1-035 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 completed the first year of the course at the Infantry-Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth and immediately hurried off to a summer of relaxation on a lake in Minnesota.2 I had just enough money to get me there and knew I would have to wait for the next month’s pay to be able to pay my bill while there. My wife and I arrived at ten o’clock at night and she was in grave doubt as to the character of the place. At six o’clock in the morning—it was the 4th of July—I was awakened by a messenger with a telegram which directed me to leave by the next train for Mt. Gretna, and that was my introduction to the Pennsylvania National Guard.3 I started that day toward St. Paul, while presumably my baggage, which included my bedding roll, was still on the way to the camp I had just left. I wondered what I would do without field equipment.

I have always taken a great deal of pride in my solution. I found out what train my baggage was arriving on and also on what siding the train would be. I had only a minute or two and ran down along my train to the baggage car of the other train. It started to move but there were windows in the baggage car and I managed to climb through one. I saw my bedding roll, and the baggage master saw me. He grabbed me, but I grabbed my roll and kicked it out of the door. He grabbed me again but I managed to jump out of the car. There were five officers of the Regular Army at Mt. Gretna and I was the only one who had his field equipment.

. . . Everybody received us with the greatest cordiality and enthusiasm and were very remarkable in their acceptance of our multitude of criticisms. In our youthful enthusiasm, fresh from a theoretical course at Leavenworth, we were inclined to be hypercritical. I have never gotten over that early impression of the willingness of the National Guard to accept the criticisms of Regular officer instructors. I have always counted on the fact that as long as our own purpose is serious, and we are doing our best to help, our criticism will be acceptable and will be received in fine spirit by all members of the National Guard. That has been my personal experience.

The next summer [1908], following some correspondence with General Dougherty during the winter,4 maneuvers were arranged in connection with the horseback tour of the second year graduates of the Staff College, of whom I was one.5 We started at Manassas and rode about six hundred miles, completing the ride at Gettysburg, and twelve of us remained there for the concentration of the entire Pennsylvania Division. I believe it was called a Division in those days, although I think there were fourteen regiments of Infantry and Cavalry. There were electric storms, balls of fire, and all sorts of accidents, but we put on maneuvers there again, this time for the other brigades. General Dougherty arranged that. I learned a tremendous amount while there about how to do a great deal in a short time, as we had very little time available. Troops were arriving one day and going into maneuvers the next. We were running eight to ten maneuvers on the road. I shall never forget the lesson I learned from the human reactions and from what goes to make attacks, apart from the maps. . . .

I came back to Pennsylvania a number of times. I remember one of my last experiences was an Officers’ Camp which we had in those days in early June. . . .6 That also was at Mt. Gretna and it was very instructive to me. It gave me a chance on the job, as you might say, which was an infinite help to me later on, particularly as we moved into the World War. There was one thing that made a great impression on me in my first year [1907]. The report I submitted was printed. That was the first written word of mine that ever found print. I knew I had gotten into trouble, particularly when the Inspector General of the State, Colonel Sweeney, took decided issue with me because my comments reflected on the Inspector General’s Department as to the effect of their duty in relation to preparation of troops and maneuvers. I was idealistic in the extreme, and I presume very impractical, but my intentions were of the best. The point with me was, that next summer [1908] when I was taking the officers on the tactical walks, Colonel Sweeney went everywhere with us, and sat and listened to everything I had to say, and talked to me at great length afterward and in every way treated me with the greatest possible respect. I was a second [first] lieutenant, he was thirty years older than I. I never forgot that lesson and the satisfaction and assurance he gave me.7

Coming back from the Philippines in 1916, or rather on my arrival at San Francisco in the summer of 1916 following our sudden concentration that spring, I found waiting me in the mail a copy of a General Order—which I came across not so long ago among my papers—for a brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard at Mt. Gretna going into camp preliminary to that concentration, and they had their training program marked in red. They sent it to me because they knew I was interested in training, but they also sent it to me for a different reason. I never discovered the reason until after the World War, and never thanked anybody for what really was the great thrill of my life up to that moment. I found in the last paragraph, in an inconspicuous place, that they had paid me a high compliment. They had named the camp, Lieutenant George Marshall. Up to that moment, I had never had anything named after me except a dog. The point to that story is this: When I wrote after the War and apologized for not thanking them, they told me in a jocular way that one of the reasons they did this was that it was in the way of thanks and appreciation for the fact that I had made an effort to put over a maneuver by myself for a regiment of infantry, cavalry and artillery. . . .

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 taken from a reporter’s notes and edited, probably by someone on Marshall’s staff. About four-fifths of the speech—introductory remarks, an anecdote, and comments concerning contemporary War Department and National Guard issues—have been omitted here.

2. Marshall and his wife had planned to vacation at the Lake Pulaski House in Buffalo, Minnesota.

3. Pennsylvania’s ten-thousand-man National Guard was the second largest (after New York) such organization in the country. Previously, the Pennsylvania state government had held its troops aloof from combined encampments with the Regular Army on the grounds that they had nothing to learn from the army. The chief of staff, General Bell, thought he detected a change in this attitude and wished “to take advantage of every opportunity to cultivate more cordial and friendly relations with the National Guard of Pennsylvania." But only one officer, Captain Charles D. Rhodes, was assigned to that state’s summer encampments. Bell directed that several “especially qualified” officers be sent from Fort Leavenworth to assist Rhodes. Marshall was one of the six Bell named. (Major General J. Franklin Bell to Major General Fred C. Ainsworth [the military secretary], June 30, 1907, NA/RG 94 [Militia].)

4. Brigadier General Charles B. Dougherty was the commander of the Third Brigade, Pennsylvania National Guard. In civil life he was superintendent of the Pennsylvania Coal Company. Some army officers considered Dougherty to be “very progressive in his military ideas, and in sympathy with the wishes of the War Department in regard to desiring the militia to conform to regular army standards, so far as is practicable." (Captain Charles D. Rhodes, Report to TAG, August 12, 1907, NA/RG 94 [Militia].)

5. Following the completion of the Staff College year on June 30, 1908, the entire class and some of the instructors left Fort Leavenworth for a two-week horseback ride from Manassas, Virginia, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. At various times during the ride the students read research papers each had prepared on some aspect of the Civil War campaigns in the area. Marshall delivered the final paper (see unpublished documents) summarizing the lessons to be learned from the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863). Following this, Marshall reported for duty with the Third Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard encamped near Gettysburg. He was at the camp from July 15 to July 24.

6. Marshall was an instructor for the Pennsylvania National Guard between July 10 and 30, 1909. The Officers’ Camp he describes took place between May 13 and 20, 1911.

7. This demonstrable change in Sweeney’s altitude was considered a major victory for the Regular Army and for General Dougherty. (See Rhodes’s Report to TAG, August 12, 1907, ibid.)

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. 42-45.

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