2-069 Speech to the National Guard Association of Pennsylvania, October 13, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 13, 1939

Speech to the National Guard Association of Pennsylvania1

October 13, 1939 Washington, Pennsylvania

. . . I spent three years with the Illinois National Guard, so I have a pretty general understanding of the various traditions, conditions, methods of the National Guard in various portions of the United States, and it has been of great assistance to me in this last year in Washington, particularly in the last three months.

You all know from the papers that we are starting on October 25th on the concentration in the South, as well as in the Northwest, of the newly reorganized divisions of the Regular Army under the President’s Executive Order giving us 17,000 more men. We have succeeded in creating five divisions on the basis of strength where previously we had three large incomplete divisions. We are proceeding now with the organization of missing units of corps troops to provide one Army Corps—about 10,000 men. And we are also trying to get a portion of essential troops for another corps. These divisions are going into the South first to find themselves, and then to learn how to operate in an Army Corps in the field at their correct peace strength with necessary equipment, having available sufficient terrain to carry out the procedure on as nearly a war-time basis as can be managed in this country in time of peace. Before we get through, we hope to have sixty to seventy thousand troops in one general maneuver. Just where I do not know, but in the South toward the center of the concentration which is now being started in that direction. This is for the development of field efficiency of command and staff among the regular organizations for large units from the division and higher units. Through all the peace-time history of the United States, there has been very little opportunity to know anything of such training. I will revert to that in connection with its relation to the National Guard in a few minutes.

At this time, as General Reckord2 has expressed very clearly, it is of great moment—it is vital, that the National Guard training be stimulated this winter to produce a greater degree of efficiency, and particularly to bring in these new men on a basis of quick development in order to make them familiar with the duties they will be called upon to perform. It is quite a problem, as you know even better than I, to accomplish this in time of peace. We have endeavored by every method which we can conceive, to see if ways can be found to manage this without the necessity of in any way separating a man from his job, which of course, is the most difficult phase of the entire matter.

. . . It is planned when these divisions in the South have sufficient transportation, of which they are at present very short, to arrange brief periods of duty for National Guard officers with the divisions. To what extent we can do that will have to be determined later. Certainly division commanders, the key men of their staffs, brigade commanders, at least their executive officers, possibly other regimental commanders, and key staff officers, will, so far as we can arrange, be given the opportunity to see what is going on, for a period of two or three days, and then have at least 24 hours of command and staff operations with officers seasoned and trained for maneuvers. As one adjustment, probably we will have to arrange to have their training concentrated on Saturdays and Sundays, and maybe Monday in a command or staff status with the troops, and then fly home on Monday evening or Tuesday morning. In other words, we will try to arrange for them to be away only a short time from business.

We will endeavor to arrange still further opportunities of that nature, and have cars. We have to go ahead now and pick up training of a large number of officers of the Reserve Corps whose only opportunity for that sort of experience would be with a regular organization.

I would like you to hear, personally and confidentially, what some of the difficulties are, so that you may have a general understanding of what is going on. We have reason to hope that shortly we will be authorized to go ahead with a further increase of the National Guard up to 320,000. That would make a total increase towards peace strength, which is a minimum of 420-odd thousand, of about 126,000 men, including this 45,000. Also a further increase of the Regular Army up to its authorized strength of 180,000. Of course, with that 280,000, some 7,000 are Philippine Scouts. When that increase comes, it will permit provision for an Army Corps—or you might say, the initial protective force: the 18 divisions of the National Guard, and the 8 divisions of the Regular Army into nine corps for peace time development—of one regular division, two National Guard divisions, and 10,000 Corps troops. That then will give us a complete machine so far as the Corps is concerned to learn to operate and with which to quickly develop for use in time of real emergency. It will give us two corps of regular troops to use in any sudden emergency if we have to do anything in this hemisphere on very short notice; but it will also give us our ordinary peace time development of nine Corps of three divisions, each with corps troops, which I might explain to you ladies are heavy artillery regiments, anti-aircraft, trucks, trains, signal troops, engineers, bridge building attachment, and other special engineer functions in order to permit these divisions to operate in campaign.

Our shortage of officers in the Regular Army is a very serious one. I ask you to consider this confidentially as very serious. We do not want to touch the ROTC in its development at the colleges and the junior units; we do not want to disband our service schools and our special service schools, that is the Artillery, Cavalry, Infantry, Signal Corps, Coast Artillery, and the larger service and staff schools at Fort Leavenworth. We do not want to disband them at the moment and lose all of them after we have gotten them together, so—this is most confidential—the courses are all being arranged on the basis of operating between November 1st and February 1st, so that you will have a balanced result instead of the thing being chopped off in the middle.

When those schools are closed, it will give us a large number of officers for the regular organizations, but we will still be short some 1200, I believe, on the present increase of 17,000. It is expected, and planned, and hoped that we will receive the authority to bring in the young Reserve Officers as platoon commanders for six months thus making it unnecessary to increase the Regular Army personnel. In other words, the Army in its upper grades, can stay practically as it is, as the broad basis of the entire development with reserve officers would have no relation to the promotion of the Regular Army.

