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To General John J. Pershing
March 17, 1926 Tientsin, China
My Dear General:
The wireless you were good enough to send me came as a great shock. No one had seemed more vigorous and healthy, more destined for a long life, than poor Quekemeyer. Blessed with a splendid physique, clean and wholesome in his life, it is impossible to grasp the tragedy of his sudden death.1 A fatal accident, at polo for example, would not have been quite such a shock.
We can only conjecture as to what happened, but I imagine it started with flu and ran on into pneumonia. He probably delayed too long in going to bed! We had a similar case here Xmas week,—a Major Dabney who refused to give up during the serious period of the fighting around Tientsin. I felt very badly in his case, having sent him out with the mounted detachment on Xmas day during an ugly mixup with the victorious Chinese forces. He was sick at the time, but would not admit it.2
We feel especially distressed over Quekemeyer’s mother. He evidently was always a strong support to her, not to mention his brothers, and his sudden death must have struck her a hard blow. I am writing to her in care of Adamson.
I have been much concerned over the reports of your health, but have reassured myself in the belief that the trouble is but a continuation of your dental tribulations, and will soon be rectified at Walter Reed [Hospital]. But please write, or have Adamson write and tell me the facts. Your long stay at Arica must have been a combination of monotony and heavy strain. I am very glad you are home again.
To go back to Quekemeyer. It is very hard to understand why a man of his type should have been cut off so young, while the many worthless or evilly disposed, are allowed to live; and it seems particularly tragic that the end should have come just as he started on a job that must have been much to his liking. Quekemeyer was a fine fellow in every way. A man of high ideals, clean morally and physically, ambitious, attractive, forcible and capable. You can judge his worth better than any one else; and I know how much you will miss his fine loyalty and intimate companionship.
We are still in a difficult situation out here—patrols, outposts, etc.; and today our gun boat with the British, Japanese, French and Italian left here for Taku to enforce the ultimatum regarding the blocking of the mouth of the river. This is the first definite stand the foreign governments have taken, and their previous ”over lookings” may now prove costly.3
Colonel Newell recently arrived to take command of the 15th. After a week’s observation, he wrote to General Robert Allen that in his thirty-three years of service this was the finest regiment he had ever seen—Army or Marines.4
Mrs. Marshall joins me in affectionate regards and the hope that you are again in the best of health, pleasantly occupied and happy.
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. John G. Quekemeyer, who recently had been appointed commandant at the United States Military Academy, died at West Point of pneumonia on February 28, 1926. His mother died the next day.
2. Henry H. Dabney died on January 4, 1926.
3. Following his successful capture of Tientsin in December, 1925, Feng Yu-hsiang posted troops at the forts at Taku, which guarded the river access to Tientsin, to defend his flank against Fengtien troops. When the troops were ordered to withdraw, they fired on several foreign vessels, including some Japanese gunboats, in violation of the 1901 Protocol. The foreign powers, making a major issue of the affair, presented President Tuan Ch’i-jui with an ultimatum on March 16, demanding that the government of China stop all preparations for war in the Tientsin-Taku region.
4. Isaac Newell (U.S.M.A., 1896). Major General Robert H. Allen was the chief of Infantry.
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. 285-286.