1-560 To Colonel John N. Greely, February 20, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 20, 1939

To Colonel John N. Greely

February 20, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear John:

Replying to your discussion of the relative merits of tabular charts and T of O’s, I don’t think my point of view has been made clear to you.1

In brief, it is this: The War Department never seems to have caught up with its T of O’s to the existing situation or proposed organization. This has been a continuing embarrassment at Leavenworth and at the Service Schools, and was so embarrassing to the War Plans Division here recently that something had to be done immediately to remedy the situation.2

Offhand, and without stating the various qualifications pertinent to the matter, I would say that the T of O’s represent an ideal proposition and therefore an impractical one for our Army.

My thought was to find some way that the G-3 Section could keep abreast of conditions in its published organizational prescriptions, and not be eternally laboring over long and involved columns of this and that, and footnote “h”, to show that he carries a revolver, or a pickaxe, or some other damn thing.

I wanted an outline chart of the organization with only enough of detail on the outline to show the type organization approved. Then, to include the briefest possible list of war strength personnel, armament, equipment, and transportation. Attached to this chart would be the yearly layout, which varies with every appropriation bill and has to be published yearly, in any event.

In the main, my method would leave to the colonel of the regiment the decision as to whether this particular sergeant will be here or there, and not have the War Department indulging in minutiae of this character when organizations differ so materially here and there about the country.3

For example, in the Infantry branch, about which I know the most, we have a war strength regiment less a battalion at Benning; three battalion regiments at a service strength in Hawaii; regiments at another strength in Panama; three battalion regiments at still another strength in the United States; two battalion regiments here and there in the United States; and finally, the 15th Infantry of less than two battalions, and each battalion of a different organization from all other battalions.

Now, the point I would like to make is, this is not abnormal in the sense that it seldom happens with us. It always happens, and our system should be adapted to the facts rather than to the theories. Above all, it should be a simple proposition—and even above that, it should permit the local commander to use his brains a little bit and not have everything dictated from a desk in Washington.

As I am airing myself quite freely from the desk of the Deputy Chief of Staff, I will have to ask you to treat this as confidential, because I cannot afford to advertise my views in this manner.

Hastily 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. Greely had written: “I understand that you favor tabular charts showing strength in place of formal T. of O.s [Tables of Organization]. Either will work practically, but to secure some uniformity the T. of O.s seem more valuable." (Greely to Marshall, February 16, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. In his June 30,1939, annual report, Chief of Staff Craig stated: “since my last report a restudy has been made of our Tables of Organization and 249 of these tables have been revised, bringing them up to date and in accord with modern equipment and modern means of transportation,” Annual Report of the Chief of Staff,” in Report of the Secretary of War to the President, 1939 [Washington, D.C.: Government Printing office, 1939], p.28.)

3. Marshall’s influence on the complexity of the army’s tables of organization was slight. In 1941, the “Headquarters, Field Army” (T/O 200-1) had a twenty-three-column, seventy-eight-row table with seventeen lettered footnotes for slightly less than seven hundred men. The table for “Infantry Regiment, Rifle (Motorized),” contained thirteen columns and forty-eight rows (T/O 7-61), and the table for “Infantry Company, Prisoner of War Escort,” (ninety-six men) had seven columns and twenty-eight rows. (Tables of Organization of Infantry Units, [Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal, 1941], pp.68-69,105,118-19.)

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. 701-702.

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