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Testimony Before the House Appropriations Committee
September 25, 1945 Washington, D.C.
CLARENCE Cannon, Democrat from Missouri and committee chairman, began by noting that since 1940 the committee had appropriated $200,000,000,000, “largely on your recommendations; and . . . it has all been well spent.” But doubts concerning appropriations, which had been routinely resolved in the army’s favor during the emergency, would henceforth require a more rigorous proof of need.
He understood and agreed with the committee members’ point of view, Marshall replied, noting that the War Department would return at least $17,000,000,000 in appropriated money due to postwar cutbacks. He then discussed demobilization and the size of the army forces the United States would probably need (1,950,000 men as of July 1, 1946, but this included 320,000 who would be demobilized within a few weeks of that date). He urged the committee members to be “very, very wise” concerning “the character of the structure we set up in the way of military power in the future.” Without this, congressional generosity would soon cease and the postwar military establishment would “very apt to be more or less completely emasculated shortly thereafter under pressure of public opinion to reduce taxes . . . [and] we may be said to have `lost the peace.’ Whatever the size of the Army, the financial requirements for its maintenance are going to be heavy. If the system is an improvisation, the result of drastic compromises, we will have huge expenses and little resulting benefit.”
Marshall commented on demobilization’s dependence upon shipping, reduction of facilities in the United States, the army’s handing of production (e.g., of tanks and artillery) still in process, the complications introduced by the need to maintain new bases in the Pacific, and the inadvisability of hasty termination of certain activities (e.g., construction and maintenance at various posts). Research on and development of weapons systems was popular at present, he noted, “but I must be frank in stating that the enthusiasm of the moment will be evanescent and it will be very difficult later to maintain a workable continuation of experimentation in scientific research.” He concluded his opening statement by praising Congress for entrusting him with a total of $150,000,000 in contingency funds to use as he saw fit. The money had been “of tremendous value, particularly in the early stages of our military development,” and $119,000,000 of it would be unobligated as of July 1, 1946.
Representative Cannon said that he had been impressed by Marshall’s “appreciation of the fact that the military point of view must be tempered by financial considerations, and especially by your charity in realizing that the political implications under which the committee moves may affect the situation.” It was not charity but an understanding of democracy, Marshall responded.
Cannon raised the “red hot” demobilization issue, noting the “bitter tenor” of some of the letters about the army’s actions that members of Congress were receiving. This led to a discussion of demobilization rates after previous wars and postwar troop strengths. Marshall resisted Cannon’s attempts to provide an estimate of the minimum size of occupation forces: “It appears impossible to give even educated guesses as to the future size of the occupation forces. . . . I should certainly not bind my successors with something that I might give you gentlemen today in this offhand manner.”
Military production could not be left entirely to army arsenals; industry had to continue its involvement with the military and maintain its expertise or the country would risk a return to the unprepared situation it faced in 1940. The du Pont company, for example, had developed great expertise in powder manufacture by 1917, but after World War I the army gave them no orders, “with the result that in 1940 we had no powder industry worthy of the name.”
Marshall favored reducing the number of military posts in the country. The National Guard should be retained, but “without universal military training, [it] would be inadequate to the postwar purpose” of constituting a real army reserve. “The whole point, so far as the continuing peace of the world is concerned, . . . is to impress foreign governments, specifically their military staffs—which means their political leaders with the readily available military power of America. If they know that we are strong, then they will not dare to take liberties.”
Democrat congressman Louis Ludlow of Indiana returned the discussion to manpower demobilization; he also asked what effect Marshall thought the atomic bomb would have on the size of the military establishment. The bomb meant that the United States had to have its armed forces available immediately upon the outbreak of an emergency, the chief of staff responded. “The fundamental requirements of conducting successful war have not changed any more than they were altered by the discovery of gunpowder, the submarine, gas, tanks, or planes. The technique changed but never as much as at first anticipated, and almost invariably with each development the number of men required is increased.”
Before the session ended, Marshall was called upon by other committee members to reiterate his views on the issues of demobilization, surplus property disposal, postwar bases, and army strength and costs. (House Committee on Appropriations, First Supplemental Surplus Rescission Bill, 1946: Hearings . . . Part 2 [Washington: GPO, 1945], pp. 499-545.)
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. 311-313.