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To Captain Joseph M. Patterson1
May 26, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Captain Patterson,
There is attached a clipping from the Times Herald of May 26 referring incidentally to me.2 This article in my opinion introduces a serious consideration in regard to the role of a free press during a national war emergency, and I wish to make some comments, with the request for your views in the matter.
In the first place the reference to me is incorrect; neither Mrs. Marshall nor I attended the function referred to, though it had a semi-official status which required some consideration on my part. But the error or misrepresentation is unimportant in relation to the evident purpose of the reference, which could only be, so far as I can see, to weaken the Army’s confidence in its Chief of Staff.
This is a very serious matter in my opinion and one fraught with grave consequences. I am not concerned in politics so the free rein permissible in assaulting political figures would not apply. I have only one job and that concerns the lives of many men.
Frankly, in such times as these I am at a loss to understand the thought behind such an article as the one attached, so far as it pertains to military leaders. If it is believed that I, for example, am not up to my job or responsibility, a free press is certainly free to say so with a view to my relief. But this article appears to be merely an endeavor to smirch, without implying a more serious purpose.
I am not asking for a retraction. That would be absurd in view of the character of the article, and it would also reflect on other military officials who felt it necessary to put in an appearance. But I am concerned over the conception of the press regarding such procedure. This incidentally is the second time this particular writer has used this method with regard to me, to which could be added references or implications reflecting adversely on my procedure or policies; but the previous article appeared in less critical days,3 and yesterday’s article impressed me as a much more serious case, for lack of confidence of the Army would be a matter of tragic consequences under the pressures and hazards of the actual and impending military operations.
I should be much interested in your comments.4
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Publisher of the New York Daily News, Patterson had served in the First World War. His sister, Eleanor M. Patterson, was owner and editor of the Washington Times-Herald.
2. On May 26 the Washington Times-Herald had printed an article written by Walter Trohan entitled “Washington Gayest Capital In World on Eve of Invasion.” Trohan wrote that “Army and Navy names up to the highest ranks are appearing on society pages with greater frequency than on the news pages, where the public is expecting momentarily to find the announcement of the invasion.” The highlight of the week had been on Sunday, May 21, when Lieutenant General and Mrs. Alexander A. Vandegrift had entertained at the Marine commandant’s house; Trohan included General Marshall among the military guests. (Washington Times-Herald, May 26, 1944, p. 2.) Marshall’s appointment book shows no engagements scheduled for May 21.
3. For Walter Trohan’s previous article in 1939, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-103 [2: 139-40].
4. Apparently Major General Alexander D. Surles of the Bureau of Public Relations recommended that General Marshall not send this letter. Marshall’s secretary wrote at the top of the carbon copy in the file: “Gen. Surles says this was killed. 5/30/44.”
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 463-464.