2-059 To Major General David L. Stone, October 3, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 3, 1939

To Major General David L. Stone

October 3, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Stone:

I have had several notes and letters from you lately, but this is to acknowledge specifically your letter of September 19th, which was read by the Secretary of War.1 I am very glad to learn how smoothly the transfer of authority in the Zone has been carried out,2 and of the progress you are making in developing the construction program.

With reference to the latter: I talked to Colonel Danielson3 just prior to his departure for Panama and suggested to him the great desirability of getting you to designate some engineer officer to maintain close liaison between the two of you. He was to do this apparently on his own initiative, but I am telling you confidentially that it is my suggestion. I told him that I think it highly desirable not only to make some such arrangement to facilitate and expedite business, but with a view to the possible re-enforcement of his office with two or three expert engineer officers to assist him in handling matters in such a way that the present centralization of control in the Quartermaster General’s office would be rendered largely unnecessary.

I am telling you this most confidentially, because my motive is not quite that implied in my conversation with Colonel Danielson. I am greatly concerned by the lack of highly trained officers in the Construction Division of the Quartermaster’s Department, and that Division is supersensitive on the subject and very fearful of engineer interference. They need assistance from the Engineer Corps terribly, and I was hopeful that by the method I chose on the spur of the moment in talking to Danielson we might realize that advantage in Panama. The Secretary of War has made the decision to have the work in Panama done upon a cost-plus-a-fixed-fee basis. Even under this plan careful supervision by the Government is essential. Colonel Danielson will need expert officers for this purpose.4

I should be leaving Hawaii this morning on the China clipper for San Francisco. I had a reservation on the plane and was supposed to have left San Francisco on September 27th with General Arnold. However, affairs here made me cancel the arrangement. My further plan had been to go to Panama in December; whether or not this can be carried out, I do not know, but I feel it is important that I should make the trip. I would probably fly down.

With warm regards,

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. Stone had written that operations were running smoothly in the Panama Canal Zone, that construction was under way for temporary quarters, and that he was encouraged at the prospects of building an army hospital in the Pacific Sector. “In accordance with the War Department’s instructions, I have assumed command of the Panama Canal with all of its appurtenances, et cetera. In doing this I am taking full advantage of all the organizations that now exist, and have informed Governor Ridley that the planning and administrative affairs of the Canal will, so far as practicable, continue as heretofore under his direction. All matters of importance affecting neutrality and the safety and operation of the Canal will be submitted to me for decision. I keep in close touch with the operations of the Canal, especially those concerned with safeguarding of the locks, such as inspection of ships with cargoes of high explosives desiring to transit the Canal, and other matters of this nature.

“The Navy is with us 100% and I have a meeting each Friday morning, and oftener when necessary, with Governor Ridley and the two Admirals and their staffs, and talk over all questions and problems that we all may have in mind. . . . The construction of temporary quarters for the 18th Infantry Brigade and for increase in antiaircraft and Air Corps personnel is going along rapidly.” (Stone to Marshall, September 19, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

2. President Roosevelt’s September 5, 1939, Executive Order 8232 specified that “the Officer of the Army commanding the United States Troops stationed in the Canal Zone shall, until otherwise ordered, assume and have exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the operation of the Panama Canal and all its adjuncts, appendants, and appurtenances, including the entire control and government of the Canal Zone; and, while this order is in force, the Governor of the Panama Canal shall, in all respects and particulars as to the operation of the Panama Canal and all duties, matters and transactions affecting the Canal Zone, be subject to the order and direction of the Officer of the Army herein designated.”

3. Colonel Wilmot A. Danielson was stationed with the Quartermaster Corps at the Panama Canal Department Headquarters.

4. Stone replied: “I am afraid the Construction Division of the Quartermaster General’s Office will never change. The old civil service engineers and architects have been there a long time and have their way of doing things. They believe in strong centralization of everything in that office and are not very susceptible to changes and progress in the construction world.” He concluded: “I believe that the best solution of all is to give the Department Commander control of all construction work here, under the supervision of the War Department. This seems to me a logical and businesslike way to handle the matter and the Department Commander would then be in a position to take such measures as might be necessary and helpful.” (Stone to Marshall, October 11, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

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. 69-71.

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