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To John Osborne
July 18, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
I was interested in your note of the 14th, though I had already seen General Jarman’s letter.1 A number of these cases will come up, and will be corrected.
The point is, there were something over 600 vacancies, and we could not wait until the reports on the past year’s work from the field had passed through the various channels and came up to the War Department. Therefore, we were compelled to make promotions at this time on the basis of ten years’ efficiency records. For that reason, we only advanced 200 line officers, leaving over 400 vacancies to be filled in September, November, and January. In this way the record of the field will enable us to correct the errors in September of the first list, particularly as commanders are instructed to report specific cases where they feel an injustice has been done, with a statement of the circumstances. The November list will be three-quarters based on the work of the past year, and the final list of 150 in January will be entirely based on the work during the emergency.
It is utterly impossible for us to make a theoretically perfect performance, and largely for that reason, together with the opposition of Congress we have never been able to get started in the past—particularly because we have had no good criterion of test as the Navy has had in the Fleet, where everybody is under easy observation. Now with great field forces, we have a chance, even though they are widely scattered.
You have to break eggs to make an omelet, and I am determined to have the omelet. My only concern is that favoritism and propinquity do not do too much harm. It is very difficult to have the officer on the ground act in a cold-blooded impersonal manner regarding his immediate subordinates. He approves promotion by selection, but he is often weak in giving it a proper application to those with whom he is daily associated.
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. Osborne, the associate editor of Time magazine, had written to Marshall that an unnamed army friend had informed him that “the recent selections for colonelcies created a very curious and disturbing situation in the Panama Coast Artillery Command,” which he suggested that Marshall investigate. He noted that Major General Sanderford Jarman (U.S.M.A., 1908), commander of the Panama Coast Artillery brigade but not the informant, had detailed the situation in a letter to Major General Joseph A. Green, chief of Coast Artillery. Osborne emphasized, “no one in the Army acted indiscreetly or unethically in telling me about this matter. . . . I do feel that `the good of the Army’ is involved in this case. It will never be referred to in TIME, I can assure you.” (Osborne to Marshall, July 14, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) The editors have not found Jarman’s letter to Green.
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), p. 571.