2-311 N.B.C. Radio Address on the Progress of National Defense, November 29, 1940

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

N.B.C. Radio Address on the Progress

of National Defense1

November 29, 1940 Washington, D.C.

The past few weeks have brought me so many queries regarding Army affairs that I feel it is desirable to outline the exact status of our military program and the progress that we have made. The majority of the questions have related to the present size of the Army and its organization; to the development of the Air Corps and the training of its pilots and mechanics; to the conditions in our camps, the progress of construction, and to the state of morale among our troops. Since we are at peace with the world, and the basic purpose of our preparations is to maintain that peace, and since this country is undertaking its present comprehensive military program because the American people demanded it, I feel that the more fully informed the American public is, the easier will be the problem for the War Department and military officials in general. Therefore, this brief review tonight of the present status of the Army.

A year ago last summer our active Army consisted of about 170,000 soldiers, 56 squadrons of combat planes, and some 2500 pilots. There were two small regiments of mechanized troops.

From a purely organizational point of view, the Regular Army had only three half-organized infantry divisions. As for larger organizations, the basic battle unit is an Army Corps, and there was not one in our Army. Furthermore, the troops on active duty in this country, meaning the Regular Army units, were scattered among one hundred or more small posts, making the training of a genuine field army a practical impossibility. As to munitions, such as guns, ammunition, equipment, and motor transportation, we seriously lacked adequate equipment for the organizations then on the rolls, and most of the materiel for which funds had but recently been provided was not due for delivery for many months to come.

Now, I wish very briefly to outline the situation of the Army at this moment, in contrast to that of a little more than a year ago: Today there are 500,000 men in the field undergoing intensive training, and within a very few weeks this total will approach 800,000. Instead of three incomplete infantry divisions, there are today eighteen under training, with nine more soon to come. The two weak mechanized regiments have grown into an armored corps of two divisions, each of about 12,000 men.

One Cavalry division has had its missing units organized and is rapidly approaching a war strength of about 12,000 men, with a second division in process of activation. Five partially organized antiaircraft regiments on active duty in July a year ago have been increased to 22 complete regiments in the field training at the present time, with more to report in January. Similar changes have taken place in coast defense troops, Engineer regiments, communications battalions, medical organizations, and supply trains.

The Air Force of 56 squadrons has been increased to 109, and the number of pilots to 4,000. Training schools are now expanding to provide a production rate of about 1,000 pilots a month by next summer. The school for air mechanics which was graduating 1500 a year is now turning out men at a rate of 9,000 a year, and in a few months will have a yearly output of 30,000.

As to munitions, American industry is rapidly absorbing the orders for the production of vast amounts of materiel during the next eighteen months. The task is particularly difficult because we are endeavoring to fulfill tremendous orders on behalf of Great Britain, and we are trying to do all of this with a minimum of departure from our traditional democratic method of voluntary cooperation with the Government on the part of industry.

The public, I fear, has been much confused regarding this phase of the defense program by what might be called a war of statistics, incident to the charges and countercharges of an election campaign. The fact of the matter is, that through the splendid cooperation and energetic direction of the Advisory Commission for National Defense and of the groups of scientists who are working very hard to help us, the munitions phase of the program is getting well under way. We must, however, find methods for speeding up the present rate of production, and no pains are being spared to this end.

One of our most difficult problems has been the hurried erection of temporary shelter at cantonments, for the accommodation of large numbers of troops. A contract to build something within a period of a year is not to be compared in difficulty with the contract which must be completed in three months’ time, involving the construction of complete utilities, and roads, hospitals, offices, and barracks for twenty to fifty thousand men. The awarding of such contracts is an exceedingly complicated business, and is only the preparatory step to the equally difficult matter of proper supervision to their completion. With time the dominant factor, this phase of the task has been a very trying one, but we are proceeding more rapidly than we at first thought would be possible. Literally, nothing has been allowed to interfere with the accomplishment of this task at the earliest possible date.

Another difficult matter has been the problem of obtaining large quantities of uniform clothing on short notice. Money for this did not become available until late last summer. Yet we have been able to meet the demands and, given a few months for the development of full quantity production, our problem will be much simplified. This has been a particularly pressing matter from the viewpoint of public opinion, because each mother looks to her son’s uniform with a very critical eye, and the young soldier himself feels it is of great importance especially if his best girl happens to be in the neighborhood.

I now wish to bring to your attention two phases of the present situation which are troubling the War Department and for which the Department has no immediate remedy within its power.

There are being established in many portions of the country, particularly in the South and Southeast, tremendous concentrations of troops. In order to provide adequate space for training, it has been necessary to locate these camps where extensive plots of land could be obtained at a reasonable price. The natural result is that only small communities are normally to be found in the vicinity of the largest troop concentrations, with the further result that there is a serious lack of accommodations for the families of the officers and non-commissioned officers. The troops are in the field, it is true, but we are not at war and it is not unnatural, under the circumstances, that many men, wishing to avoid separation from their families for a year, or possibly longer, desire to move their dependents to the vicinity of the concentration areas.

