2-240 To John C. O’Laughlin, August 8, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 8, 1940

To John C. O’Laughlin

August 8, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Cal:

I am sending you confidentially a detailed report on the matter of the Davison Antiaircraft gun and the treatment of Mr. Spear, which you brought to my attention the other day. I would like you to glance through this and then talk to me about it the next time you are down in the Munitions Building.1

This is the only specific case you mentioned; therefore it is the only one I could follow through. For the past six or eight months, I have had run down each instance that has come to my attention of a cold or routine front on the part of sub-divisions of the War Department in meeting outside contacts, whether for contracts, inventions, or any other idea or proposal. I have several times followed through on matters brought up in connection with invidious comparisons as to our method of doing business with that of the Navy’s. In practically every instance I have found that the conditions are utterly different and the Army problem many times more complicated and difficult to crystallize or bring to a head.

As you probably know from your long experience, an appreciable percentage of disappointed customers resort to many unfair measures to embarrass the section of the War Department concerned. We had glaring examples of this in connection with construction in Panama, and I found it necessary to defend officers who were being destroyed in the mind of the Secretary of War by agents or representatives of firms who did not get the business they wanted. The War Department is by no means perfect in personnel, and there is always the necessity for guarding against the bureaucratic self-satisfied state of mind. However, I find very few traces of it in the present staff, and I have had the Inspector General, not once, but a number of times in the past four months personally search through the Department for evidences of just such conditions.

Faithfully yours,

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. O’Laughlin, who was the publisher of the Army and Navy Journal, returned the report, but it is not in the Marshall papers. He wrote to Lawrence Y. Spear, president of the Electric Boat Company, to tell him some of the army’s objections to the Davison gun, all of which, Spear replied, were “just a rehash of the old Ordnance alibis.” (O’Laughlin to Spear, August 9, 1940, LC/J. C. O’Laughlin Papers; Spear to O’Laughlin, August 12, 1940, ibid.) See Memorandum for the Chief of Ordnance, July 26, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-232 [2: 277-78].

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. 287-288.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 2-240

Rights: Public Information