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To Adolph J. Sabath1
February 18, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Sabath:
Having just been informed that the subject of establishing a separate Air Force is to be considered by the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives today, February 18th, I request the privilege of submitting the following comments:
The separation of the major fighting elements, air and ground, appears to have been a conspicuous factor in every reverse of the present war. Forces working toward a common end should operate under a common commander. We recognize this principle and are abiding by it. At the present time the Army and Navy, including their air forces, are combined under one commander wherever there is a probability of the two services having to operate together.
The development of an arm as distinctive as the Air Corps must obviously be under the control of experts trained for the task. This principle is recognized and has been adopted. Under our present organization the Army Air Force is independent of the other Arms and Services in all matters pertaining purely to air. It is welded to the remainder of the Army only in the highest command and staff echelon. Individual subordinate commanders, either air or ground officers, are placed in command of both air and ground units only where elements of both must work in close harmony toward a common objective. As far as organization, development and training of the air and ground forces are concerned, they are now entirely separated except for such training as is necessary to insure coordinated action when the two must operate jointly.
The present arrangement, in my opinion, includes the advantages which are claimed for a separate Air Force and avoids its grave disadvantages. The Army Air Force now has autonomy subject only to the highest command agency. At the same time control is provided to insure coordinated effort.
One more comment: Our task today involves the direction of operations and deployments in a number of distant theatres, combined with the tremendous problem of a vast and necessarily rapid expansion. It would seem to be an unfortunate moment for an investigation of the character indicated. I fear that it can only be harmful rather than in any degree helpful.2
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Sabath, an eighteen-term Democrat from Illinois, was chairman of the House Rules Committee.
2. Supporters of an independent Air Force had attempted to get their bills—H.R. 3795 (introduced March 4, 1941) and S. 1635 (introduced June 16, 1941)—to the hearing stage in committee. On January 13, 1942, the Senate Military Affairs Committee had voted unanimously to postpone hearings on such bills for the duration of the war at least. On February 4 there was a debate on the House floor by supporters who wished hearings held on H.R. 3795.
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 107-108.