As a result of this influx of families, we find that in some localities, local rents at first doubled, and now in certain areas have tripled, with indications that they will go still higher, apparently on the basis of “charge as much as the traffic will bear.” This situation is unfortunate and very unfair, and I can only hope that State and municipal authorities will bring a sufficient pressure to bear to suppress this form of profiteering.

A subject of outstanding importance and one to which we have given extensive consideration is the moral and spiritual welfare of the young soldier. Our Corps of Chaplains, with one chaplain for every 1200 men, is well organized and will be adequately equipped to provide religious services and training for all denominations similar to those found in the average city parish. The Chief of Chaplains is being assisted by Dr. Paul Moody for Protestants, by Bishop John O’Hara for Catholics, and by Dr. David de Sola Pool of the Jewish Welfare Board.2 There should be no fear that any young man will suffer spiritual loss during the period of his military service, and, on the contrary, we hope that the young soldier will return to his home with a keener understanding of the sacred ideals for which our churches stand.

However, despite the facilities which exist for the spiritual protection of the soldier, there is another serious problem arising from the establishment of these large camps, and one which troubles me more than any other. I am referring to matters that seriously affect morale, that affect the reputation of the Army, and especially that will affect the future of the young men now in the service. I am talking about the problem of handling tremendous numbers of young men who flood into the small nearby communities over the weekends, or in the evenings when their work is done.

Growing out of our experience in the World War, it had been determined many years ago that we should not have competing welfare organizations on the military reservations, and that the Army should take care of such matters and provide the recreational facilities. Congress has given us the money for the necessary construction and for the operation of such services, and these are being organized in a large way. On the reservations the Army can control matters, but when the soldier leaves the camp our troubles begin.

Human nature being what it is, establishments for the purpose of selling liquor are becoming increasingly active in the communities adjacent to the camps, and in some communities there has been an influx of persons of questionable reputation. Here we have on the one side a sordid business for the accumulation of money, and on the other the interest of every parent in the United States who has a son in the Army, not to mention the responsibility of the War Department to develop an Army of the highest quality. This situation must be brought under control before it grows serious.

It is in this field, in the communities in the vicinity of our troop concentrations, that the War Department urgently desires the assistance of every welfare organization in the country. We can manage matters on the military reservations, but, as I have said, we have little authority once the soldier goes to town. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to the Army that the Red Cross and the YMCA, the Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board, the Salvation Army, the various fraternal organizations, and the churches of the community, all cooperate to develop wholesome places for the soldier to go for his entertainment—places where he at least can sit down in respectable surroundings and not have to tramp the streets with the ever-present prospect of getting into trouble.

This question has received continuous thought in the War Department, and much has been done to stimulate the organization of committees of men and women familiar with local customs to cooperate with camp commanders, who have, in turn, been ordered to make contacts with the committees in communities adjacent to their camps.

Here is a field where tremendous good can be done both for the National Defense and for the future of these young men. Here is the field where, it seems to me, an obligation exists on the part of the local communities to do this work. It would appear to be but a matter of good business for communities adjacent to our camps thus to organize for the protection of the thousands of new customers that the Army has brought to their gates. But in a broader sense, there is a moral obligation on the part of both the Army and civil communities to assist these young men to lead clean, sound lives while they wear the uniform of their country.

This is not simply a matter of morals or sentiment. More than ever before, the efficiency of an army depends upon the quality of its soldiers, the men required to operate the complicated machines of this modern age. Soldiers today must be alert, active, and in condition, mentally, morally, and physically to withstand the ordeals of the enemy’s onslaught from both ground and air, and still be able to carry the fight to the other fellow.

So, as we report on the progress of the past year in organizing, equipping, and developing our expanding forces, at the same time we ask your assistance in bettering the living conditions for the families of our officers and men, and in guarding the health and morale of our soldiers while they are guests in your communities. Only with your energetic assistance can we insure the integrity of our young army.

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

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. Marshall delivered his fifteen-minute address at 8:15 Friday evening. Entitled “Progress of National Defense” in the radio schedules, it was broadcast between a musical variety show and a popular Western drama. It originated from station WJSV in Washington, D.C.

2. Colonel William R. Arnold (Roman Catholic), an army chaplain since 1913, had been chief of Chaplains since December 1937. Reverend Paul D. Moody, A.E.F. General Headquarters chaplain, 1918-19, was director of the General Committee on Army and Navy Chaplains, 1940-41. Bishop John F. O’Hara had been auxiliary bishop of the Army and Navy Diocese since 1939. Rabbi David de Sola Pool was chairman of the Jewish Welfare Board’s Committee on Religious Activities of the Army and Navy.

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), p. 359.

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