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To Harry H. Woodring
October 8, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Woodring:
I have just received your note of October 6th, and appreciate what you have to say, and particularly learning something of what you are doing. I will show Mrs. Marshall your paragraph of advice regarding some restraint in my activities.1 Unfortunately, the shoe is really on the other foot, she is the one who is over-doing, and I am constantly worried about my inability to restrain her from doing what she feels she must do, but what is beyond her strength. However she is in reasonably good health at the present time.
I follow a very rigid schedule, and so far have been able to get along without developing a nervous tendency to lose my temper, though I am frequently on the verge of doing so.
I ride at six, for about eight miles; get to the office about 7:45, and go home for lunch—a seven-minute trip; get away from work between five and five-thirty; and we practically never go out in the evening. I think we have been to two dinners in the last two months.
I do not let the telephone reach me unless it is a call from the White House or the Secretary, and I do not allow anyone else to intrude on our evenings, because inevitably they talk shop. Mrs. Marshall and I frequently go canoeing on the Potomac, where I get in about an hour of good paddling up-stream, then we drift back, eat our supper and get home about 9:30. Or we go to a pleasant movie theatre in one of the small communities beyond Fort Myer where we are unknown and there are always vacant seats and a place to park your car. Or we stay home and read. This phase of our existence is rather hard and restrictive on Mrs. Marshall, but I find it essential to my own activities and unless I get to bed early, generally about nine o’clock, I am mentally too slow on the following day to focus on the wide variety of problems that reach me every hour. Even with your long experience here I do not believe you can visualize the complexities of affairs at the present time.
I got to the maneuvers in Louisiana twice and each time was called back to Washington. They were really a great success and to me very impressive. Covering almost an entire State with practically no areas barred to the troops, and involving some 450,000 men and 600 planes, the war picture was very realistic. Apparently we have mastered the technique of supply, of providing replacements in the field, of evacuating the sick, prisoners, etc., and of handling large organizations with facility. The deficiencies were in the basic training of small units in the National Guard and in weaknesses in leadership. Both of these are in process of being corrected and present no unsurmountable difficulties.
I am happy to know that Mrs. Woodring is now fully herself again. We were all very much worried about her condition.2
With warm regards to you both,
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. The former secretary of war had written that work on his farm near Topeka, Kansas, was keeping him “busy as a Chief of Staff.” He warned Marshall not to permit even the unexcelled services of an almost providential selected Chief of Staff to go beyond a point where no strong, healthy patriot can afford to give. Remember there will be another war in a decade or so and you want to leave this one after your supreme command so that you may enjoy a peaceful, happy retirement on a little country estate on the Potomac or down in the old Dominion state. I saw one Chief of Staff let the mental strain of work and worry almost wreck him physically.” (Woodring to Marshall, October 6, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. General and Mrs. Marshall had sent a telegram to Helen Woodring during her recent stay in the hospital.
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), pp. 633-634.