1-534 To Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Palmer, December 8, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 8, 1938

To Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Palmer1

December 8, 1938 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Palmer:

I received your note of November twenty-third, with the proposal of Hawthorne Daniel regarding the development of the ROTC idea to produce trained Reserve officers.2 The matter was carefully gone over in the related Section of the General Staff, and General Craig replied yesterday, either to you or to Mr. Daniel, I have forgotten which, as to the difficulties in the plot. What he said I concur in, so there is no point to repetition here.

I might add this—the ROTC at present is, I think, the most valuable personnel asset in our National Defense scheme. Also, at present it suffers from lack of funds to a serious extent, which is producing unfavorable comments from college authorities. Here are the facts: We are so short of officers that we cannot give nearly enough to the existing ROTC units, which means that the course of instruction is seriously hampered by the tremendous numbers of boys or men that a single officer has to handle each day.

I will give you some concrete examples. Following the Communistic—anti-ROTC demonstrations at the University of Chicago several years ago, the University of Illinois ROTC swelled the following term from twenty-five hundred to thirty-five hundred boys. Now this was a splendid answer to the University of Chicago demonstration, but we could not give them an additional officer to help instruct this tremendous increase in numbers. As a matter of fact, we have had to cut down the number of officers at the ROTC plants in schools below the college grade. Culver, for instance, has only one Regular officer where it used to have a number; yet it has a large group of splendid young fellows taking intensive military instruction.

Then, there is the limitation of funds which restricts us as to the number of boys we can carry in the Advanced Course. The first year in some colleges is compulsory, in others voluntary, but in all a large group of men. Following that, a drastic selection has to be made, due to lack of funds to carry a larger number through the remaining two years’ schedule of instruction, including the six months’ intensive training camp. A number of costs are involved in this,—the daily ration allowance, the clothing allowance, equipment, more precise instruction which means more instructors, ammunition for target practice—which is a considerable item in Field Artillery units—etc., etc.

Our situation at the present time compels us to refuse to accept any new units, though a large number of schools and colleges wish to create an ROTC department. We simply have not the money.

My particular job includes all budget questions and it is a continuous matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. In one sense, the Army runs on a shoe-string.

General Craig, in his letter, referred to the possible attitude towards a strongly militarized unit such as that suggested by Mr. Daniel. I think this is a serious objection because we are in a continual battle with the people who resent any form of military instruction. In the CCC we are barred from every form of military instruction and have to maintain discipline by what you might call remote control. Until a few months ago the boys in the CCC did not even have to get up, and few of them did get up, when you would come into their barrack or other room to inspect. Now, when an eighteen year old, undeveloped lunk can sit on the small of his back, with his feet on the table, during the inspection of that particular room by a General commanding that district, you can see how far we have to go to avoid antagonizing a large number of people. I might say, very privately, that they didn’t sit on the small of their back around me—but the regulations were quite another affair.

I must ask you not to quote me, but you and Mr. Daniel are interested in a very important matter and I want you to know that your interest is deeply appreciated and will be given every consideration.

Faithfully yours,

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. Palmer was a well-known writer and military correspondent. During the World War he had had staff assignments with the A.E.F. For General Pershing’s opinion of Palmer’s book Newton D. Baker: America at War, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-301 [1: 375-6]).

2. Daniel, managing editor of The Commentator (New York City), a monthly journal of essays on political and social issues, proposed that the War Department erect military dormitories at selected colleges to accommodate a special corps of scholastically and physically qualified college-age men who would enlist in the Regular Army, receive military and scholastic training for four years at army expense, receive Reserve officer’s commissions upon graduation, and be required to maintain that status for ten years. This, he supposed, would in time create a large body of well-trained officers while avoiding the deficiencies of the World War training camp system.

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 664-665.

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