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To Bernard M. Baruch
August 19, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Baruch:
Smith has just shown me your note with the very pleasant and complimentary reference to me.1 I appreciate your good opinion, particularly at the present time when hard knocks are rather numerous.
Quite evidently, with the debates in the background and the magazine articles playing up the situation, and especially with a group now insisting on demoralizing the Air Corps with investigations, I am in for a hard winter. It has been intensely interesting and quite tragic to watch the violent change in morale commencing with the recent debates on the prolongation of service. Up to June we really had a remarkable state of morale, but seemingly in a moment with these violent discussions, parents became stirred up and individual soldiers were taught to feel sorry for themselves.2
I have always felt surprised that in our democracy we were able to achieve a Selective Service system late last summer, but I guess it was hoping too much to think that we could continue the strenuous preparation to meet this emergency without great difficulties. There is no more delicate problem than troop morale, and with such a slender margin of public approval to back us, it is no easy matter to build up the highly trained and seasoned fighting force that we must have available as quickly as possible. However, we are going to do it if too many of us do not lose our tempers.
I am off in the morning on another inspection trip, this time to the Northwest and I will not be back until about the 28th. As soon as I am in town again I hope you will have lunch with me under my apple-tree at Myer. Maybe your griefs about materiel will serve to assuage my troubles about personnel.3
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. Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Smith, assistant secretary of the General Staff, had sent Baruch two copies of Marshall’s biennial report. (Smith to Baruch, August 4, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Baruch replied to Smith, “Thank you for what you did and tell General Marshall that he is hitting on all cylinders and gaining a wider respect and confidence, to which I think he is justly entitled.” (Baruch to Smith, August 4, 1941, Princeton/B. M. Baruch Papers.)
2. Both Time and Life magazines had published articles on August 18, 1941, about the low state of morale in the army. A Life staff member had spent a week with a National Guard division in the South and had interviewed four hundred privates. According to the reporter: “The most important single reason for the bad morale in this division appears to be national uncertainty. . . . Not more than 5% of the men in this division believe that the emergency is as serious as President Roosevelt insists.” (“This is What the Soldiers Complain About,” Life 11 [August 18, 1941]: 17-18.) The Time article claimed that a low state of morale affected two-thirds of the 1,531,800 men under arms. In a Mississippi camp the previous week uniformed men had booed newsreel pictures of President Roosevelt and General Marshall. “Said an old army sergeant: `Give us a shooting war and there won’t be a morale problem.’ . . . Last week the civilian soldier’s real complaint was that he had no worthwhile job to do.” (“Problem of Morale,” Time 38 [August 18, 1941]: 35-36.) Threatening desertion at the end of the initial twelve months’ period of service, soldiers had scrawled the letters “OHIO” (Over the Hill in October) on latrine walls and artillery pieces. Marshall later recalled, “People have forgotten entirely the hostility of that time. Life magazine played it up at great length—this OHIO movement. . . . Certain phases of democracy make it quite a struggle to raise any army—probably should, I guess. But in the great tragedy the world was in at that time, it made it doubly hard.” (Marshall interview, January 22, 1957.)
3. Baruch, chairman of the War Industries Board during the World War, was an unofficial presidential adviser and had been meeting weekly with Roosevelt. The New York banker also had given lectures on industrial mobilization at the Army War College. (New York Times, July 28, 1941, p. 1; July 29, 1941, p. 7; September 5, 1941, p. 11.) In the spring Baruch had published an article about the War Industries Board and the importance of the Priorities Division: “industrial mobilization must have as a center of everything a priorities division which synchronizes the whole war effort, at the same time providing for the maximum possible satisfaction of civilian needs.” (Bernard M. Baruch, “Priorities: The Synchronizing Force,” Harvard Business Review 19 [Spring 1941]: 261-70.)
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. 591-592.