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To Charles R. Hook
December 1, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Mr. Hook:
I have your letter of November seventeenth and have read the copy of your letter to Mr. Seibert on compulsory military training. In it you discussed several points which I feel require some modification if we are to have a program of universal training and secure the utmost benefit from it.1
Collateral benefits such as you described will undoubtedly result from universal training. However, the basic need for this training is defense of the nation and it should in no way be subordinated to other possible advantages which can be obtained by non-military means.
I can readily understand your reluctance to express a final opinion on the length of such training without a very complete understanding of the objectives and the time required to reach them. There are a number of factors involved which while well understood by experienced military authorities are overlooked or little appreciated by the general public. For one thing, when you measure the time requirement it is inevitable, however perfect the system, that there is a loss of an appreciable number of weeks because of the necessary routine required in which to examine a man, induct him and get him off to a firm start, because of the time which must be accorded him here in America at certain seasons of the year and because of the time involved in releasing him from service under a well-defined status. So when we speak of a year these things have to be considered as well as the time absorbed in traveling to maneuvers and returning to bases, and similar unavoidable time-consuming procedures.
I can best illustrate this by telling you that in spite of the urgency of the situation and the heavy pressure we can apply in time of war, yet the replacement being trained at the present time in a 17-week course practically does not reach his division overseas under six months. The training time as I have stated is only 17 weeks. In this case of course there is a greater loss of time in moving to and away from the ports and through staging areas.
We regard it as an imperative feature of such a system that the citizen-soldier have a high standard of training—not only for his own protection but to make the system adopted the most impressive factor in our potential military power in the eyes of the world. I use the word “potential” because these men could not be woven into the Army until after the declaration by Congress of a national emergency.
To give you an interesting sidelight on the state of mind of the soldier at the present time regarding training: we use professionals of the Gallup Poll type to obtain unobtrusively for us the reactions of the rank and file on various aspects of the Army. Regarding training this interesting reaction is developed. In continental United States the men state that there is too much of rather monotonous types of training. When we sample opinion overseas they then state that there was not enough of this type of training and are unanimously of that opinion.
If the world sees us doing a thorough job of this training they will recognize us from the point of view of military power as a Republic of Switzerland raised to the nth power—and yet our actual Army and Navy will be on a purely voluntary basis.
There are certain fundamental considerations regarding our conception of compulsory military training which seem to be little understood. We are talking of training only, with no legal liability for service. Service in the Army, other than volunteer, would depend first on an approved Act of Congress declaring the existence of a national emergency and it would further depend on the action of Congress in determining in what manner the citizens were to be called upon for service in the active Army, by lot or by age, for example; but the point would be that all men who are physically fit would be trained to such an extent that a strong military force could be developed more rapidly than we could obtain shipping to move it beyond the Western Hemisphere.
Another factor of dominant importance in our opinion would be that the training would be applied on an absolutely democratic basis, that is, both rich boy and poor boy would be subject to the same period and character of training. Countless exceptions and modifications will inevitably be proposed but I fear that almost any one of these would not only open a floodgate but would do violence to the great principle of democracy.
There are two general considerations which I think should be carefully kept in mind. One of these in my opinion is the fact that twice our military power, backed by great wealth and industrial efficiency, has been the determining factor in a world war and on each occasion we were afforded the time to generate our power. We shall never be permitted a third opportunity. Another consideration in my opinion is that aside from all the political factors, using the term in its largest sense, it will be absolutely impossible for us financially to maintain an adequate military posture either for our own security or to back whatever views we may have regarding the perpetuation of peace in the world, except on the basis of compulsory military training. In other words, without such a system it would mean financial bankruptcy to purchase or rather hire on the open peacetime market the personnel required.
I must ask you not to quote me as I am merely giving you privately my views in the matter. I feel that it is very important that the proponents of such a measure be representative citizens rather than military leaders. We shall come into the picture when hearings on such a bill are undertaken by the Congress.
Sorry the weather prevented you from reaching Hot Springs. I went down by train on account of bad weather but was able to fly back to Washington.
I appreciate your allowing me to see Mr. McCabe’s comments regarding my talk. He is far too generous in his appreciation.2
With my thanks for your letter and apologies for the length of my reply,
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. The president of American Rolling Mill Company, Hook had been unable to attend the Business Advisory Council meeting on November 4 (see note 1, Marshall to Wood, November 16, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-585 [4: 669]). He wrote to express his disappointment at missing Marshall’s talk and to enclose a letter he had written to Herbert D. Seibert, editor and publisher of the New York Commercial and Financial Chronicle in support of universal military training. Hook believed that “nine months of training would be sufficient” for young men after they had completed high school. He thought that the program should be planned to improve the trainees’ health, that the aptitude tests and education they received would help to prepare them for future work, and that the restraint and discipline “would help to demonstrate that their recognition of authority is essential in the successful operation of any organization whose objective is to get a specific job done.” (Hook to Marshall, November 17, 1944, and Hook to Seibert, November 14, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
2. Thomas B. McCabe, president of Scott Paper Company and chairman of the Business Advisory Council, had written: “I hate to tell anyone what they missed, but I cannot refrain from saying that General Marshall’s speech Saturday night was one of the finest things I ever heard. He spent the day with us, listened to the discussions on taxation and foreign economic policy, chatted with many of us informally at lunch, and then had an afternoon of horseback riding through the mountains. I am sure that he is America’s Number One Citizen, and I think history will give him a place with Washington and Lee. If he had been a candidate for President this time I could have voted for him on either ticket because I sincerely believe that he is as great a statesman and administrator as he is a soldier.” (McCabe to Hook, November 7, 1944, ibid.)
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. 681-684.