2-032 To Brigadier General Lesley J. McNair, August 16, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 16, 1939

To Brigadier General Lesley J. McNair

August 16, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear McNair:

In looking over your recommendations for replacements of instructors I notice the names of former instructors included in the list. I have no intention of reneging on my assurance that you would be given a free hand in the solution of your problems, but I do want to call your attention to the fact that to recall an officer as an instructor, and not to a conspicuous key position, does serve to penalize the individual, and what seems to me of more importance, does further the continuation of old non-realistic methods to which there seems to be so much current objection. I suggest that it would be a good idea, and fairer to the officers, to ascertain informally whether they desire the re-detail.

Your recommendations will be approved, if at all possible to do so, and I am prepared to violate existing policies in order to give you the men you want. But I am moved again to suggest the advantages of new blood as against the previous overdose of repeaters.1

There is also another matter I want to suggest to you. That is the great advantage which would result from a shortening of the courses at Leavenworth for National Guard and Reserve officers. It is always very difficult to get the type of man we want when he has to give up his business for three months. Confidentially, under the present system at Leavenworth, at Benning, and at other schools, a three months’ course is too apt to produce what might be termed “bread-ticket” people.2

I know that your instructors will say that three months is the minimum time in which a satisfactory course of study can be given. Confidentially, for your eye alone, I’ll bet I could do everything they do and only take two months to do it in, if you wipe out certain unimportant details, and if the preparatory material sent in advance is carefully arranged toward the desired end.

Please do not treat this as something urgent, but merely as a casual comment from me.

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. “There will be no more calls for repeaters as instructors,” McNair replied. “You are right in your stand.” (McNair to Marshall, August 31, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. McNair agreed with Marshall that a “worth-while course of two months, or of one month for that matter” could be offered. However, he pointed out that the last class had been exceptional and that the army received “more for our money with the longer course.” McNair left it up to Marshall to make changes for the 1941 school year, replying that he would plan accordingly. (Ibid.)

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. 36-37.

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