4-476 Memorandum to the Secretary of War, August 16, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 16, 1944

Subject: World War II

Memorandum to the Secretary of War

August 16, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]


The attached is not of immediate, or rather pressing importance, but it may be that you care to think it over a bit while you are at St. Hubert’s.1

Judge Patterson’s memorandum to me is self-explanatory. However, in the last paragraph he states, “From our telephone talk [of August 7], I take it that these considerations are in accord with your views”. The conversation took place over the desk phone and therefore was not a very satisfactory procedure. I am not in agreement with the manner of reduction of these sentences. I do not think the fine and reprimand will have the desired effect. I endeavored to explain to the Judge that in my opinion that if a modification were indicated, it must take some other form in order to uphold discipline, specifically in compliance with flying regulations on the part of these returning aviators. My suggestions were those of the moment during the conversation, and took the form of a suspension from duty for possibly a six months’ period, maybe a year, with only a small amount of pay remaining to the officer’s credit. If you will remember, something of this sort was done in the case of Billy Mitchell. He was not dismissed but was suspended from duty for two years, I think.

I had in mind that some such sentence as this suspending the hero from the consequences of dishonorable discharge, yet effectively separating him from Army service (probably to the end of the war) would have the desired effect on other officers.

As Arnold points out, the number of these offenses will probably increase steadily unless very positive action is taken to cope with the usual tendency of the returning flying veteran, particularly the much decorated type. As Arnold also points out, within the past month we have had three tragic affairs due to low flying. If we confine ourselves to severity only in the cases where the low flying hits the innocent individual, we have done little to deter other officers from similar reckless flying.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. The attachments included Acting Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson’s Memorandum for the Chief of Staff of August 8, 1944, regarding Army Air Forces officers recently returned from combat who had been court-martialed for various offenses in the d States—frequently for flagrant violation of flying regulations—and who had been found guilty and sentenced to dismissal from the service. Patterson believed that dismissal was sometimes too strong a punishment, given the individuals’ previous records, and he had recommended to President Roosevelt that the punishment be reduced to a reprimand and a heavy fine. (Patterson Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, August 8, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 360.331].) For previous correspondence regarding this problem, see Marshall to Roosevelt, May 17, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-388 [4: 457-58]. Between August 4 and 20, Stimson was at his cottage at the Ausable Club in the Adirondack Mountains near St. Huberts, New York; he returned to the War Department on August 21.

2. Stimson replied that he agreed with Marshall that “the reckless disregard of regulations by some of our air men, causing damage and loss of life, must be stopped by sharp punishment” and that reprimands and fines were not a sufficient deterrent, but “the men should not be made felons except in very serious cases.” (Stimson Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, August 22, 1944, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 360.331 (August 9, 1944)].) Patterson responded on September 12 that he was concerned that there be uniformity of treatment in similar court-martial cases and that of the 227 similar cases in 1944 for breach of flying regulations—none involving flyers with distinguished combat records-80 percent were settled without dismissal. Ultimately the three cases that Patterson was most interested in resulted in fines. (Patterson Memorandum for the Secretary of War, September 12, 1944, and Pasco Memorandum for General Marshall, October 13, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 547-548.

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