1-512 To Brigadier General Charles H. Cole, September 17, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 17, 1938

To Brigadier General Charles H. Cole1

September 17, 1938 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Cole:

Replying to your telephone message of yesterday requesting data as to our necessities in corps and army troops as a basis for a resolution to be introduced at the coming National Guard convention towards securing additional personnel for the Guard: the factors involved are so numerous, basically involve continuing increases in appropriations, that it is not possible for me to give you an immediate answer, and it must be immediate, if at all, as I leave today for the Air Corps Tactical School at Montgomery, Alabama and you leave Wednesday for the convention.

I will summarize some of the involvements—

It would not be permissible for me, off hand as it were, to initiate action towards increasing appropriations. That, of necessity, is taboo. Only after careful study, General Staff concurrence and formal approval by the Chief of Staff and Secretary, would I be free to act towards that particular end.

But there are other important factors involved. In the first place, the War Department is committed—and the Congressional Committees partly so—to a National Guard increase of 5000 men in April, for which funds have been appropriated, and for another 5000 a year later, for which funds must be secured in the next Army appropriation bill. Our pressure, and yours too I should think, must be concentrated on securing the 5000 men allotted for 1940. That will not be so easy as there is an increasing demand in Congress to expend more money for material and less for personnel. I quote from a portion of the last hearing before the Sub-Committee on Military Appropriations of the House:


“Mr. Snyder.2 General, this budget provides for doing in the next fiscal year what the Congress had intended would be done during the present fiscal year; that is, it looks to giving you a 5,000 increase just 1 year later; is that right?

“General Blanding.3 That is correct.

“Mr. Snyder. General, you have a number of important and really urgent materiel matters for which this budget makes no provision, and which were stressed very forcibly by the representatives of the National Guard Association at their recent hearing. What would be the additional expense in the fiscal year 1940 to take care of the 5,000 increase in personnel effective from April 1,1939?

“General Blanding. Roughly, about a million dollars.

“Mr. Snyder. Now, without going beyond 1940, that would mean an additional expense of $500,000 for 1939 plus $1,000,000, or a total of $1,500,000. Would you advise that expenditure in the face of your deficiencies in antiaircraft equipment, animals, motors, clothing, and so forth?

“General Blanding. Yes, sir; I would.

“Mr. Snyder. Why would you?

“General Blanding. Because I think we should complete our program of 210,000 men, completing the organization of the 18 infantry divisions and the 10 antiaircraft regiments, and certain other forces, and have the set-up and the complete organization.

“Mr. Collins.4 And have our Army more like the Chinese than it has ever been?

“General Blanding. No, sir.

“Mr. Collins. You would just have men and no implements? You would have them fight with their fists?

“General Blanding. We are providing the implements.

“Mr. Collins. You do not have a decent rifle in the National Guard, and now you want more men.

“General Blanding. Well, if there was any way that I knew of to get the new automatic rifle—

“Mr. Collins. You are never going to do that as long as you spend all your money in paying your men.“

Similar reactions have occurred in other portions of the hearings.

Further, as to personnel, the existing Regular establishment is approaching a distressing situation in this regard, especially in the infantry, artillery and Air Corps, and for which there apparently is to be no legislative remedy. To go before Congress for still additional National Guard personnel, in view of the foregoing, would not be consistent with the urgent requirements, so long as the approaching authorized and anticipated National Guard increases are not devoted to what appears very plainly to be the logical necessities of the situation, rather than to large organizations for which there is no urgent need. This is a frank, but confidential statement for you personally, though I said as much to your Committee the other afternoon.

I recognize, I think as fully as any member of the National Guard, the necessity of many compromises in this matter, but there are limits beyond which we should not go, and especially at this time with vital needs which could be met next April and a year later; and in the light of a possible reorganization based on a reduction in the size of divisions.

I am enclosing a copy of the letter of February 10, 1938, to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau listing the first priority of corps troops whose activation the War Department urgently desires to secure.5 This last is the definite answer to your request, to the extent it is possible for me to go in this hurried note.

I am intensely interested in this problem and I am much relieved to sense your deep personal interest in its solution. Please send me a note with your reactions to my comments.6

Hastily yours,

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. When Marshall was inspector-instructor with the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (1911-12), he had met Cole, who was an officer with the First Corps of Cadets. During the World War, Cole commanded the Fifty-second Brigade, Twenty-sixth Division (1917-19). In 1928 he was the Democratic party candidate for governor. When Cole failed to secure the nomination again in 1934, Marshall wrote: “I was terribly disappointed over the recent nomination campaign in Massachusetts. I had hoped to see you Governor, and for that matter I still feel certain you will end up in that chair. Certainly you deserve it, and more certainly, the Commonwealth needs it." (Marshall to Cole, October 31, 1934, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Illinois National Guard.)

Cole had been appointed adjutant general of Massachusetts on January 7, 1937. He was the chairman of the Committee on Cavalry Organization of the Adjutants General Association. Marshall had met with Cole and his committee in Washington on September 15, 1938.

2. Representative J. Buell Snyder was a Democrat from the Twenty-fourth District of Pennsylvania.

3. Major General Albert H. Blanding had been chief of the War Department’s National Guard Bureau since January 31,1936.

4. Representative Ross A. Collins was a Democrat from the Fifth District of Mississippi.

5. The letter stated that while revision was needed in the War Department’s 1923 program on the strength and organization of the National Guard, it should be postponed until the new division and corps organization tables became available. Moreover, any increases in National Guard strength should come primarily in the Field Artillery and the Engineer, Signal, and Medical Corps. (Captain Frank M. Smith to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau February 10, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Cole had hoped for an increase in the size of the Cavalry.

6. Cole replied that Marshall had convinced him that “we should go very slowly before asking for more personnel at this time; therefore, I shall not present any resolution [at the National Guard Convention] because it might endanger the fourth 5,000 increment. . . . I believe it is possible to get an increase of personnel both for the regular service and the National Guard in addition to the materiel requirements if both the Army and National Guard really got to work on the subject." (Cole to Marshall, September 20,1938, 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. 627-630.

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