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To Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis
May 17, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Van Voorhis:
I have nothing particular on my mind to write to you about, but I do not want you to feel that “out of sight is out of mind.” Things move so rapidly up here that we are inclined to lose the picture in the overseas garrisons.
The other day I held back some Flying Fortresses that were scheduled to be included in the recent flight of twenty-one to Hawaii. I did this because of the increasing seriousness of the situation in the Atlantic theater, and also because we would have had no more of this type, the most modern B-17, available in this country for crew training purposes. Yesterday I told Arnold to arrange to send a squadron of nine Flying Fortresses to Panama so that Andrews could manage the necessary crew training down there and would have available in emergency this powerful ship. We will not send down the latest model at this time, as there are only fourteen in continental United States, and further deliveries will not start until July or August. However, considering the training phase and the possible situation in the Caribbean theater, the planes being sent to you should be satisfactory.
The GHQ Air Force is getting its air defense arrangements pretty well organized. Chaney, after eight months of study and development here, including participation in an Army maneuver and following about two months in England, developed a highly effective system of air defense—meaning coordination between pursuit and anti-aircraft, communications, and warning service. The matter is now being standardized in the United States, and as early as possible we want to get the same set-up in Hawaii, Panama, and Puerto Rico and other overseas garrisons.
I had hoped to get down to Panama the latter part of April but was held here by compelling circumstances. Last week daily I was on the verge of getting off to Alaska, within an hour of departure on one day, and I am still here. De Witt is now going through the Aleutians and I was supposed to have been with him.
Most confidentially, I have disturbing reports regarding Trott’s administration of the Fifth Corps Area, and I am sending General Moore out to look things over next week. Whether or not it will require an immediate change or not, I do not know, but I fear so. However, if the situation does not require immediate action, would you care to finish out your active period, after Panama, in command of that Corps Area? Please be very frank in telling me just what your reaction is. I just happened to think of this in relation to your home being in that vicinity. It would not be the policy to give you an Army command up here. In the first place, there would not be a vacancy; in the second place, your remaining period of service is too short, with the immensely complicated task that Army commanders now have.1
Should you be interested in this phase of the matter and want to curtail somewhat your period in Panama, I would be willing to consider such a change as early as October, but I would not want to do it before that time. Let me know what you think of it.
I know you have a very strenuous job, particularly as you get into the development of the Caribbean command and these new garrisons that are now being established. However, you are spared the daily repercussions of democracy that take up more than 25% of our time, the investigations which keep me hours and hours on the stand two or three times a week sometimes, and the conferences here and conferences there of vital moment, along with the ordinary routine of business of the Chief of Staff in the development of a war army. If I had a mine planter at my disposal and the opportunity to go fishing, I would be quite happy.
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. Van Voorhis responded: “Of course, the curtailing of my tour would start tongues to wagging. I would therefore request that, if my services are desired in October, you indicate the situation to include a statement as to why an Army assignment is not advisable and in such a way as to make it an open letter.” (Van Voorhis to Marshall, May 24, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Van Voorhis assumed command of the Fifth Corps Area on October 1, 1941.
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. 513-514.