ONLINE CATALOG SEARCH
To Colonel Ralph D. Mershon
May 21, 1934 [Chicago, Illinois]
My dear Colonel Mershon:
I have just returned from the R.O.T.C. Conference at Purdue, which your Committee arranged. In the unavoidable absence of Colonel Robbins and General Gignilliat I had to preside. A list of those attending is attached.1
A full report on the affair will, of course, be sent to you by Colonel Bishop but I thought you would be interested to get an early impression of how the Conference went off. To me it seemed a much more profitable and satisfactory gathering than at Lehigh last year. Of course, we knew a little better how to arrange and stage manage the affair, and many of the army officers attending, and some of the professors, had read the report of the Lehigh meeting.
This time I arranged to have college deans function as chairman of every committee, and towards the close of the committees’ private discussions I emphasized our desire for the views of the college deans rather than for those of the army officers. These committees took their work very seriously and gathered in committee conferences at every opportunity. For instance, on the first evening after a dinner at which fifty members of the Purdue faculty were present, and where we were so fortunate as to have two unusually fine after dinner talkers— far above the usual standard, some of the committees pursued their discussion until one in the morning. Some turned out at an early hour the following morning and got in a hour’s additional committee debate before the general session opened at 9:30.
A number of the college presidents, or deans, expressed to me their enthusiasm for the benefits they had received from this conference. In general, their various statements reflected this view—that they had arrived with an interest in the R.O.T.C. thinking they knew a great deal about the activities, and they found that their knowledge was exceedingly superficial and that they were leaving with a broader understanding and assurance that with the knowledge they had attained they could do a great deal for the protection, or the maintenance, or the improvement of their local R.O.T.C. units. They had all heard the expression of a great many points of view. They heard how various difficulties were quite satisfactorily met in various institutions. They were often astonished to learn how completely the R.O.T.C. activity had been integrated into college affairs, whereas in their own institutions this was not the case. Altogether, they acquired a mass of valuable information which I am sure will be very helpful in the faculty attitude of their particular colleges or universities regarding the R.O.T.C.
For the Army officers, the conference was a tremendous help,—both as to the information they had derived from the experiences and views of others and also particularly because they felt the faculty representative of their own institution would return home prepared to support them strongly and intelligently before the faculty regarding any proper proposal made.
I was tremendously encouraged by the apparent success of this conference. At Lehigh I thought it was an excellent thing. But at Purdue the affair ran off in such a fashion that it impressed me as possibly being a tremendous factor in general improvement of R.O.T.C. conditions in this general section of the West.
The officials of Purdue were most cordial in their hospitality, and all displayed a great interest in the affair. I am very sorry you could not be present, particularly as this is a technical institution and most of its activities are directed along lines which would be of direct interest to you. The turnout of the local R.O.T.C. unit was an unusually fine demonstration of what can be done to bring about the very thing you have had in mind regarding development of young men. I was very much impressed with the splendid showing made by these boys, and it is hard to believe all this had been managed in a very restricted number of hours.
I think Colonel Robbins and General Gignilliat are planning to have a meeting of the Committee to consider some of the points brought up in your letter to me, shortly after the close of Culver, that is in June. General Gignilliat has returned from the Southwest much improved. He arrived in Purdue at Noon of the last day, field inspections having prevented his leaving Culver the day before. Therefore, he had an opportunity to see something of the Conference, and the members had the fortunate opportunity of meeting him and hearing him talk.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Illinois National Guard, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. The conference was held May 18-19 at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. The list of persons attending was not found with the file copy printed here.
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. 431-433.