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To Harry S. Truman
April 22, 1943 Washington, D.C.
My dear Senator Truman:
The recent unfavorable publicity regarding Colonel Darryl F. Zanuck’s military rank and activities has been a matter of concern to me as I personally had given him several jobs to carry out.
Before our entry into the war I found Colonel Zanuck on an inactive duty status assisting the Signal Corps in the preparation of training films. I am deeply interested in this activity because it presents a method for greatly improving Army instruction. I felt that with the finest talent of the movie industry at our disposal during the emergency there was presented to the War Department a rare opportunity to facilitate and expedite training, as well as to develop a technique which would be invaluable to the Army in the future.
After numerous conferences Colonel Zanuck carried out an inspection trip for me for the purpose of determining what there was of Army instruction that might be handled by movie technique, also how well adapted our current training films were to the circumstances of our military requirements. He made a valuable report which resulted in the correction of a number of deficiencies, and pointed the way to material improvements.
I later took up with him other questions concerning the employment of the movie industry to the advantage of our military program both in training and in active operations. I personally discussed with him the unit which was sent to the United Kingdom under his command to accompany General Eisenhower’s expedition into North Africa.
Following the publicity regarding alleged irregularities in connection with the production of training films, etc., General Moses, the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 of the Army1 was directed to make a personal investigation of the conditions under which the various films were prepared. On his return from Hollywood he reported to me that he found nothing on the side of Colonel Zanuck and his associates that would indicate an improper motive; that on the contrary, whatever action they took that might possibly be assailed for some reason as to procedure was purely in the effort to get things done without undue delay and complications—with which motive I am in full accord as it represents my own state of mind in this present emergency.
General Moses tells me that whatever there has been of questionable procedure was of comparatively little consequence and was probably due to a lack of sufficient supervision by the War Department interests concerned and that this in turn is explained by the high pressure and conditions of rapid expansion under which everything was moving at the time.
I am writing this letter because Colonel Zanuck carried out missions at my personal request, with the motive, I am confident, of assisting the War Department in facilitating our preparation for war. I have not seen nor heard from Colonel Zanuck directly or indirectly since this unfortunate publicity developed.2
G. C. Marshall
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter signed.
1. Brigadier General Raymond G. Moses (U.S.M.A., 1916) had been assistant chief of staff, G-4, since March 1942.
2. Truman had questioned Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson on the propriety of granting a commission as lieutenant colonel to Zanuck, former vice-president of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Patterson had appeared before Senator Truman’s committee to explain the reorganization of the Signal Corps pictorial division and discuss the commissioning of movie industry personnel. Patterson agreed that it had been “improper” for the army to allow Zanuck to continue drawing his salary as a Fox executive “for a short time” after he went on active duty; however, the under secretary defended Zanuck by stating that he had been commended by the chief signal officer for his “courage, energy, patriotism, and accomplishment.” Patterson further stated, “I do not believe he is subject to any personal criticism.” When Truman asked why Zanuck was commissioned when war correspondents were not, Patterson replied, “Colonel Zanuck was nearer the front than war correspondents usually get.” (New York Times, April 4, 1943, pp. 1, 22.)
Zanuck wrote an editorial defending the usefulness and accuracy of his “At the Front in North Africa” in which he insisted that the production was not propaganda but rather a news story. “We photographed what we saw and only what we saw,” wrote Zanuck. “There are no deliberately staged, rehearsed, re-enacted, or posed battle scenes.” (New York Times, April 25, 1943, VII, pp. 2, 18.)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 659-660.