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To F. Warren Pershing1
December 13, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Your father has talked to me several times lately—over the phone—regarding your desire to be in the service in this emergency. I told him that I had an officer looking into the matter to see just what could be done in keeping with the policy that we have maintained against an overwhelming demand for immediate commissions by men all over the country.
This morning the staff officer concerned brought me this proposal: That you come into the Public Relations Section of the War Department on a civilian status, and that after several months’ such service it probably would be possible to commission you as a captain for duty with that section or with the Finance Department.
In the event of your being commissioned, it would be in the “Army of the United States” without assignment to a specific arm or branch, and it would remain in force during the emergency and for six months afterward. Under this commission you might be continued in Public Relations or detailed with the Finance Department, probably at one of the Corps Area Headquarters, such as Governors Island.
I am not certain that this is the wise course, but I do think it better that you should come in on a civilian status for a time to avoid criticism of direct commission where a particular speciality was not involved. I mean by this that while we have been commissioning certain individuals direct, they have been placed on the same kind of duty that was involved in their civilian occupation—ordnance, shipping, communications, or the procurement of certain specialities.
I have this suggestion for you to consider, and you must understand that it is a snap judgment of the moment, as I have very little time at my disposal, that you enlist. I would see that you were assigned to the Engineer Training Center at Fort Belvoir—35 minutes’ drive south of Washington, this side of Mount Vernon. There you would take the basic training course for engineer soldiers, including the ordinary disciplinary training of a soldier regardless of branch. This course lasts thirteen weeks. It would certainly result in the improvement of your health, and it would certainly occupy all your time. At the end of the course, or maybe a little earlier we could commission you for some specific duty, possibly of the nature referred to above, but not necessarily so. It might be that you yourself would decide that you would care to go through the competition for a commission in the Engineer Corps. However, this would mean a second lieutenancy, and you are too old for that under our policy.2
I am certain that the public reaction would be immediate and extremely favorable to such action on your part, and I also think that your being commissioned later would not in any way be misconstrued.
So you see there are two proposals, one from the staff officer of the War Department, and one that I hurriedly make. Write to me confidentially and tell me what you think, and be absolutely frank.3
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. General Pershing’s only surviving child was a stockbroker in New York City.
2. Only men between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-seven could receive appointments as second lieutenant. Warren Pershing was thirty-two.
3. Pershing replied that he was considering the issue; he met with the chief of staff in mid-January. (Pershing to Marshall, December 16, 1941, and January 14, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) See Marshall to Pershing, February 9, 1942, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #3-099 [2: 102].
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 18-19.