1-523 To Brigadier General Leigh R. Gignilliat, November 4, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 4, 1938

To Brigadier General Leigh R. Gignilliat

November 4, 1938 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Gignilliat:

I have delayed answering your letter of October twenty-fifth until I had something specific I could tell you.1 At the moment I have no prepared speech that might be furnished for your purpose, but as the date is rapidly approaching for your talk at Muncie, I have to tell you something immediately.

In brief, here is the basis on which we operate in all our planning at the present time:

“Our defense policy is to maintain an immediately available force, adequate to defend the continental United States, Panama, and Hawaii (in conjunction with the Navy), during the period our vast resources in personnel, materiel, and industry are mobilized for war. This calls for a balanced Army, equipped with modern planes, weapons, and munitions suitable to our particular problem.“

In solving our defense problems, we have our greatest advantage in the vast difference between our geographical location and that of European countries, the more impressive since the appearance of the long range bombing plane. Modern developments do not modify the fact that to attack the United States an enemy must cross an ocean.

Our great necessity at the present time is in materiel. Of course, we are in sore need of personnel for manning additional planes to be delivered, and particularly for creating some anti-aircraft units. But, far outweighing these necessities is the matter of materiel, almost every item of which cannot be produced under a year, and many of them—such as directors for anti-aircraft firing—require almost a year and a half.

At the present time most of the Infantry of the Regular Army, and all of the Infantry of the National Guard have a rifle thirty-four years old, at the same time that we have in models for production the most effective semi-automatic shoulder rifle in the world.

Our Regular Infantry and National Guard Infantry are without anti-tank guns, 37s, and more than a year will be required to manufacture these. The Artillery of the small Regular Army is just being modernized in 75s and 155s. In the National Guard it has not been touched, except to permit towing. And of course, in the above items of materiel and in the modernization of artillery to suit perspective battle conditions, we must have enough on M-day for the full expansion of the Regular Army and the National Guard, or for seven hundred thousand odd men, plus several hundred thousand replacements.

Our initial Protective Mobilization Plan contemplates the smallest force to be mobilized that we think could safeguard the continental United States until the full Protective Mobilization Plan gets under way. We deal with the smallest force in order to obviate every possible burden and complication of initial effort.

Another item which we need to lay in heavy stocks is powder. This is pretty confidential and should not be touched upon except by implication. But the point is, the powder we need is practically all non-commercial.

Now, all the above items, once on hand, are good for about twenty-five years at a minimum of maintenance charge—a most important consideration with us, particularly when we view the approaching years of drastic economy. The ordinary Ordnance materiel only involves about one percent, the powder three percent, for maintenance.

When we come to aircraft, we are of course involved in heavy maintenance charges and the factor of obsolescence. Our problem is to have enough planes on hand on M-day to maintain us through the first losses until heavy production can get under way.

I am not asking you to treat the foregoing as confidential, but it is not to be quoted as coming from here except that I do not mind your using the one quoted paragraph on our defense policy in its exact wording. This is a very hasty business, but I hope it will be of help.

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. Gignilliat had written that he had to speak to the Rotary Club of Muncie, Indiana, on November 8, on the status of national defense measures. He asked Marshall for “a pointer so that I may drive it home and that might prove helpful to the cause.“ (Gignilliat to Marshall, October 25, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

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. 642-644.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 1-523

Rights: Public Information