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Proposed Statement for Secretary of War’s Press Conference1
March 1, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
In discussing this matter I wish to make clear three points. These young men are being thoroughly trained, more intensively and completely than American soldiers have ever been trained heretofore.
The War Department in no way misrepresented this matter to Congress. Some members of the Congress and the public have confused the training of a division with the training of an individual. The former requires a minimum of a year, preferably three. The training of an individual to go into a veteran unit is an entirely different matter.
So long as there were numerous divisions in this country the practice was followed of drawing from the ranks of those divisions the majority of Infantry privates who had been in training from a year to two years and sending them overseas. Their places were then filled by transfers of the young men from the replacement training camps. This procedure was very hard on the divisional teams. Nevertheless the War Department followed this practice so long as it was a practicable proposition. The movement of divisions out of the United States has progressed to such a point that such a procedure has not been possible for a considerable period of months.
The impression apparently has grown that the Army is maintaining men of great experience and training in the U.S. who might well have been sent overseas while younger men were continued longer in the service before actually committed to combat. This is not the case at all. During the past year practically every man under 35 who was physically qualified and for whose job a replacement could be found—either in the form of a physically disqualified man who had been returned from overseas or a civilian—has been ordered overseas. This process is continuing. Furthermore, the same procedure is being followed in the theaters with regard to the men in the rear areas. On service jobs during the past year a total of about 650,000 men in the higher age brackets have been thus moved out of the U.S. In addition there have been some 90,000 volunteers from other services for Infantry and paratroop assignments. The Army Air Forces and the Army Service Forces have recently transferred 90,000 men for retraining as Infantry.
Men recently inducted into the Army are given a minimum of 15 weeks of the most rigorous training which the Army has been able to devise after four years experience. Most of the replacements since _________2 received 17 weeks in the basic camps. All have received additional training in staging camps en route to the ports in this country or in replacement receiving pools overseas under veteran tutelage.
Before any man is sent overseas he is submitted to a thorough test to insure that he has assimilated his training and is in fact prepared for combat duty. As I have just mentioned, this training continues to the maximum extent practicable from the time he leaves the U.S. until he actually joins his division. There, if the division is not in the line a still more intensive period of training follows.
It is my opinion that never before have American soldiers been so thoroughly prepared for their duty in battle. Probably the best testimony regarding this matter has been given by a captive German officer who complained that no matter how heavily our units might suffer on a given day they were always back in full strength the next morning and as tough as ever. This is certainly a great contrast to Civil War regiments reduced to the strength of a platoon.3
Finally, I would say this: Considering the fact that the majority of our inductees during the past few months have been in the lowest age brackets, a policy which prevented the use of these men would have imposed the necessity of delaying the entire campaign in Europe, and probably also in the Pacific. This of course would mean a tremendous additional loss of life, not to mention the other parallel factors. Such a procedure would be wholly inexcusable.4
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. General Marshall prepared this draft for Secretary of War Stimson’s press conference, at which was asked “the burning question of proper training for the eighteen year old draftees . . . which is raising a good deal of commotion now and attention,” wrote Stimson. “Bob Taft has come out with assertions that the Army is not giving these boys adequate training before we send them into battle.” The secretary of war asserted that the press conference “went off pretty well and I think the answer that was made was a good one, a fair one, and an adequate one.” (March 1, 1945, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 50: 148].) Compared to the War Department’s press release, Stimson made a few minor editorial changes. (War Department Memorandum for the Press, March 1, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) For more information about Senator Robert A. Taft’s protests, see New York Times, February 26, 1945, p. 11; Marshall to Eisenhower, March 6, 1945, pp. 76-79.
2. “July, 1943,” was inserted in the press release. (War Department Memorandum for the Press, March 1, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
3. The press release substituted: “That represents a very great advance over our training practice and results in any former wars.” (Ibid.)
4. For further information regarding the training of eighteen-year-old Infantry replacements, see Marshall Speech to the Overseas Press Club, March 1, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-049 [5: 68-70], and Marshall to Hess, March 5, 1945, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #5-053 [5: 74-76].
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 63-64.