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To Edwin C. Johnson
August 13, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
I have your letter of July 31 with respect to the promotion of General Kirk, together with the recommendation of the Colorado State Medical Society.1 Kirk’s ability is well known to me in my position as Chief of Staff and also personally as I am a favorable bit of evidence of his surgical skill.2
With your statement that the “situation with respect to the Surgeon General has been intolerable up until a few months ago, etc.”3 I do not agree. You characterize the situation as intolerable. I very definitely question the accuracy of this statement and would consider that the discharge of my responsiblities as Chief of Staff would have been a failure if this is the case. There is a wide variey of views in this matter with very few people who are aware of the requirements and necessitites and controls to produce a uniform efficiency among the various activities of the Army.
I am glad to have the recommendations of the Colorado State Medical Society and will have them in mind in considering the question of General Kirk’s promotion along with that of other major generals similarly situated. I have a high regard for him and great respect for the work that he has done.4
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. Senator Johnson of Colorado, the second-ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Military Affairs, had written to send Marshall a letter from the Colorado State Medical Society “urging appropriate recognition” for the army’s Medical Department and complaining about the surgeon general’s “deplorable” status within the War Department. (Johnson to Marshall, July 31, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected]. The quotations are from Johnson’s letter; Marshall returned the Medical Society’s letter to the senator.)
2. Norman T. Kirk had operated on Marshall in February 1937 for a thyroid condition. See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-444 [1: 538-39].
3. As a result of the March 1942 army reorganization, the surgeon general—along with many other officials—ceased reporting directly to the U.S. Army chief of staff and was put under the newly created Army Service Forces (A.S.F.). Numerous high-ranking officers had disagreed with the new organization from the beginning. Moreover, whereas the Army Ground Forces took over the functions and authority of the chiefs of Infantry, Cavalry, Field Artillery, and Coast Artillery, the commanding general of A.S.F. inherited no such unified organization but “simply received command authority over various agencies, each of which retained its separate identity and many of which retained a degree of autonomy”—e.g., the offices of the surgeon general, adjutant general, judge advocate general, and the chief of chaplains. In the case of the Medical Department, its desire to control the procurement and use of personnel, the number and administration of hospitals, the procurement and distribution of medical supplies, and the department’s own organizational structure often conflicted with the viewpoints at A.S.F. headquarters. (John D. Millett, The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1954], pp. 39-40, 95.) In April 1945, all War Department higher commanders had been notified that the surgeon general now could report directly to Secretary of War Stimson. (Handy Memorandum, April 13, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 020 Surgeon General (1944-45)].)
4. Kirk remained a major general until his retirement in 1947.
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 274-275.