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To Harry G. Stoddard
April 2, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Stoddard:
Mrs. Marshall handed me your letter of March 29th which I have given very careful reading. Also I have discussed some of your points with the particular sections of the War Department concerned in these matters.1
In the first place, I am not involved in questions of the demobilization or conversion of industry from its war production basis to a peace-time status. So far as the War Department is concerned that comes under the Under Secretary of War, Judge [Robert P.] Patterson, and his office. Of course the General Staff becomes involved in such matters as to reserves of munitions which must be available, and when further production is no longer necessary.
In the talks I had with you the other day, my mind was turned to a problem that has worried me for several years, and that is, not only the terrific expense of maintaining an airforce, as compared to the armed forces, but what should be the procedure, from the Army point of view, once the fighting has ceased or been placed by circumstances on a much reduced basis. You see, I am given the totals of weekly and monthly production of various types of planes and also the rate of production, say six months hence of these same planes. The numbers of course are astonishing, and when one turns to the problem of what is to be done the day after the fighting ceases there is presented a terrible prospect of apparently unavoidable waste unless some special measures can be taken to save the situation.
I have also had in mind the necessity for us to gain control of the commercial air situation in the Western Hemisphere and to do that means decisive action rather than endless debates. It was in this connection that my mind turned to the possible temporary commercial use of heavy bombers, which I told you was generally opposed by airline officials with whom I have discussed the matter. However, as I also told you, there is a transition period which I do not believe they have quite visualized, during which we have to do something and do it fast.
As to the other points raised in your letter, with the explanation given above that almost all of them are of immediate concern to another section of the War Department, I find myself in general agreement with your conclusions. We must have sound policies, decided on promptly and answered with equal promptness if we are to go forward with the minimum of disorder and confusion. The place of the War Department in this transition will, of course, be far different from what it is today because of the vastly reduced demand we shall be making, and the fact that most matters pertaining to post-war economy fall entirely outside our jurisdiction.
I do not understand where the idea could have arisen that we, or anyone else, were proposing that the production of war products should continue beyond the time of actual needs for the armed forces. Our needs for the war against Japan will be such that production cutbacks will not be drastic after the fighting in Germany collapses. We have the prospect of consuming more ammunition per man in the Pacific than in Europe because that is the only way we can keep down casualties against the fanaticism of the Japanese.
Referring to your numbered paragraphs:
1. War Production will cease as soon as the need ends.
2. Industry will be told in advance insofar as the War Department is concerned as soon as we have determined with reasonable certainty a future date when any part of its production will no longer be needed for the war effort.2
3. Only a segment of industry needs reconversion. The first loss to the labor force will be among those who do not wish to work any more and who are now employed simply because of the great national need. Secondly, there is a stored up demand which should yield a very substantial number of jobs as production of civilian items gets under way. There appears to be cash in the hands of civilians to support that demand. A third source of employment will lie in some of the activities of railroads and many other major service industries which have substantial deferred maintenance as well as expansion projects. The situation with regard to the returning veterans is very clearly stated in the law.3
4. With reference to the disposal of surplus war supplies, we have been trying to expedite the sale of all such surpluses which have developed as a result of War Department activities. We agree with your philosophy with respect to prices.4 It will be extremely helpful to the War Department if you could secure the wide acceptance of such views among business men and among the general populace. What you say represents sound economic theory and practice. However, there is nevertheless a decided general feeling that the Government should not dispose of anything which shows up on the books as a loss and this will prove to be one of the principal handicaps in preventing the disposal of surpluses. As you know, the responsibility has been given by Congress to the Surplus War Property Board which it created for that purpose. The Board in turn has designated certain agencies—the Treasury Department, the R.F.C. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation] and others, to dispose of this property. The War Department is responsible only for the sale of its scrap and surplus property abroad.
The disposal of surplus aircraft is a peculiar problem. It is now being attacked vigorously. Although the strictly combat planes have no commercial value, the War Department will possess on the termination of hostilities by far the largest and best fleet of transport aircraft in the world.
The War Department faces a difficult period during redeployment for the final attack against Japan. Our plans call for conservation and economy to the maximum degree consistent with the most rapid deployment and build-up of a force powerful enough to bring the war to a conclusion at the earliest possible date. Quick success means saving of American lives and the earliest possible return to the ways of peace.
I was sorry not to see you again and I would have liked to meet Mrs. Stoddard. We saw you in church Palm Sunday but did not come in contact with you after the services. Mrs. Marshall has returned to Washington and will soon be busy in opening up our place at Leesburg so I do not expect I will see Pinehurst before next November or December. Should you come to Washington I hope you will give me a call—War Department Branch 2077. Particularly I would like to get ahold of that letter of your son’s. His people are heavily engaged on Cebu, as you doubtless have seen in the press.5
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. Harry G. Stoddard, a business executive in Worcester, Massachusetts, had informally talked with General Marshall at the country club in Pinehurst, North Carolina, on Saturday, March 24. On March 29 Mr. Stoddard amplified and recorded some of the thoughts he had expressed regarding postwar production. “My general thesis is that the Nation’s business is so vast that efforts to cushion the shock of the change from war to peace can at best have but slight effect and such efforts unless very carefully considered may easily retard the ultimate return to normal economic conditions,” wrote Stoddard. “I do not mean there should be no planning but there should be as little artificial regulation as possible and too much must not be expected from it.” He then enumerated four main ideas, to which Marshall responded by editing information in a draft reply prepared by Army Service Forces. (Stoddard to Marshall, March 29, 1945; Marshall to General Somervell, undated, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General]. The draft reply to Stoddard prepared by Army Service Forces is located in NA/RG 165 [OCS, 370.01].)
2. “Industry should be told promptly that it is on it’s own and that it’s war effort does not end until the conversion period is over,” Mr. Stoddard wrote. (Stoddard to Marshall, March 29, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
3. “It is very important that the extent of preferential employment for veterans be clarified and on a practical basis,” wrote Stoddard. “If returning soldiers are led to expect more than seniority protection they will be disillusioned and war workers who have remained on their jobs for patriotic reasons will suffer great injustice.” (Ibid.)
4. “Surplus war supplies should be offered promptly for sale that they may not hang over the market for a long period. Prices should be on a sound economic basis and when not saleable on such a basis surplus should be scrapped and the so-called loss be considered a part of the war cost,” wrote Stoddard. (Ibid.)
5. Mr. Stoddard promptly sent an extract from his son’s letter (written from Leyte) to the chief of staff, who then sent a copy to the editor of the Saturday Evening Post, and it was published in the June ninth issue. His son, Lieutenant Colonel Lincoln W. Stoddard, served in the Americal Division engaged in operations on Cebu, Philippines. (Stoddard to Marshall, April 5 and June 9, 1945; Marshall [staff-drafted] to Ben Hibbs, April 11, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].) For information regarding the Americal Division’s assault on Cebu, see Smith, Triumph in the Philippines, pp. 608-17.
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. 109-112.