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To General Douglas MacArthur1
April 14, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear MacArthur:
You are quite correct that a bureau chief who retires prior to or on the date that he completed a four year tour would if recalled to duty be called in the grade of major general, whereas one who took terminal leave after completing a four year tour and then retired would be called to active duty in the grade of colonel.2 However, bureau chiefs are appointed for the specific purpose of acting as chief of an arm or service, and after retirement, would probably not be recalled to active duty to again act in such a capacity. If we desired to call them for a line command they could be granted temporary promotion in the Army of the United States under the existing authority enacted last year. You are, of course, aware of the fact that any general officer called to active duty in his grade of general officer receives only retired pay and no allowances. We have legislation pending before the Congress to permit a retired general officer, if called to active duty, to draw full active duty pay and allowances. The Navy was unable to have the law so amended last year and it is possible that Congress will not amend it for us this year.3
I could agree with you on the desirability of having retired officers who are called to active duty serve in the highest World War grade if there had been a uniform system of temporary promotion during the World War, and if all officers on the active list who held higher grades during the World War were now serving in the higher grade. However, such is not the case. There was no uniformity in the matter of temporary promotion during the war. Some division commanders recommended promotions to fill all vacancies which occurred within their divisions, whereas other[s] requisitioned officers from outside the division to fill vacancies.
We are studying now the matter of providing temporary promotion on the basis of years of active service for retired officers who are called to active duty, granting them the same promotion which has been granted to Regular officers of the active list on completing specified years of service.
Eventually we will be back to promotion by selection, and retired officers called to active duty will have the same opportunity as officers of the active list and officers of the Officers’ Reserve Corps.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. Although he reverted to his permanent rank of major general in 1935 when he assumed the post of military adviser to the Philippines, Douglas MacArthur retired in 1937 at the rank of general. He continued at his post of adviser and field marshal of the Philippine Army, a rank he had held since August 1936.
2. MacArthur wrote to Marshall that several retired officers had complained to him about the Judge Advocate General Department’s ruling on the recall of officers to the active list. MacArthur noted that, through technicalities, certain officers could be recalled at lower ranks than at which they retired, while the army could recall others at ranks higher than their retirement. “Such irregularities bring the whole hierarchy of rank into ridicule,” MacArthur wrote. “They do more than that. They tend to lower markedly the morale and esprit of the entire officer corps.” (MacArthur to Marshall, March 27, 1941, MML/D. MacArthur Archives [RG 1].)
3. Congress did not amend the 1919 act governing pay and allowances of general officers recalled to active duty until June 16, 1942. This amendment provided that “retired officers shall, when on active duty, receive full pay and allowances of the grade or rank in which they serve on such active duty, and when on active duty status, shall have the same pay and allowance rights while on leave of absence or sick as officers on the active list.” (The Adjutant General, Official Army Register, 1944 [Washington: GPO, 1944], p. 1619.)
4. MacArthur replied: “Your decision to place promotion on the basis of selection is in my opinion eminently sound and together with the authority to appoint officers to temporary rank in the Army of the United States completely solves in an equitable way all problems connected with rank. . . . I shall take the liberty of explaining the matter to those officers who previously protested to me.” (MacArthur to Marshall, May 11, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 475-476.