2-161 To Brigadier General James E. Chaney, April 23, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 23, 1940

To Brigadier General James E. Chaney1

April 23, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Chaney:

I have just received your letter of April 22d, and while I have had to go over it very hurriedly as I am leaving town this afternoon, not to be back until Monday, I think I have gotten the general idea of your proposals, all of which appear excellent.2 However, there is one point I had in mind which I do not believe you have quite visualized as yet. I am much concerned to see that in the beginning these civilian measures are started in a small way in a single locality, so that they will be a model which all the others will seek to copy. Also, that wherever we can, we reach into an organization that has a history, a tradition.

For example, suppose we take the veteran organization of the Seventh Regiment3 and, sub rosa, get an outstanding figure there to get together a group of about twenty men both vigorous and of distinction in civil life, and get them to appeal to you or the War Department to assist them in organizing a volunteer anti-aircraft unit. The distinction of the individuals in it would be a great drawing card, just as the presence of former Ambassadors, Secretaries of State and Mayors of New York cause the Plattsburg Camps to go over with such a bang. We could offer to help them without involving the War Department in any expense by having selected officers talk at their get together dinners, and by having their group taken on for an afternoon or evening or week-end with the regular anti-aircraft unit at Fort Hamilton. The idea would be to make this volunteer unit representative of the type of men who could manage such a thing, of the type of men who would attract others, of the type of men who have the necessary educational or mechanical ability.

I visualize a company of men between thirty-five and fifty years of age, composed of leading citizens, wealthy men, elderly mechanics, radio experts, officials of trucking companies, etc. etc. If one such unit could be quietly started, and then publicized in just the right way, other cities would leap to the fore in their effort to produce more units. We could anticipate that by picking out the proper individuals and organizations to start such a movement, such as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston, the veterans of the City Troop in Philadelphia, etc.

Some units as you suggest in these shipyards and industrial areas, composed of officials of the plant and the leading mechanics, would be tremendously helpful. Wherever there is a regular or National Guard anti-aircraft unit, the problem is vastly simplified, because there is no materiel problem at the start. I am looking to you to generate the business in this direction, and for that reason have been writing to you directly and informally. Please do not take any of my proposals as things that must be done; and do not feel at all embarrassed in differing with me. I can only give momentary thought to this business while you are concentrating on it, so I want to feel that I am not an embarrassment to you in developing the plot.

Faithfully 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. Chaney was promoted to brigadier general on January 1, 1940; on March 12 he was made commanding general of the Air Defense Command at Mitchel Field near Hempstead, Long Island. The command was an experimental organization primarily concerned with planning.

2. On April 16 Marshall sent Chaney a letter he had received from a New Jersey man who had written: “The people are more willing to be ready and take training than is realized at Washington. . . . Can’t you think of some plan on a voluntary basis for this great mass of men that would be an actual help to the U.S. when needed.” Marshall told Chaney: “It occurred to me when I read this that one move we might generate would be to use men over thirty and up to fifty in organizing “volunteer” antiaircraft units in the various states. I suppose there would be many difficulties, but I think it is worth considering.” (Marshall to Chaney, April 16, 1940, GCMRL/G.C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

In his lengthy reply Chaney agreed that volunteers would have to be organized, trained, and armed as they had been in Great Britain. He concluded that volunteer antiaircraft and air raid precaution units should be formed plus a national air defense observers corps and eight National Guard pursuit squadrons—four on each of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The War Plans and the Operations and Training (G-3) divisions generally concurred with Chaney’s recommendations. (Chaney to Marshall, April 22, 1940, NA/RG 407 [Classified, 580 (4-16-40)].)

3. The old elite Seventh Infantry, based in New York City, had been redesignated the 107th Infantry of the Twenty-seventh Division, New York National Guard, in October 1917.

Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 201-203.

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