2-150 To Major General Daniel Van Voorhis, April 2, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 2, 1940

To Major General Daniel Van Voorhis

April 2, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Van Voorhis:

I have delayed acknowledging your letter of March 23rd until I had had some time to discuss the various matters you raised with people here on the Staff.

In the first place, the source of the data for the article that appeared in the Army and Navy Journal regarding the modifications in the Panama Canal setup, is unknown to us here. It was not released in the War Department. General Strong feels that the organization you have set up appears to be thoroughly justified. The only question in his mind is whether it may not be necessary ultimately to go still further than was indicated in your letter of February 12th. Your letter was referred to the Chiefs of Arms for remark and recommendation, and is still in process.1

The matter of the permanent allocation of four infantry regiments to Panama is still under study in War Plans Division and I have had several discussions with General Andrews and General Strong on the subject. It is probable that the factors of cost and maintenance in Panama, availability of transportation, and other considerations will play a part in the final decision. I hope we can give you a definite reply very shortly.2

The matter of the cost of quarters is, of course, of great concern, but General Moore tells me that the bids that have just been opened have reduced costs about 25 percent.

The Chief of Air Corps has recommended that there be no change at present in the allocation of aircraft to Panama. After construction and preparation in Puerto Rico is further advanced we may reopen the question and, as you say, the Pacific side is the major consideration.3

Your comments on the South American situation are in accordance with the thought here. The President has just made a decision regarding the payment of missions being held down to the actual necessities.4

I talked over with Gregory the question of the Engineer setup in the Canal towards the construction and I am very glad that Gregory saw you and looked over the conditions there. I think it was a highly profitable trip. I am also relieved that Daley has been over to see you and when you feel disposed I think it would be a good thing for you to go over there and see what he has done.5 My offhand impression is that we are creating a congestion in Panama, in view of the limited terrain available for new garrisons and installations, the climatic difficulties, etc.; also, costs are so much greater there for maintenance than here in the States, or even in Puerto Rico, that where we can make troops quickly available for Panama, we certainly ought to proceed on that basis. Just how we can do this is of course another question. Arnold is flying down on Saturday to talk things over with you and the Air people.

Very confidentially, I found Frank in Hawaii in much the same state of mind as General Dargue in Panama—that is, highly suspicious of the Navy.6 These are two very able men, but they must leave Navy adjustments to me and to the War Department and direct all their energies to straight Army business. Herron is attending to Frank and I hope, in a tactful way when the opportunity casually arises, that you will get this thought over to Dargue. Incidentally, Admiral Stark is trying in every way to play ball with us and we could not ask for more cooperation and more of effort to understand our side of the various questions, so I want these other fellows to stay strictly within their own field and above all not to keep such talk alive.

I had a very interesting trip to Hawaii and now feel that I have a fairly clear point of view as to the relative priority of matters in the United States, Panama, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. I am going up to Alaska the last week in June.

With warm regards to Mrs. Van Voorhis and you,

Faithfully yours,

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. An Army and Navy Journal article on the “Panama Canal Dept. Expansion” (March 16, 1940, p. 643) angered Van Voorhis. It presented details on new antiaircraft, coast artillery, and mobile forces arrangements. Van Voorhis declared that he had “an aversion to publicity” and had “a thorough realization that any action which I might take is subject to change by higher authority.” (Van Voorhis to Marshall, March 23, 1940, GCMRL/G.C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. Van Voorhis wanted a decision on the permanent garrisoning of four Infantry regiments in the Canal Zone because it was a problem that “ties in with that of morale and housing. The lack of quarters to accommodate dependents is a serious one.” Authorization for suitable housing could be made once their duty station became permanent. (Ibid.)

3. General Strong agreed with the Canal Zone commander that Puerto Rico was an outpost for Panama. In light of this strategic thinking, Van Voorhis’s recommendation to maintain the existing disposition of air power in the Caribbean was followed. (Ibid.)

4. Following his March 10-16, 1940, bomber flight to South America, Van Voorhis observed that something “tangible” now had to be done for the Latin American republics. He noted that their poor financial condition taxed their ability to support American military missions which insisted on payment for officers detailed. “I do feel, however, from a defense standpoint that there could be some contribution made which would not place a great burden on our Government.” (Ibid.)

5. Quartermaster General Edmund B. Gregory (U.S.M.A., 1904) had arrived in Panama on March 21, 1940, to discuss construction problems. Van Voorhis contended that the Canal Zone Engineers could not handle the enlarged construction load without increased overhead and the acquisition of new equipment. Also, estimates in Panama ran far ahead of those prepared by the quartermaster general. As a result of conferences with Canal Zone officials, the quartermaster general assumed the burden of Canal Zone Department construction. General Daley of the Puerto Rican Department reviewed the Canal Zone Department’s operations and then staged a briefing for Van Voorhis and his staff on the development of the Puerto Rican command’s defenses. (Ibid.)

6. Brigadier General Walter H. Frank (U.S.M.A., 1910) was commanding general of the Eighteenth Wing, Hickam Field, Hawaii. Brigadier General Herbert A. Dargue (U.S.M.A., 1911) commanded the Nineteenth Wing at Albrook Field in the Canal Zone.

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. 186-188.

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