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To Bernard M. Baruch
June 29, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Baruch:
Thanks for your letter of June 25th, and the suggestions you were good enough to let me have. I have gone over them myself very carefully and have had them studied by a particularly able officer of the Staff.1
Up to the present moment I think there has been a reasonable synchronization of requirements in relation to the program. The estimates before Congress for planes that are carried in the approved appropriation bills, have included all the spare parts, the engines, and armament and ammunition that are needed for the planes. For some time I have been having one of my ablest people search out each of our programs like the foregoing, for bottle necks, and of course, heavy powders and fuses still give me a headache.
The tank program has carried armament with it. The bomb and explosives program has been greatly increased, not only for the additional planes, but for far more bombing by these planes than had been visualized heretofore. Again, of course, the time factor is the difficulty, and we are pressing very hard for corrections and improvements.
The contract for the powder plant has not yet been placed. We have been searching through the field for particular men to accomplish special purposes, but at the moment most of these men seem to fit in between a civilian (Knudsen-Stettinius) set-up, but we are going after some from the staff direct. We have already had some special advice and suggestions.
Your suggestion that we get a conspectus of the program is excellent, and a start has been made; but there is still a lot of work that must be done along this line, which we will push as soon as the first rush of procurement by contract is over. This, as I see it, is primarily a General Staff function in coordination with the Assistant Secretary’s office.
A good many of your points pertain more directly to the Assistant Secretary’s office than they do to mine, but I am very glad to have your point of view.
I think the Research Committee recently appointed by the President is going to be an important receptacle for several of our problems, especially inventions, and I am having this investigated.2
As a matter of fact, my struggle at the moment has been to get appropriations and certain legislation through Congress without undue delay, to get Executive approval for certain actions, and get our General Staff data in up to date shape for outside agencies to work from,3 and, hardest of all, to meet the flood of suggestions, urgings, enthusiasms, etc. that are aimed at the War Department these weeks, and each of these from very powerful channels. My problem has been to keep our heads above the flood of these critical weeks, more particularly to prevent the emasculation of most of the plans we have in favor of what—to be brutally frank—are a series of superficialities. I have felt it of vital importance to do everything in my power to keep public confidence in the War Department, but it really has been extremely hard to do this when we were involved in turning down 1,000 schemes a day.
I am going over with our Public Relations Section this morning the question of protecting the Ordnance Department. In brief, it runs something like this: We are getting about 1,000 letters a day with proposals for this and that, the largest number of them pertaining to inventions, new processes, or other matters of a general ordnance nature. Naturally not a tenth of one per cent that pertain to the ordnance have a sound working basis. The trouble then is that the Ordnance Department in a way makes about 600 enemies, or at least disappointed people a day, and this rapidly rapidly becomes cumulative. I am having their response system carefully checked—this has already been done a number of times by my inspector—but the situation is a tremendous number of people of importance in civil life have descended on the Ordnance by mail and by personal presentation, and each is sure in his own mind that his particular idea is the correct one.4
Of course, when we get to a general mobilization status—not merely that of materiel as at present, we can handle these things much more easily, but at the present moment, National Defense is everybody’s business, and I find a great deal of my time involved in endeavoring to maintain public confidence in the War Department despite the fact that we cannot accede to the mass of public suggestions or demands.
Thanks very much for your helpful letter.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Baruch had written to suggest how Marshall might most efficiently turn his appropriated funds into materiel. He was concerned about a number of specific problems, particularly that Marshall recruit good executive talent. “I do not know what personnel you have in the various branches of the service, but I do know that it would be wise to get for yourself and the other procurement officers some first-class industrial men aside from those taken on by [industrial production adviser William S.] Knudsen and the others. . . . The best thing in the world is brains, and they are very hard to get. I would like to see you get the best, because you now have all the money you asked for.” (Baruch to Marshall, June 25, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Marshall had requested that Brigadier General Richard C. Moore (assistant chief of staff, G4) study Baruch’s comments and write recommendations regarding them. (See Moore Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 27, 1940, ibid.)
2. On June 27 President Roosevelt established the National Defense Research Committee under the direction of Dr. Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Institution.
3. At this time various War Department officers were drafting a massive new materiel procurement program. See editorial note #2-238, Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 285-87].
4. An example of the sort of political pressure that a determined inventor could bring to bear on the War Department was Lester Barlow’s activities during the spring of 1940 on behalf of his “oxygen bomb.” The idea of making an explosive out of liquid oxygen and carbon was not new and its use would create serious technical problems for the Ordnance Department, which did not wish to pursue the subject. Barlow, asserting that his weapon would “keep enemy warships 1,000 miles from American shores,” persuaded Congress to press the War Department to test his device; it failed to perform satisfactorily. (New York Times, March 14, p. 12; March 27, p. 7; May 26, p. 9; May 28, p. 22.)
In mid-May Lawrence Langner, a New York City patent lawyer, wrote to President Roosevelt to suggest the creation of an “Inventors’ Council for National Defense,” similar to one formed during the World War, one of whose duties would be to examine inventors’ ideas and to advise the military on promising subjects for further investigation. On July 11 Secretary of Commerce Harry L. Hopkins appointed Charles F. Kettering, the president of General Motors Research Corporation, to head the department’s National Inventors’ Council, with Langner as secretary. (Documents concerning this council are in NA/RG 165 [New Developments Division, National Inventors’ Council].) In 1945, Langner sent a resume of the council’s work to Marshall; it asserted that the council had evaluated and classified over 220,000 inventions. The busiest period was in early 1942 when over 10,000 suggestions were submitted in one week. (Langner to Marshall, July 2, 1945, GCMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
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. 252-254.