2-235 N.B.C. Radio Address on the Maneuvers, August 5, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 5, 1940

N.B.C. Radio Address on the Maneuvers

August 5, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Commencing today and continuing through August, our Army will be engaged in the most extensive and, we hope, the most productive field maneuvers we have ever attempted.

Since the American people foot the bill for all military expenditures, they are entitled to a detailed explanation of the purpose and importance of these maneuvers.

On September 8, 1939, nearly a year ago, and following the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, President Roosevelt issued the limited emergency proclamation and authorized the Army to recruit to an enlisted strength of 227,000 for the Regular Army and 235,000 for the National Guard. Immediately, five Regular Army Divisions were organized and ordered into the field for intensive training, which culminated in Army maneuvers for 70,000 Regular troops in the Sabine River Valley of Louisiana and Texas last May.

One purpose of the present maneuvers is to capitalize on the lessons of the past six months. About 85% of the mobile Regular Army and National Guard troops in Continental United States will participate, and in this way, the knowledge and experience recently gained by the Regular troops can be brought to the National Guard. During the maneuvers last May, National Guard Division and Brigade Commanders, with their staffs, served with the Regular troops and during a 24-hour period of action were given actual command.

As a culmination to this year’s training, the Regular Army and the National Guard will engage, during the next three weeks, in maneuvers in each of the four territorial Army Areas. In Northern New York, approximately 100,000 troops of the First Army will simulate combat conditions between Plattsburg and Watertown.

In the Second Army, 65,000 men will operate in the vicinity of Sparta in Western Wisconsin.

The Sabine River Area in Louisiana will furnish the locale for the maneuvers of 65,000 troops of the Third Army; and the 80,000 troops of the Fourth Army will concentate at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Washington, and at Camp Ripley in Minnesota. This area is so large that it is not economical to assemble the Fourth Army troops in one region.

It is a matter of regret that our newly organized Armored Corps will not be free to participate in these maneuvers. The great distances of this country separating the maneuver areas and the necessity of permitting the two new armored divisions to complete their organization and training, as quickly as possible, have made this decision necessary.

It has also been necessary to hold to a minimum the squadrons of the Air Force which will participate in the maneuvers, because that component of the Army is in the midst of a tremendous expansion from a comparatively small force to the large organization recently authorized by Congress.

The present era of science and invention has exerted a dominating influence on the ways and means of conducting warfare. Teaching a man to shoot a rifle or to ride a horse, or to drive a motor vehicle, are only primary steps in the education of the modern soldier. He must not only be technically trained in many subjects and duties, but he must also be seasoned for rigorous field duty and taught the mechanics of operating as an intelligent cog in a highly complicated machine.

During the World War, it was my opportunity to see 27 of our divisions operating on the battlefields of France, and it seemed to me at the time that the great tragedy of our participation in that war was the wastage of the tremendous potential advantage we had in the quality of our personnel because of the limited opportunity the men were given to prepare themselves for action. No one has ever really told the full truth of what might have been and what actually was; and the fault was that of our nation at large in not giving those men a fair chance to prepare themselves for the ordeal of battle.

Another factor in the last World War is little understood in judging the necessities of today. Our experience in France was that of semi-siege warfare. Our divisions operated in sectors delimited by specified boundaries. Thus restricted, the errors in a large measure were confined to limited areas. Open warfare, that is, warfare of movement, such as recently took place in France and Belgium, knows no boundaries nor similar limitations, and is far more difficult of management.

In open warfare, the artillery, the signal communications, everything in fact is exceedingly hard to manage, even at best. This difficulty has been the more serious for us by reason of the lack of training of large units, such as divisions and Army Corps. We are hopeful that our theoretical ideas, as taught at our service schools, are correct; but hitherto we have been unable to prove them out by actual maneuvers on the ground. In other words, theory was forced upon us because we had no sizeable formations of troops to demonstrate the practical side. The Navy has a great Fleet. Paradoxical as it may sound, the Army has had no Army until the small field force of Regulars was concentrated last May.

