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Press Release on Overseas Army Service
November 13, 1941 Washington, D.C.
Statement By General George C. Marshall,
Chief of Staff U.S. Army
This morning’s papers carry reports that the War Department is conducting a recruiting campaign for three-year enlistments for overseas service. Several of these articles are calculated to give the impression that we are engaged in building up an expeditionary force, and one paper I understand has already taken us to Africa.1
During the past year the War Department has been working to increase the number of volunteers, or three-year men to meet the increased requirements for the present overseas garrisons, such as Panama, Hawaii, and the new Atlantic Bases; also to supply the large numbers required for Air Corps units, together with a sufficient percentage of long service men to give stability to the Regular organizations in the United States, particularly the technical armored corps.
In addition, the Army has been endeavoring to provide the necessary numbers of volunteers to carry out the President’s announced policy of relieving the Marines in Iceland and the elements of the British Army stationed there. The recruiting campaign to secure men for the Iceland command was initiated last August at Camp Custer among the units of the Fifth Division. We still have to meet the necessity for 10,000 men for this purpose.
The War Department has also felt that it was highly desirable to have at least one division out of the thirty-four divisions of the Army, the First Division, 100% volunteers, in order that it could be placed on an equal footing with the Marine division with which it has been training for some months in a provisional corps.
To summarize, these requirements amount to 36,000 volunteers a month, of which 25,000 are required for the Air Corps alone. The recruiting necessary for these normal and well known purposes evidently gave rise to the articles which appeared in the papers this morning. In this connection approximately 25,000 men volunteered in October, which is 9,000 short of the monthly number required.
There is no foundation whatsoever for the allegation or rumor that we are preparing troops for a possible expedition to Africa or other critical area outside this hemisphere.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. The New York Times (November 13, 1941, p. 15) printed without comment the two stories that had caused what the War Department regarded as an alarming reaction elsewhere: a United Press item stating that the army was “asking National Guardsmen and selectees to re-enlist for three-year terms in the Regular Army and to serve overseas if necessary”; and a brief Associated Press article stating that the army was “asking members of the armored force whether they would be willing to serve overseas.” The comments by certain newspapers, Stimson noted in his diary, was “evidently a movement by the Isolationists to try to affect the vote” on the revisions of the Neutrality Act of 1939 which would permit the arming of United States merchant ships and the sending of them into belligerents’ ports. (November 13, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 36: 22].) President Roosevelt had requested the revisions on October 9, 1941; the legislation had passed the Senate but was stalled in the House. On November 12 House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Democrat from Texas, and Majority Leader John W. McCormack, Democrat from Massachusetts, had written to the president asking for a letter supporting the revisions. The president’s message was sent on November 13. (The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1941 volume, ed. Samuel I. Rosenman [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950], pp. 487-90.)
Secretary Stimson wrote that he had decided to “put out a statement on the floor of the House during the debate and put it in the hands of McCormack, so that the real facts could be given fully. I called up the President and he told me to go ahead. I called up McCormack and he said that was fine and he and I decided that the best man to do it was Marshall who, of course, represented the head of the Army which had been doing this thing. So Marshall and I hurried along with our work and together with the aid of the officers who knew the facts, we drafted a statement which he signed and sent up to McCormack and it got there in time for the debate and I think had some influence. Late in the afternoon we got word that the Bill repealing Section II, III and VI of the Neutrality Law had successfully passed the House, although by the close vote of 212 to 194. It was a tremendous relief to me, because the atmosphere has been steadily setting against the movement lately.” (November 13, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 36: 22-23].)
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. 671-672.