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To Major General Charles E. Kilbourne1
December 19, 1938 [Washington, D.C.]
I have just read your letter of December seventeenth, and I am disturbed by the fact that you were disturbed over my suggesting the possibility that a temporary shift from a VMI graduate to a West Pointer might be a good thing. Please forget it. Bull knew nothing of my writing you and had no thought whatever regarding VMI; I merely thought that he was so far above almost anyone I know that, when I was reminded of the coming vacancy by the appearance of Burress, my mind immediately turned to Bull.2
I might say that it has been in my mind for some time that it would be a good thing at West Point to have a VMI superintendent. However, they never offered it to me, and I imagine it would be “rather disturbing”, as you wrote, for them to consider such a possibility. But aside from the personal angle, I think it would be a damn good thing. Somewhat the same line of reasoning prompted my suggestion regarding Bull and you.
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. General Kilbourne had been superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute since October 1, 1937.
2. Major Withers A. Burress (V.M.I., 1914), the commandant of cadets at V.M.I since 1935, visited Marshall on December 14, and said that he would probably be relieved soon. Marshall wrote to Kilbourne to recommend Colonel Harold R. Bull as a possible replacement for Burress: “I picked him out at Benning years ago . . . as one of the two men I would reach for to be my Chief of Staff in case I landed with the high command. . . . I realize he is a West Pointer and not a VMI graduate, but I think an occasional change would be a good thing, and he would be perfect for such purpose.“ (Marshall to Kilbourne, December 15, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Kilbourne responded: “My own feeling is that it is far better to have a V.M.I. graduate if one of the proper characteristics is available. . . . Your feeling that a shift from a V.M.I. graduate to a West Pointer occasionally would be a good thing is rather disturbing because I have such confidence in your judgment. (Kilbourne to Marshall, December 17, 1938, ibid.)
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. 679-680.