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Notes for Talk to American Legion1
September 21, 1943 Omaha, Nebraska
A few days ago I submitted a report which pretty well covered the operations of the Army during the past two years, the why and wherefore of our various moves.2 There is little to add to that statement at this time except that there must be no lessening of the momentum which it has taken us three years to develop. The press and radio are keeping you well informed as to the progress of affairs in the Mediterranean and on the Russian front. You are given most of the details of the heavy bombing we are administering to the industries in Germany and the Axis satellites throughout Europe, as well as the destruction of the enemy fighter planes opposed to these devastating raids. New Guinea, somewhat like the Aleutians, is an unhealthy locality for the enemy and his planes, barges and soldiers. As a matter of fact, the entire western Pacific has become a critical problem for the Japanese. For the first time we are getting under way with the war as we would have it conducted, and I hope that from now on we shall rarely be on the receiving end except as is inevitable when trading punches in battle contacts.
It has seemed to me from reading the papers recently, that there is some misunderstanding as to the degree of success we have attained in the prosecution of the war. One gathers the impression that our various moves of late were the final steps in the conflict.
Perhaps it might be well for me to outline the present state of our deployment. For most of the past year and a half we have been engaged in establishing bases for future operations. Comparatively speaking, large combat forces of the ground Army have not yet been engaged. As I endeavored to show diagrammatically in my recent report, our shipping has been largely employed in getting our air forces into action and building up the tremendous installations required all over the world both to maintain the combat forces already moved into the various theaters and to provide for the very much larger forces to come. These preparations have now been practically completed and it is the last-mentioned detail to which I would refer this afternoon.
We have prepared in North Africa and in Sicily, and we are about to prepare in Italy, for the supply and maintenance of heavy air and ground forces. For a long time we have been making similar preparations in the United Kingdom, and throughout the Pacific the same process has been under way since January, 1942. Meanwhile there has been built up in this country a formidable force of divisions and Army Corps with all the supporting troops, disciplined, highly trained, hardened, ready for embarkation for the great and final deployment of our Armies against the enemy. Save for assaults in the air, only a small portion of our combat strength has been engaged. Now at last we are ready to carry the war to the enemy, all overseas, thank God, with a power and force that we hope will bring this conflict to an early conclusion. But please remember that this phase is just about to begin, a point which seems not to be understood by our people here at home, possibly because they are far removed from the agonies of war except for those whose sons or husbands have been engaged in the fighting.
Concerning the public reactions of the moment I find myself in a curious state of mind. For three years or more, it has been a daily struggle of striving to meet the demands without the available means. There has been the constant problem of weighing the priorities of this theater against that one, of sending men to the front for who training ammunition had been lacking or similar deficiencies. Now I find myself in the position of being questioned, if not investigated, for having too much of something or other. I don’t know yet exactly what this excess is, but I do know that I am profoundly grateful that for once in the history of the United States there is suggested the possibility that we may have too much of something or other with which to support our armies. It will require considerable proof to assure me that such an unusual state of affairs actually exists. And I would add this view—my consideration is for the American soldier, to see that he has every available means with which to make successful war, that he is not limited in ammunition, that he is not limited in equipment, and that he has sufficient training and medical care; in other words, to see that for once in the history of this country he is given a fair break in the terrible business of making war. So I must confess that rather than being disturbed by the doubts that now seem to be arising in the public mind at the present time, I am vastly relieved that they should be of that particular character rather than the usual recriminations over tragic deficiencies of every kind and nature.
There is another phase of the present situation which I believe it will do no harm to refer to publicly and probably will be of interest, especially to you gentlemen who bore the full burden in France of our unpreparedness for war. We have been engaged for a number of months and very properly so, in plans for the further development of the war in the Pacific with the additional means as they become available from the struggle in the European theater. The first transfer made possible by our battles in the Mediterranean will result from the elimination of the Axis navy in that region. That means more naval power in the Pacific and that, in turn, means additional bases and equipment which have to be planned and provided for long in advance. We are similarly engaged in planning regarding other forces, particularly air, and it will probably interest you as much as it will discourage the Japanese to learn that our most difficult problem is to find sufficient bases from which to operate the vast forces which are to be poured into the Pacific for the rearrangement of the affairs of the Son of Heaven with his military clique.
Considering the fact that each day of war means both a colossal expenditure of money and a constant expenditure of human life, it is evident that we must not lose an hour in making our transfers from one theater to another. We are proceeding on the basis that nothing is to delay this flood of power to be added to the forces which already outnumber the enemy and are steadily growing stronger day by day. But I would add that these matters are not the affair of a moment, the result of a campaign of propaganda, or of temporary enthusiasms or special interests. We must proceed in the most businesslike manner possible to make this war so terrible to the enemy, so overwhelming in character, that never again can a small group of dictators find a sufficient following to destroy the peaceful security of a civilized world.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed notes.
1. Marshall was the keynote speaker at the Legion’s twenty-fifth annual national convention. His ten-minute speech was broadcast by N.B.C. radio at 1:30 P.M. and printed in the New York Times, September 22, 1943, p. 10. After Marshall’s address, the Legion gave Marshall its Distinguished Service Medal.
2. See editorial note #4-092 concerning Marshall’s 1941-43 biennial report, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [4: 105-7].
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. 131-134.