not receive notice of the release of the companies. Colonel Smith was directed by me to telephone General Lear to notify General Strong immediately of the release of the troops. Colonel Smith talked to the duty officer at General Lear’s headquarters on the `phone, and he was to notify the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Robinson.6

The duty officer at General Lear’s headquarters telephoned Colonel Smith later on that the Governor specifically requested that Arkansas troops be not sent, and Colonel Smith directed that General Strong be notified accordingly and that the selection be left to General Truman.7

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. Homer Adkins was the governor of Arkansas. The defendant was John Henry Riney.

2. Major General George V. Strong had been commanding general of the Seventh Corps Area since December 1940.

3. Major General Allen W. Gullion (U.S.M.A., 1905) had been the judge advocate general since December 1, 1937.

4. Strong’s operations officer was Lieutenant Colonel Fred W. Miller. Major General Ralph E. Truman commanded the Thirty-fifth Division of the National Guard.

5. Hattie W. Caraway, Democrat from Arkansas, had been senator since 1931.

6. Lieutenant Colonel Walter S. Smith was an assistant secretary of the General Staff. Lieutenant General Ben Lear commanded the Second Army. Brigadier General Donald A. Robinson was chief of staff of Second Army.

7. The army sent the 140th Infantry Regiment of the Missouri National Guard to Arkansas City. Riney admitted his guilt on the witness stand. (Washington Post, May 18,1941, p. 14.)

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. 490-492.

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