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To Frederick D. Patterson
October 16, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Dr. Patterson:
I received your telegram of September twenty-ninth withdrawing your suggestion that the participation of negroes in the Army Air Corps could be encouraged and effectively aided by the use of the splendid facilities and relationships developed during the war at Tuskegee Army Air Field.1
I am sorry that you have found yourself in this embarrassing position but I appreciate your frankness in advising me of the situation. As I anticipated this and so told you at the time of our meeting the other day, I was not surprised at your estimate of the situation.2
Just how we shall meet the situation I cannot say at the moment but it will be very carefully analyzed and I hope a satisfactory arrangement can be effected.
With my thanks again for your frankness and with deep appreciation of the patriotic attitude and wisdom of your course during the war years, believe me
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. The president of Tuskegee Institute, Patterson had met with Marshall on the afternoon of September 4 to lobby for stationing reserve units at the Tuskegee field that had trained African-American pilots since late 1941. He subsequently discovered, however, that a significant portion of black flying officers objected strenuously to being based at the racially segregated Alabama facility. Consequently he told Marshall that he withdrew his request. In an October 20 letter, Patterson recalled “the splendid understanding and cooperative relationship which has existed between us during the war effort.” (Patterson to Marshall, September 29 and October 20, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. In 1941 there had been considerable opposition from black leaders to locating air training for African Americans at Tuskegee. (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-465 [2: 518-19], and #2-475 [5: 525-26].) In a 1957 interview, Marshall said that in his determination to have most army training camps in the southern United States—because construction of cantonments was cheaper and the climatic conditions for training better—he failed to take into account the impact on blacks from the nonsegregation states of being located in the legally segregated South. “I regard it as one of the most important mistakes I made in the mobilization of the army.” (Marshall Interviews, p. 459.)
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. 330-331.