1-385 To Major Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr., September 19, 1935

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: September 19, 1935

To Major Benjamin F. Caffey, Jr.

September 19, 1935 [Chicago, Illinois]

Dear Caffey:

Your letter of September 3rd was forwarded to me at Fire Island, New York, and I delayed replying until my return from leave this morning, knowing that you were absent yourself in the West.

I hardly know what advice to give you about the handling of a split staff such as yours. The staff of the 33d Division is almost entirely located in Chicago, which facilitates training.1

My problem has been to create a staff team rather than a lot of individuals well up on extension course work or on other problems. Also, I have been struggling with the proposition of overcoming, as it were, the effect of the character of problems given in Leavenworth which dealt with war strength organizations of well trained men, and on a basis not well adapted to the situations common to the first month of the campaign. I have stuck largely to geological survey maps; taking situations similar to those that occurred in the New Jersey CPX with this division; had them work out each detail of their time, the time element being the most important phase of the matter. This has meant teaching them how to do business in a fragmentary fashion; to do the vital things omitting the trimmings; to do everything in the manner that would be necessary in handling the partially trained men and officers they will have to deal with in the beginning of a campaign.

It took me almost a year to lead them to an understanding of what their problem would be at the beginning of a war. All of them could draft extensive type of orders with numerous annexes; none of them could handle situations which had to be treated instantly. I took the New Jersey situation of this division as it arrived there, and placed it on a geological survey map here. We worked it out first as a map problem, later carried it on as a war game—which consisted of a two-sided CPX indoors, 22 command posts set up in one armory. Then this summer on the last day of camp, while they were packing up their tenting, etc., I took them all 18 miles to the site of the war game and worked it out as terrain exercises on the ground. This proved the most profitable part of the whole business, and a splendid lesson in map reading.

The staff of the division is a very good team and they understand pretty well exactly how to handle things during the perspective hurly burly of the first few weeks of a campaign. They all know how fast they must work, how brief the orders must be, how careful the checks and supervision must be, to make things work within the brief time usually available.

I have “ding-donged” on this one situation, which involved detrainment by detachments and being rushed into action until they have a pretty fair understanding of the technique required, and the mishaps to be avoided.

If I can find it I will send you the number of the National Guard magazine which outlined something of the procedure.

This is not a very satisfactory letter, but it will give you some idea of what I have been doing. Now that you are so close, we will be able to see something of each other again.

Give my best regards to Mrs. Caffey and believe me always

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Illinois National Guard, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Caffey, who had recently been detailed as the instructor for the headquarters of the Thirty-fourth Division (National Guard) at Council Bluffs, Iowa, wrote on September 3 to ask Marshall’s “ideas on the scope of instruction for your division, the methods of instruction, etc. What type and kind of instruction do you give your division headquarters company? As a matter of fact, I will be pleased to get any or all information which you think may help me.” He was, he observed, “a wanderer in a strange land.” (Caffey to Marshall, September 3, 1935, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Illinois National Guard].)

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. 472-473.

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