1-485 To Colonel James H. Van Horn, May 23, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 23, 1938

To Colonel James H. Van Horn1

May 23, 1938 Fort Lewis, Washington

Dear Van Horn:

I was surprised and very much interested in your letter of May 16th, and appreciated greatly the extracts you had made for me from Liddell Hart’s writing.2 You know, if the General Staff in Washington could secure the services of Liddell Hart to convey their ideas and policies in his brand of English writing, they could get away with anything up to murder. He puts things beautifully, and so convincingly that so often he gets away with some things that are not justified by the cold, uninspiring facts. However, this present collection of extracts is most impressing.

Your suggestions were of great interest to me, and I should like very much to discuss them with you, particularly those regarding the National Guard and the Reserve Corps.3 I don’t quite agree with you as to the Reserve Corps. I think that half of its present weakness is due to our mishandling and our lack of vision in adapting the Reserve Corps to actual conditions. For example, I find I almost have to knock my officers down, particularly staff officers, to get them to use reserve officers in the actual job—and not half on-lookers. Personally I find that they can do it. I went into the 2nd Army maneuvers with a brigade staff of reserve officers, none of whom had seen each other, and none of whom I had seen. We handled up to 6000 troops on a more complicated basis than would have been the case on a Division staff. We lacked everything, and were given seemingly every possible administrative and supply responsibility, in addition to the tactical requirements. We covered 60 miles of country in a campaign against 20,000 troops. These reserve fellows did a beautiful job as 1, 2, 3 and 4 of my outfit. I have had other and similar experiences, and was entering the summer into a complete turnover, as it were, of all the leading jobs, line and staff, below the regiment, at Vancouver Barracks from the middle of June until the first of September. The only exceptions were in the matter of money and firing for record on the target range, and there all the subordinates are to be reserve officers. I want the regular officer to induct the reserve officer into his job in short order, as would be the case in war—I give the Post Adjutant two days, and permitting him only 30 minutes a day at his office thereafter. I have intended having most of the regular officers to seize this period for recreation, including leaves, instead of being confined to the post and camp more rigorously in the summer than at any other time. I am doing this last to make them like utilizing reserves.

I hope I get a chance to talk to you after I get to Washington. I have always been interested in your career and in your brain, which seems always on the make.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Van Horn was Signal corps officer at First Corps Area headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.

2. Extracts from Basil H. Liddell Hart, Europe in Arms (New York: Random House, 1937) had been inclosed.

3. Van Horn had written that he would like to see a new National Defense Act that would “1. Limit the composition of the Officers Reserve corps (with few exceptions and during emergencies only), to Lieutenants; trained with Regular Army and National Guard units; active for six or seven years only; paid a retaining fee instead of in prospects of, and encouragement for promotion. (The number of old timers should be confined to the Regular service, where we have more than enough for the Army as a whole.) 2. Limit many of the key positions in National Guard Divisions to Regular officers." He also suggested reducing by fifty percent the number of Regular officers on duty with the R.O.T.C. and providing Regular officers with more service with troops. (Van Horn to Marshall, May 16, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers Vancouver Barracks].)

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. 595-596.

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