It would reduce the expense; we would not have to increase the colonels, lieutenant colonels and captains to provide promotion for the large number of lieutenants we would have to have. That, however, is still in the planning and requires legal authority, but it is very essential to the operation of regular troops, and it would develop an entirely new basis for the training of Reserve officers who are activated on completion of their ROTC education from college and who at the time are not heavily involved in getting started in the business world or professional world.

Another limitation, and this again is confidential, but factual. I will revert to our limitation in transportation. I would like to use it as a measuring rod, as it were, for your comprehension of some of the problems that face this country at the present time. I told you that we are making the contracts and have gone ahead with the advertising and that sort of thing. I think the contracts are already made, or nearly so, for the vehicles required for five divisions of the Regular Army and the corps troops of one corps, and only the essential troops of that corps are now in the process of getting together. This is a very small number when we read of the divisions and other troops abroad, and yet with that procurement, we started several weeks ago to obtain material of the type that American industry is famous for turning out on a quantity production basis. The first delivery will be the middle of January, and the bulk of the deliveries will come the latter part of March and the first two weeks in April. That is for only five divisions of the Regular Army, to say nothing of the necessary transportation for 18 divisions of the National Guard, and corps troops for six of the seven corps troop units, for which there are no National Guard special troops at the present time. So you can see what a lengthy business it is, and what a serious situation we are in when it comes to the necessary materiel with which to go about our business.

There are other factors that are very interesting. One might think, with all this mass of motor transport in this country, we would seize and commandeer what we want. During the last ten years, or thereabouts, we have developed two types, first—I will exaggerate a bit—the leviathan truck, which we couldn’t use in the field; if we had tried to use one of these trucks in the recent red clay dilemma down in Virginia, it would only have stalled, blocked everybody and I think it would have defied camouflage. From that huge type we jumped somewhat to the florist truck or grocery delivery wagon, which would last for three or four weeks. And there are very few of the dump carts; the engineer regiments take most of them. So a difficult problem is presented in a matter which it would appear that we should be better prepared to handle than any other country in the world.

. . . Now we are very, very fortunate that the last Congress, in addition to its augmentation of the Air Corps gave us $110,000,000 over and above the normal, which was rather large for the routine fiscal year appropriation. I do not remember, off-hand, what the total was, but they gave us a hundred and ten extra millions for materiel, plus about six millions for coast defense materiel. * *3 I do not know what we would have done in this present situation if this money had not been appropriated last April. But the interesting point is this, talking most confidentially,—and I hope I shall not be betrayed—those orders will not be completed until the summer or fall of 1941, by the best calculation that can be made at the present time.

Now, we are a great country. Industrially we have great plants; we have the greatest go-ahead men in the manufacturing world, I think in the world, and yet we are confronted with that situation in the procurement of materiel. When you consider the models we have, I do not think anyone in the world has any better in general than we have in the semi-automatic rifle, in the machine guns, the 37 mm antiaircraft guns, the tanks, and 3-inch anti aircraft guns, but the time element is the problem, and making the public understand this is the greatest problem.

We have World War materiel for the troops, but you senior officers at least, undoubtedly have the same thought that I have. You don’t want your son and I don’t want my son fighting somebody else’s son who is equipped with the most modern thing produced in the world, while our boys have something which is to a certain degree archaic. I am still talking confidentially.

I am not speaking as an alarmist * * but we have gotten started. These plants are going into production, and that is a tremendous step forward, but it does mean the more rapid turning out of all the things that are absolutely essential in war. You know, it is one of the most wasteful things in the world, and as you also must recognize, we are one of the most wasteful people in the world.

Now, to go back on the record: I apologize for talking so long, but I thought you would be interested. I think you are entitled to know, and where I have gone ahead of the plans, it is just for your general information and discussion among yourselves.

I want to congratulate you men of the 28th Division on the splendid work you did this summer, and General Reckord for his Division, the 29th, on their fine performance. I have heard high compliments of General Parsons,4 and more particularly because that impresses me, with all due respect to him, from your enemies of the Black Forest, whom I know personally. They came back with very sincere expressions of what you men had been able to do, comparing your short period of preparation with the length of time and the entirely different circumstances under which they can get ready for such a maneuver.

I think those maneuvers were very popular; I think the public interest was a great advantage. Of course the condition of the world at the time produced that interest. And now our hope is that it will declare its position on a business-like basis of what is the correct thing to be done instead of recrimination and discussion about the past or too fanatical pursuit of this and that and the other fad or fancy. What we have to do is to approach this from our particular point of view, from the viewpoint of the way our Army is organized under the National Defense, and particularly from the standpoint of a balanced, coordinated result rather than an over-development of this or that. . . .

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. This version of Marshall’s speech at the annual banquet of the National Guard Association of Pennsylvania was edited by a member of Marshall’s staff from a reporter’s notes. About 40 percent of the address is published here, and another excerpt is printed in Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-035 [1: 42-45]. The omitted portions include Marshall’s review of his National Guard experiences, particularly in Pennsylvania, a discussion of certain changes in the National Guard program, a story about Adolf von Schell’s reorganization of the German motor industry, and a brief closing paragraph.

2. Major General Milton A. Reckord was commanding general of the Maryland National Guard.

3. The asterisks here and below presumably indicated ellipses in the reporter’s notes.

4. Major General James K. Parsons commanded the Third Corps Area, of which Pennsylvania was a part.

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. 88-92.

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