Such maneuvers as we have been able to hold during the past five years have indicated the necessity for the more frequent assembling of the divisions and for the establishment of Army Corps—meaning a grouping of several divisions into a team. The general deficiency in Army Corps troops, that is, heavy artillery, antiaircraft units, Engineers, Medical regiments, Signal battalions, Quartermaster truck trains, and the complete lack of Corps Headquarters and experienced leadership, have made it extremely difficult for the mobile combat troops of the Regular Army to be trained as an immediately available, effective, first-line combat force, experienced in the conduct of large-scale field operations. Higher commanders and staffs must be given opportunities for training in the technique, tactics, and team work involved, and the troops must be accustomed to operating in large groups. These August maneuvers, among other things, are designed to give Brigade, Division, and Corps Commanders and their staffs, necessary experience which can be gained in no other way, and the lack of which would mean the wastage or sacrifice of men and means, if not the loss of great decisions.

Another purpose of these maneuvers is to improve the teamwork that is so necessary for the efficient operation of the modern Army. I wish to mention a few of the elements which enter into this. For instance, in an Army Corps of several divisions, there are the old faithfuls, the Infantry and the Artillery. Success in battle is closely attuned to the extent of their cooperation. We have the Cavalry, horse or mechanized, which must feel out and locate the enemy. We have the antiaircraft units, which must furnish protection against air attack; the Signal Corps troops, who install and operate the telephone lines and the radio sets; the Ordnance troops, who repair the broken vehicles and guns; the Engineers, who build the bridges, repair the roads, and clear blockades; the Quartermaster troops, who haul and distribute the supplies; the Observation Aviation, which has been called the eyes of the Army; the anti-tank units, which furnish protection against tank attack; the Medical troops, who care for the wounded. There are now, also, the distantly based squadrons of bombers, who must be hailed and brought to the focal point at a precise instant, to blast away hostile resistance. All of these elements must be taught to work with each other. We would not expect a football team, the members of which met for the first time on the playing field the day of the game, to furnish much opposition to a well-trained opponent. It is the same with an army, only more so.

There is no short cut to adequate combat training. The First Division of the AEF arrived in France in July, 1917, and entered into intensive training as a division within the sound of guns on the battlefront. Most of its officers were Regulars, and under the protection of the Allies, it was given 12 months in which to find itself, its first operation being launched a full year after the concentration at Hoboken. Yet in that first battle, following the most favorable practical situation for training conceivable, there were lessons without end, for both officers and men. There was courage a-plenty, but as we surveyed the operation, successful as it was, we felt a little like recruits at the business.

The situation today is utterly different from those days. There may be no such prolonged period for preparation, and there will be no friendly powers able to provide all our weapons and ammunition. Everything to be done will have to be done by ourselves alone. We must stand on our own feet.

I am hopeful that these August maneuvers will have a tremendous effect towards seasoning that important element of our defense forces, the National Guard, which is forced to conduct most of its training indoors. The Guard occupies an important place in our defensive system. It has suffered in equipment shortages as a result of the lean post-war years when appropriations were pared to the bone. The very recent billions for material can produce no effect for many months until quantity deliveries commence. The men of the National Guard are volunteers, enthusiastic, conscientious members of our Army; and great credit is due them for the time they have freely given from their civil pursuits to make a patriotic contribution to National Defense. These maneuvers will enable the National Guard Divisions to work with supporting units such as Cavalry, Anti-aircraft troops, and combat and observation aviation to an extent which has until this time been impossible.

Thousands of Reserve officers should benefit by the practical training in command and staff work which they will receive. These men are members of a Corps which is one of our great defense assets, and which has been built up progressively since 1919 to the present approximate strength of 120,000 commissioned officers.

One of the outstanding purposes of these maneuvers is to prepare in the present emergency the manpower which is our only resource for the immediate future. You have read of the billions which Congress is appropriating for National Defense. These appropriations constitute an important, a vital step toward adequate preparedness, but years must elapse before they declare their dividends in the way of finished material, that is, guns, ammunition, and heavy equipment. Time—and let me repeat—time is our pressing necessity today, and manpower is the only thing which can be provided on short notice. We must train men immediately against the possibilities of the next few months, which may be the most critical in the history of this country.

Ordering the National Guard to active duty and the passage of some form of selective service are the best, and the War Department is convinced, the only practical means by which we can prepare to meet the immediate situation. It was expected that in the process of obtaining authority for these various measures, there would be, of necessity, a period of discussion and debate, particularly with relation to a Selective Service Act; however, the passage of the weeks—this loss of time—is a constantly growing embarrassment to the War Department. Speaking from a purely professional viewpoint, I must say that further delays might seriously jeopardize the effectiveness of our preparations to provide the country with adequate military defense. We must not speculate with the security of this nation.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

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. 280-284.

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