2-245 To Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis, August 22, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 22, 1940

To Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis1

August 22, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Van Voorhis:

I was glad to receive your detailed letter of August 15.2 I had been hoping you would write and tell me how things were going.

The reactions you got from the Navy are very interesting to me. Most confidentially, I am enclosing two papers, one a memorandum of mine to Admiral Stark and the other a letter of Admiral Stark to his people on the Canal Zone.3 I am going to ask you not to show these to anybody. I am sending them merely to show you that your troubles of that incident in the long run would be profitable. But they have produced a decided result, and I hope shortly to have a definite decision on the question of command, establishing you clearly as the actual commander of all forces in that region.

In connection with this, we are now in the business of determining a further extension of your command influence, against the possibility of operations in the Caribbean area. I think it will be necessary to give you a definite leadership in the development of plans down there so that you may control reconnaissance recommendations and studies both of your people and those in Puerto Rico. As soon as our basic Caribbean plans are further developed, particularly from the viewpoint of logistics, I think such operations as are applicable to you will be sent to you in order that all the reconnaissance and detailed plans can be developed by officers who have visited the actual localities concerned. I am sending you this ahead of decisions and before I have seen the recommendations of the War Plans Division. So do not advertise it to your staff.

We are very busy here, a little busier every day; but the decentralization I have gradually been accomplishing, first the sub-division of matters between the two Deputies, and now the decentralization of all unit training to General McNair ensconced at the Headquarters of the GHQ at the Army War College should greatly simplify my problem. If I can do it, I am going to organize myself out of a job.4

With warm regards to Mrs. Van Voorhis and my congratulations to you,

Faithfully yours,

P.S. There is a further confidential comment regarding your recent difficulty with the Navy contingent. I might tell you that I used that situation in the abstract to force immediate action by the Military Committee of the House. Without that I probably still would be laboring to get action. Stone’s amendment to the bill delayed it at least four months.5

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 had been promoted to lieutenant general on July 31.

2. The letter from the commander of the Panama Canal Department is not in the Marshall papers.

3. Marshall enclosed a copy of his July 8 Memorandum for Admiral Stark (the gist of which is printed as Memorandum for General Strong, July 3, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-213 [2: 259]) and a copy of Stark’s letter to the commandant of the Fifteenth Naval District in Balboa, Canal Zone. Stark observed in his letter that the army wished the navy to have command in the Alaska area, including command over the army units there. “I mention this just to show how thoroughly Army is playing the game here with us and in fact I think it not an over-statement to say that here in the Department cooperation was never closer, if as close, as it is now. If we had any worry in this connection it would be that the Army some time this Fall will move to another building where we can not be at each other’s elbow’s for our constant work together on our problems.

“These recent studies led me to inquire into the situation at the Canal where I find command is vested in the Army for the responsibility of joint defense and this seems to me correct. I hope that there is complete pull-together down there so far as we are concerned. Of course in the last analysis we have to take orders from them whether we like it or not, just as we have to do in our own service at times from the top authority. I trust, however, that the spirit of cooperation and absolute loyalty as well as our knowledge of their primary responsibility will result in a happy and efficient team, so far as is possible with the tools at hand. I trust your gang all thoroughly understand this and if not, that you will give it your personal attention to insure it.” (Stark to Rear Admiral Frank H. Sadler, July 29, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

4. A second deputy chief of staff position had been created effective July 22. (See note 1, Memorandum for General Moore, August 9, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-241 [2: 288-9].) The nucleus of General Headquarters had been activated July 26 with Brigadier General Lesley J. McNair as its chief of staff. (For the background of this organization and a discussion of its role and duties, see Kent Roberts Greenfield, Robert R. Palmer, and Bell I. Wiley, The Organization of Ground Combat Troops, a volume in the United States Army in World War II [Washington: GPO, 1947], pp. 1-15)

5. See note 2, Marshall to Van Voorhis, July 3, 1940, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-212 [2: 258].

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. 293-294.

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