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To Lieutenant General Charles E. Kilbourne
September 8, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
We are getting into a very difficult situation with regard to the ROTC. Under the present officer candidate system we are being rather successful in producing a fine group of men quite well trained and in very large numbers. I think the total number of candidates to be tried out this year is 90,000 of whom about 70,000 are to be commissioned. At the same time we are in difficulties over providing the necessary assistance for ROTC units.1
I wish you would give me your views. Of course there are a few institutions like the V.M.I. which stand rather apart in their specialized field. However it is a little difficult to determine just which institutions should be given special treatment, if any. I would appreciate your views.2
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. For several years, and especially since the Pearl Harbor attack, the War Department had been under pressure from colleges and universities, members of Congress, and individuals to expand the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. The army needed the new officers the program produced, but the War Department was reluctant to divert experienced officers, funds, and equipment to support it. During the summer of 1942 the General Staff had debated increasing the program; the training division (G-3) favored it, but personnel (G-1) was opposed. (Brigadier General Idwal H. Edwards Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, June 23, 1942, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 326].) Another factor in this debate was the role of the Officer Candidate School system, which had expanded rapidly since early 1942; in mid-summer the War Department had announced that the system produced about ten thousand new lieutenants every two weeks. (New York Times, August 7, 1942, p. 18.)
2. Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Kilbourne replied that he hoped that the situation did not call for R.O.T.C. to be discontinued, as this would be particularly hard on the military colleges, which he believed were superior to regular colleges in their preparation of men for leadership roles. “It would mean that the demand for partially trained and partially educated officers now is greater than the estimated need for more thoroughly trained officers will be next year and year after next. I say I hope not. But if the situation is such that by using our best right now we can deliver a knock out blow—or have even a chance to do it—I’d say go ahead.” But as to which schools should receive special treatment regarding their R.O.T.C. programs, Kilbourne said his knowledge was too limited to the military colleges and a few others to allow him to comment in detail. (Kilbourne to Marshall, September 12, 1942, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
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. 348-349.