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To General John J. Pershing
October 24, 1930 Fort Benning, Georgia
Attached are my comments on great moments or decisions. Please read them thru before continuing further with this note, for I am going to indulge in criticism, in contrast to the typed comments.1
Certain things about the A.E.F. I think are open to stricture, yet have never been touched upon. All I have in mind were directly incident to the hard driving tactics which won the war—therefore excusable. But I think it well to have them in mind so that your treatment of the period or events connected with them may be handled accordingly.
The most severe criticism I could launch pertains to the opening of the Meuse-Argonne battle. We refer to it as our greatest and one of the greatest battles in history, determining in winning the war. We point to the great strength of the German position, describe your offer to undertake this most difficult task with fresh young American troops. We dwell on the fact that we had to make the opening fight with but partially trained, and in some instances, wholly inexperienced divisions.
Yet, knowing all this, the staffs of these inexperienced divisions were absolutely scalped a few days before the assault, in several cases I believe the day before—in order that the next class at Langres might start on scheduled time. The amount of confusion and mismanagement resulting from this was tremendous. A delay of ten days at Langres would have permitted the machine to get well under way—even a week would have helped immeasurably. Students and instructors were demanded and secured.
I always thought General Fox Conner, Hugh Drum and General Nolan should had determinedly opposed General Fisk at this moment, particularly Conner and Nolan. I always thought General McAndrew should have represented the matter to you in strong terms.2
No one has ever leveled this criticism at the A.E.F. control, and I have never breathed it to any one. But I think it could be made, especially, by some of the divisions that were seriously mismanaged. It is rather odd to send you two such contrasting papers as this and the attached memorandum. But I wanted you to be on your guard.
Possibly, probably you do not agree with me in this matter. But I would hate to have some one, with hostile intent, seize upon it.
I hope you can arrange to send me the manuscript. I will go over it immediately on its receipt, and give you my frankest reaction.
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: John J. Pershing Papers, Book File, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Handwritten letter signed.
1. Printed below (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-294 [1: 361-2]).
2. Brigadier General Fox Conner was assistant chief of staff for Operations (G-3) at A.E.F. General Headquarters from November 8, 1917, to February 3, 1919. Brigadier General Dennis E. Nolan (U.S.M.A., 1896) was assistant chief of staff for Intelligence (G-2) between July 5, 1917, and July 5, 19l9. Major General James W. McAndrew was A.E.F. chief of staff from May 6, 1918, to May 27, 1919. Brigadier General Harold S. Fiske (U.S.M.A., 1897), who had been an honor student at Fort Leavenworth’s Army School of the Line during Marshall’s second year as instructor (1910), was A.E.F. assistant chief of staff for Training (G-5) between February 14, 1918, and July 10, 1919. Brigadier General Hugh A. Drum was chief of staff of Liggett’s First Army from August 10, 1918, to April 17, 1919.
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. 360-361.