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To General John J. Pershing
January 26, 1924 Washington, D.C.
My dear General:
The Duncan Major case has taken a nasty slant, which is not only regrettable, but bodes no good for anybody concerned. Apparently, following the favorable report of the Military Committee for Major’s confirmation, there was to be a discussion on the floor of the Senate, but it was assumed that this would be merely an opportunity for those who pose as the supporters of the New England soldiery, to clear their skirts of any charge of indifference. However, on Sunday the 20th, the Boston Herald came out with an article quoting from Colonel Hunt’s brief in representing Major’s case before the Military Committee in the spring of 1922. The publication of this paper has tended, as was undoubtedly intended, to arouse and line up New England opinion on the grounds that the efficiency of the Yankee Division had been assailed and its record besmirched. I understand that letters and telegrams have poured in on the Senators, demanding the defeat of Major’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate. Senator Lodge has been collecting information yesterday and this morning regarding the record of the 26th Division, which I presume he will use in a speech. Mr. Weeks, according to General Davis, is worried, as is also Senator Wadsworth. The latter addressed a letter to Major, asking him if he had any knowledge of how Colonel Hunt’s brief became public. Major replied that he knew nothing about it and stated specifically that he had had no part in giving it publicity. I am sending you clippings from the Boston Herald, which will give you the New England slant, and I will keep you advised of what happens, but it is apparent that on next Tuesday in executive session, a very bitter battle is to be waged over this case. The precedent of passing over officers who have been nominated, established in the cases of General Davis, Colonel Drum and Colonel Peck, I am afraid is going to bear rather evil fruit.1
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: John J. Pershing Papers, General Correspondence, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Document Format: Typed letter signed.
1. Duncan K. Major, Jr., (U.S.M.A., 1899) had been nominated to the rank of colonel. He had been chief of staff of the Twenty-sixth (“Yankee”) Division (National Guard) between April, 1918, and January, 1919. Many of the division’s National Guard officers had believed that Regular Army officers, particularly Pershing and his staff at A.E.F. Headquarters, discriminated against the Guard. This feeling peaked when the division’s popular commander, Major General Clarence R. Edwards (U.S.M.A., 1883), was removed from command effective October 24, 1918, and several other senior commanders were likewise removed shortly thereafter. Three histories appeared shortly after the war which defended the division and its leaders with varying degrees of vehemence: Harry A. Benwell, History of the Yankee Division (Boston: Cornhill, 1919); Frank P. Sibley, With the Yankee Division in France (Boston: Little, Brown, 1919); Emerson Gifford Taylor, New England in France 1917-1919): A History of the Twenty-Sixth Division U.S.A. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920). Taylor said of Major: “A most efficient executive, this officer often achieved results by methods somewhat at variance with the principles ordinarily accepted as regulating the daily relations between a Chief of Staff and those about him.” (p. 139.)
In the postscript to a letter dated January 23, 1924, Marshall told Pershing: “I understand that today the question of the confirmation of Duncan Major will be debated in an open session of the Senate and that a very warm argument is anticipated, though the Massachusetts people have no chance of success and merely desire the publicity.” (LC/J. J. Pershing Papers [General Correspondence].)
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. 252-253.