2-058 To Brigadier General Lesley J. McNair, September 29, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 29, 1939

To Brigadier General Lesley J. McNair1

September 29, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

My dear McNair:

I am going into the matter of having a complete infantry battalion assigned to Leavenworth and believe it a very good idea as it will let the students see the basic combat unit of the Army. I am very glad that you can accommodate it.

Under our present augmentation of 17,000 no provision is made to activate or move any element of the 17th Infantry. However, in the event of raising the Army to 280,000, present plans contemplate assembling all of the 3d Battalion, 17th Infantry, at Leavenworth. You will appreciate the difficulties that would be encountered at this time were we to attempt the transfer of the 3d Battalion elements now at Crook to Leavenworth.

In going over the Field Service Regulation the other day prior to giving it tentative approval, a few points came to mind which I think might well be included in the next edition.

There should be a paragraph on continuity of effort. The initial impetus is seldom conclusive in effect, and final success will only be secured by maintaining the momentum once gained. Many factors enter into this, even the stabilizing effect of too early establishment of a complete command post. Reorganization for further activity after the disorganization incident to the first effort, should be practiced in time of peace. Incidentally, in the general tactical instructions for the conduct of troops at St. Mihiel, I provided for farther advances beyond final division objectives of battalions of regiments of infantry reenforced by some artillery. But few if any divisions did this. Training to overcome the disorder of unexpected casualties and unexpected events in battle will avoid to an important extent the demoralization which often follows such moments.

The procurement of maps and photographs should be emphasized as a function of command and the text should be written under the assumption that good maps will seldom be on hand without special command effort. A statement should be included in the text, if it is not already there, that when the number of radio channels indicate restriction as necessary, first priority for continued use of radio must be given to the combat troops who have no other means of communication. Greater emphasis should be put on the use of air photographs in reporting results of reconnaissance.

Greater emphasis should be placed on the use of cover in approaching to the assault position. Instruction on this subject usually is applied to the individual, and not, as it should be, to the platoon, company, and battalion unit. I gather that modern combat utilizes the individual weapon more within the hostile position than prior to reaching it.

I am glad you are pushing instruction in the new division. This division plus our new field service regulation constitutes a progressive step, one that should assist materially all our schools. Corps Areas are now effecting the reorganization of divisions; recruiting and activation of units has actually begun.

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. In a September 18 letter to McNair, Marshall enumerated the decisions that had been made on the new triangular division. “You will be interested to know that Field service Regulation, as prepared by G-3 (Gruber), has been given tentative approval and general distribution will be made.” He also wrote: “I will bear in mind your desire to have a complete rifle battalion at Leavenworth when a re-shuffle comes. Can you accommodate it?” (Marshall to McNair, September 18, 1939, GCMRL/G.C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

McNair replied that he would have no trouble accommodating the new troops. He added: “The new division gives new zest to life; at last we know where we re going. Everything will be given new impetus, and even the new class here will get a good bit of it.” (McNair to Marshall, September 22, 1939, NA/RG 407 [Classified, 320.2 (9-22-39)].)

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. 68-69.

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