2-055 To General John J. Pershing, September 23, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 23, 1939

To General John J. Pershing

September 23, 1939 Washington, D.C.

Dear General:

I am attaching some ideas, in the rough, for a possible radio broadcast by you. I rather imagine that my attempt at a discussion of the neutrality phase will be of little use to you. However, I have included it in order to develop a possible continuity leading up to purely military comments.

As to the timing of your broadcast, if you decide to make it, it seems to me that it should be scheduled for the middle of the coming week, presumably after the debates have started on the Hill. Will you have Adamson give me your reactions in the matter; and if you decide to do this and he advises me accordingly, we will make the necessary Contacts with the Radio people, to arrange for the broadcasting from your room at the Hospital1—I am assuming that this can be managed.

I am very sorry to impose on you this burden of responsibility, but I know you personally are intensely interested in the outcome, and I also know that you can exert a greater influence than any other American, except the President, and on military matters I do not except him.2


G. C. Marshall

Document Copy Text Source: John J. Pershing Papers, General Correspondence, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Document Format: Typed letter signed.

1. Pershing had been living at Walter Reed General Hospital since mid-August.

2. During the summer of 1939, President Roosevelt sought congressional repeal of the requirement of the Neutrality Act of 1937 that he embargo the sale and shipment by Americans of war materiel to all belligerents. This effort failed in mid-July when action was deferred until the January 1940 session. On September 13, the president called a special session of Congress to reconsider the embargo repeal, and on September 21 he delivered a message to a joint session urging that action. (See The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1939 volume, ed. Samuel I. Rosenman [New York: Macmillan Company, 1941], pp. 512-25.) The revised Neutrality Act was passed by substantial majorities in both houses and was signed by the president on November 4.

The attached draft of ideas (author not indicated) urged support for the president’s position: “If we deny access to our shores and industry to the ships of belligerents, what will be our position should we become engaged in the defense of everything that we hold dear in American civilization?” The statement also asserted that “not less than a billion dollars is immediately required for our Army to make good the tragic neglects of the past years and to place ourselves in a secure position to guarantee our ability to lead in the maintenance of the democracy of the Western Hemisphere.” It took years to “convert money into munitions,” and the United States could not afford to wait. Pershing was also asked to urge increasing the Regular Army and National Guard to full peace strength and appropriating more funds for maneuvers. At the top of Marshall’s letter, General Pershing wrote “not approved,” and on the first page of the proposed statement, he wrote “not delivered.”

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), p. 63.

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Holding ID: 2-055

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