ONLINE CATALOG SEARCH
To Lieutenant General Walter Krueger
October 11, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
I have just received a communication initiated by General Gerhardt after a consultation with me, regarding the possible promotion of Colonel Harry H. Johnson, 112th Cavalry, to the grade of Brigadier General.1 I have noted your comments and those of McNair which support your recommendations.
There are two phases to this matter. One is that it was not the intention to remove General Gerhardt from the command of this brigade for some time to come, probably three or four months. I had in mind if it was found advisable to promote Colonel Johnson, to attach him to the First Cavalry Division where his tutelage in the job would be carried on during the period General Gerhardt was getting the Texas brigade in good shape. General McNair makes the point that “it is believed that all troop units, including the National Guard in federal service, are entitled to the best leadership obtainable.”
This is certainly correct in principle, but its practical application is a very difficult matter, both in the National Guard and the Regular Army. It is of great importance that we be supported in our present procedure to improve leadership. Therefore, wherever an opportunity presents itself to take action that will disprove accusations that we, the Regular Army authorities, are prejudiced and unfair to the citizen-soldier, it is most helpful to do so.
A heavy pressure has developed against me and the Secretary of War from the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee (now handling neutrality legislation) and from the Texas Representatives regarding the relief of General Birkhead, the manner of notifying Birkhead and the specific rumors that other drastic reliefs are being applied to Texas officials.2 The same reaction is developing from other parts of the country. This was to be expected, but it is very helpful if it happens to lie within our power to do something of the nature I have described. The possible promoting of Colonel Johnson seemed to be such an opportunity.
I assume that he cannot be a Gerhardt or a Harry Chamberlin.3 As a matter of fact, I know that there are Regular Cavalry Generals who do not approach that standard, but I thought that if he had the qualifications Gerhardt described, it offered a very favorable occasion to nullify the present reactions against the War Department.
I want you to treat this letter as for your eye alone, and I would like you to write me very frankly on the subject.4
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. Brigadier General Charles H. Gerhardt (U.S.M.A., April 1917) had been appointed commanding general, Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division, in mid-July 1941. Johnson had risen through the ranks of the Texas National Guard to command the Dallas-based 112th Cavalry Regiment in September 1941.
2. Major General Claude V. Birkhead, a lawyer who had commanded the Texas National Guard’s Thirty-sixth Division since 1936, was relieved of his command in mid-September and replaced by Brigadier General Fred L. Walker of the Regular Army. At the same time, Brigadier General Walter B. Pyron, commanding general of the Fifty-sixth Cavalry Brigade—of which Johnson’s 112th Cavalry was a part—was relieved of command. Secretary of War Stimson recorded in his diary that on the morning of September 15, “Senator Tom Connally of Texas, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, bounded in with his hair standing up on end, full of anger and resentment because two Texas Generals of the National Guard had been retired and sent back from active duty. This was the first brick from the working of the purge and it came very quickly. Connally is an old friend of mine and I made him sit down and cool off and then we talked to him about it but he professes to be perfectly implacable on it and has got to have satisfaction.” The secretary called the chief of staff, who convinced Stimson that the reliefs were unavoidable. (September 15, 1941, Yale/H. L Stimson Papers [Diary, 35: 66-67].)
3. Brigadier General Harry D. Chamberlin (U.S.M.A., 1910) had preceded Gerhardt as commanding general of the Second Cavalry Regiment. At this time he was commanding the Cavalry Replacement Training center at Fort Riley, Kansas, but within the month he was to be given the Fourth Brigade of the Second Cavalry Division.
4. Krueger replied that he was impressed with Johnson’s abilities and accomplishments. “I shall keep my eye on his performance and if he proves his capacity, and I am reasonably sure that he will, l shall be glad to recommend him for promotion, say on or about December 1st. (Krueger to Marshall, October 20, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) See Marshall to Krueger, October 30, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-585 [2: 655-57].
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. 636-638.