1-410 Report to the Commanding General, Second Army Maneuvers, August 21, 1936

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 21, 1936

Report to the Commanding General,

Second Army Maneuvers

August 21, 1936 Camp Custer, Michigan

Report of operations, 2nd Army Maneuvers.

1. a. The 12th Brigade concentrated at Dunningville, northwest of Allegan, Michigan August 3 to 6, the headquarters on the 3d and the regiments arriving on the 6th….

b. The brigade established a supply dump north of Allegan. . . .1

c. During the period August 8th to 12th the regular troops carried out a special training program. The National Guard regiment followed its own schedule.

2. Maneuvers.

a. Wednesday, August 12th, the 106th Cavalry left the brigade to join the Red force and the 3d Battalion, 2nd Infantry, reported to the Mechanized force for detached duty. During the afternoon of that day the brigade and attached troops took up the Blue covering position previously ordered. All were in place and communications established by 8:00 P.M., except the cavalry which was ordered to leave its bivouac at 1:00 A.M., August 13th, and move to its assigned position.

b. Thursday, August 13th, from 6:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., the 12th Brigade and its attached troops covered the Corps front as directed, along a line 17 miles long, with advanced detachments from 1 to 5 miles to the front. The line was held secure, eight of the 18—1st Cavalry (Mechanized) armored cars were captured, along with several motorcycles. Communications were satisfactory except with the Cavalry.

The 2nd Infantry had in 28 miles of wire, the 6th Infantry 22 miles and the Brigade headquarters 15. One flight, 108th Observation Squadron furnished very effective cooperation from the air.

At 3:00 P.M. the 12th Brigade and attached troops stood relieved, under orders to proceed to region 10 or more miles to the east and join the Red side, ready to operate in the opposite direction at 3:00 A.M. Recovering the many miles of wire, and laying the wire for the Red deployment imposed a heavy burden on the communication crews. Few had any sleep between Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon.

c. Friday and Saturday, August 14th and 15th, the 12th Brigade (less 2 battalions and 2 companies) attacked the Blue Corps front, against both flanks on the 14th and against the Blue right wing on the 15th. The attached operation reports give an outline of the various events and movements. The zones of attack were selected because of the availability of leased ground. A gap of almost 2 miles between regiments in the attack on August 14th was left because of the barrier imposed by the unleased ground in that region. It was necessary for this brigade to move with celerity (without reserves, and with almost no supports, to meet the army commander’s desire for activity along the front of both National Guard divisions) in order to prevent the enemy from forming a proper idea of our maneuver and of the deep vulnerable flanks, and the center, exposed to his counter attacks. Therefore, abnormal umpire controlled maneuvers in the zone covered with unleased property were not practicable. The gap was successfully covered with small detachments and active personal reconnaissance of enemy front lines by officers, including the brigade commander.

d. Monday, August 18th [17th], the brigade with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, and the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry attached, served by one army plane, defended its position along the front—ROUTE 434—SPECTACLE LAKE—DUMONT LAKE, against the attack of the 32nd Division. (See operation report attached.)

At 8:00 A.M. 2 platoons of Troop A, 1st (Mechanized) Cavalry, 8 armored cars, reported and were placed in a concealed position. The operations on this day were intensely interesting, since for the first time proper reserves could be held out—2_ battalions—and the terrain and lake formations afforded unusual facilities for launching sudden enveloping counter-attacks. Information from the air was so complete and so accurate that it was possible to conserve reserves to the last moment and to hold the cavalry almost intact until required for an offensive mission against a formation far to the flank of the Blues which had been under observation for several hours.

As the principal reserve was launched in a wide envelopment of the enemy’s left, the armored cars were ordered to penetrate the hostile right, where the troops seemed to be in considerable confusion at the point selected.

The action terminated at noon.

