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Public Relations Branch Press Release
June 1, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
Statement by Chief of Staff on use of National Guard
The Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, when questioned as to the recommendation in the President’s message of yesterday regarding the possibility of ordering the National Guard into Federal service,1 made the following statement:
“In view of the limited number of seasoned Regular troops available in the continental United States—we have but 5 peace strength triangular divisions with a sixth now in process of organization—and it is necessary that more troops be made available, trained, and seasoned, to enable missions to be carried out without denuding this country of ground troops in a state of sufficient preparation to meet unexpected eventualities in some other direction. Time is the essential factor in such matters. In other words, this means that we should make the preliminary moves in time to be prepared against the unfortunate necessity of definite action.
“The War Department is opposed to ordering the National Guard out for active duty, and it is hopeful that by quickly building up, on the foundation of scattered organizations of the Regular Army still available, additional divisions and some special corps troops, we can avoid the necessity of utilizing the National Guard at this time. Even if it were found necessary to bring the National Guard into service it is believed that for the present only a portion of the Guard would be involved. However, it is essential in these days that the War Department, through the Commander-in-Chief, be in a position to act with rapidity and to plan with the definite assurance that such plans can be made effective without uncertain delays.
“The President now has the authority to `call’ the National Guard into service, but under that call it would be impossible to send any units of the National Guard to assist a Regular Division in any one of the possible situations which might arise in this hemisphere.2 Time again is the essential factor in these matters, and the first requirement in any event, would be the opportunity for giving at least a portion of the Guard intensive training and possibly some degree of reorganization.”
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. In his May 31 message to Congress, President Roosevelt said, “There is a specific recommendation I would make in concluding this message, that before adjournment this Congress grant me the authority to call into active service such portion of the National Guard as may be deemed necessary to maintain our position of neutrality and to safeguard the National Defense, this to include authority to call into active service the necessary Reserve personnel.” (Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 1940, p. 252.)
2. The statutes providing for the federalization of the National Guard provided “that whenever the United States is invaded or in danger of invasion from any foreign nation, or of rebellion against the authority of the Government of the United States, or the President is unable with the regular forces at his command to execute the laws of the Union, it shall be lawful for the President to call forth such number of the militia of the State or of the States or Territories or of the District of Columbia as he may deem necessary.” Moreover, that service could be “either within or without the Territory of the United States.” (Office of the Judge Advocate General, Military Laws of the United States. 8th ed. [Washington: GPO, 1940], paragraph 1295.) Senate Joint Resolution 286, introduced on July 30, 1940, and signed by the president on August 27, stipulated “that the members and units of the reserve components of the Army of the United States ordered into active Federal service under this authority shall not be employed beyond the limits of the Western Hemisphere except in the territories and possessions of the United States, including the Philippine Islands.” (Office of the Judge Advocate General, Supplement III to the Military Laws of the United States, Eighth Edition, 1939 [Washington: GPO, 1945], paragraph 2220-1.)
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. 233-234.