5-143 To Harold D. Smith, May 22, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 22, 1945

Subject: World War II

To Harold D. Smith

May 22, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Smith:

I wish to bring to your personal attention what I understand is the present situation, in preparing the budget, with regard to certain repair and maintenance factors.

I have been much concerned over the dilemma in which I find myself regarding just what should be done in this matter because of the apparent unwillingness of the Congress to make a decision as to policy regarding compulsory military training. If there is to be no compulsory military training I can make a fairly accurate estimate of what we need to maintain in the Army but if no such decision is made as to general policy—the details need not be firmly established at this time—then we are in a dilemma which may cost the country countless millions. When disrepair reaches a certain point, particularly with temporary or semi-permanent buildings, a renewed effort to maintain the structures involves heavy and unjustified expenditures. A piecemeal procedure gets us nowhere. Therefore it is important to us to know which way to turn in dealing with the tremendous number of installations we have in this country.

As indicated above, I have no firm decision to meet the foregoing. The best we can do is pick out the most likely establishments and see that the repairs we put on them are not on such a skimpy scale that it will amount to more or less waste of effort. On the other hand, I am equally concerned over the policy which is to be followed regarding posts or installations which we know must serve the Army in the post-war period. In the main these have been dealt with on a hand-to-mouth basis, especially because of the lack of material and labor shortages. Now I think it is very important that the painting and other repair work be done with a view to future as well as present economies. I witnessed the dilemma in this matter from 1919 through the ’20s and the inexcusable waste which resulted. I do not want to have this happen again if I can avoid it.

Accordingly last December I personally instructed Somervell to provide a higher type of maintenance for posts which we were reasonably certain, after lengthy studies, would be retained. To accomplish this he tells me that requests for $43,000,000 were made in order to place the permanent buildings in a condition in line with normal maintenance. Of the forty-three, $20,000,000, I understand, was to have been from FY 1945 and $23,000,000 from FY 1946 funds.1 The 1945 funds have now practically all been approved to the field but have had to be suspended, I am told, because it is understood from your office that the former proposal to transfer $20,000,000 to “Barracks and Quarters” subappropriation may not be authorized.

As to the temporary quarters of the total item of $234,000,000 in the FY 1946 budget, $56,000,000 is for utilities. The Engineers, Somervell tells me, have estimated that their proposals under this heading will amortize themselves, on the average, in less than three years and 50% of them within fifteen months. There are a number of other aspects of this matter but I do not wish to go into details.

The whole thing appears of such great importance to the Army that if serious cuts are to be made in the proposed program, I would like to discuss the whole affair with the President, but I do not wish to do so until I thoroughly understand your point of view.2

Faithfully yours,


Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.


1. U.S. federal government fiscal year (FY) 1945 covered the period July 1, 1944, to June 30, 1945; FY 1946 covered the same dates in 1945 and 1946.

2. Smith responded on June 5 that he was “disturbed by the proposal that the Army embark upon an extensive program of special maintenance, estimated to cost $277,000,000, on its permanent and temporary housing facilities. I feel that the War Department should continue to maintain its facilities according to rigid wartime standards.” (Smith to Marshall, June 5, 1945, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 600.3].)

Marshall replied to Smith on June 16 that the purpose of his May 22 letter had been “to bring to your personal attention the effect on our installations and the extra expense ultimately involved in continuing much longer the policy of rigid wartime standards adopted as a military necessity immediately after Pearl Harbor. It was not my purpose to embark on an extensive program of special maintenance to apply indiscriminately to all permanent and temporary housing facilities. What I did have in mind was that maintenance on continuing military installations be put on a basis of true and actual economy. . . . While I am not unmindful of the pent-up demands of the civilian economy and the desirability of meeting them at the earliest possible moment, I feel that the requirement for placing our continuing military facilities in first-class condition must also be promptly met.” He also observed that he probably could transfer a certain amount of funds from other items to cover maintenance. (Marshall to Smith, June 16, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)

Smith rejected Marshall’s assertion that a substantial deficit of maintenance had accumulated: “my field reports and other reliable evidence convince me that a quite adequate level of maintenance is being carried on.” While he recognized that certain temporary structures could deteriorate rapidly, “it seems to me questionable to go all-out on maintenance of these structures until it is rather clear as to what will be the size and composition of our postwar military estabishment in the continental United States.” He also warned against abusing the funding flexibility, because this would encourage Congress to adopt “more rigid controls.” (Smith to Marshall, June 20, 1945, ibid.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 197-199.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 5-143

Rights: Public Information