3. The brigade and attached troops (less cavalry) now withdrew to widely separated bivouacs well to the east—except the 6th Infantry, which remained at Dumont Lake. The cavalry started immediately for Camp Custer, the artillery following on Sunday afternoon. The 12th Brigade proceeded by truck to Custer on Wednesday, moving its dump, or railhead, at the same time. The date of first departure of the brigade is not known at this time.


a. Morale: High throughout the maneuvers. The enlisted men were keenly interested, determined and, at times, considerably excited. They thoroughly enjoyed the operations. The excellent ration was an important morale factor.

b. Training: Regular troops lack opportunities for proper field training with other arms. They showed this in lack of experience with airplanes and artillery. The improvement was remarkable from day to day. On Saturday, August 15th, everything functioned from the headquarters staff, down through the regiments and attached units, in a splendid manner, without a hitch notwithstanding a widely dispersed assault against tremendously stronger forces. Air, ground, artillery, infantry, headquarters—all cooperated in a smooth satisfying manner. The same was true in the defensive action on Monday, August 17th.

Considering the fact that the brigade staff was largely composed of reserve officers, the air officer was a reserve officer and the executive and liaison officer of artillery was also from the reserve—all strangers to the brigade, as was its commander, executive, and headquarters captain—the smoothness with which operations were conducted was exceedingly gratifying.

c. Tactics and Technique:

(1) Trucks greatly increase the power of infantry to maintain distant reconnaissance and observation posts. They also permit rapid movement of reserves.

(2) Orders for a reenforced brigade in open warfare apparently should be largely oral, best indicated by the commander to his principal commanders graphically on their maps, so that they can proceed to develop the plan without delay. When reconnaissance or planning indicate desirable changes these can be incorporated orally. Finally, the order is issued, general in its nature—the details having been given direct by the commander to the regiments—more or less as a mere confirmation of what has already been arranged and partially carried out. If troops must await the receipt of a formal order they will have little time for the laborious business of their preparations.

It is evident that with voice radio service from a plane, or even the more limited message dropping service, changes of dispositions or deployments in daylight can usually be checked instantly, artillery concentrated on the vulnerable points, and troops prepared to take advantage of this knowledge.

All required a day or two to learn the important difference between the usual peace training command post procedure and technique, and that necessary to the successful conduct of actual operations. Orderly procedure in the almost constant use of staff officers to check movements and situations, the same service by the commander personally, freedom permitted regimental or separate organization commanders in developing their plans within general limits, etc., etc., familiarity with these and many more, similar matters could only be acquired with actual practice under the strain of uncertainties that exist in such maneuvers.

It seemed to be the opinion of officers generally that the regular components are in urgent need of such team training, and that it can only be obtained in maneuvers of this general character. All were enthusiastic over the opportunities afforded.

d. Administration and Supply:

The difficulties of the brigade lay almost entirely in the zone of administration. Charged with the supply and usually with the administration, of a number of units both regular and National Guard, and numerous small scattered army units of constantly changing strength, and lacking the trained clerical force, trucks, motor cars and motorcycle dispatch riders, necessary to a headquarters operating on such a basis, the problem became quite complicated and rather dwarfed tactical considerations.

In this connection, it appeared to me that the most serious deficiency made evident by the maneuvers was the lack of organic or permanent groups as a basis of expansion for higher headquarters—such as a Corps or Army. Where all such organizations, as to most of their officer personnel and all of their enlisted personnel, are on an improvised basis, the difficulties of prompt and harmonious cooperation are vastly increased.

Another point which requires attention was the matter of delaying until what seemed too late a date for establishing headquarters of higher units and all improvised headquarters of separate organizations. For example, it is believed that the 12th Brigade headquarters, considering its greatly enlarged obligations, should have been on the ground August 2nd and its Quartermaster personnel on August 1st.

5. Recommendations—

a. That such maneuvers be carried out at frequent intervals.

b. That the infantry be given more modern signal equipment.

c. That brigade and corps staffs in the regular service be put on a more stable basis.

d. That the Army School staffs study the procedure actually followed in these maneuvers to determine the weak points of the present teachings in technique, and to reduce some matters to a more simple and workable basis.

e. That artillery fire—direction and target—in maneuvers be graphically indicated by low flying planes—one to a regiment; and that no further attempt be made to handle this matter by ponderous umpire and signal communication set-ups.

6. In conclusion I wish to report that in my opinion this was the most successful maneuver ever attempted in our Army. Its results should be far reaching.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1917- (RG 407), 353, Bulky File, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed report.

1. Several sentences of technical details have been omitted here.

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 501-504.

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