1-071 To Major General Edward W. Nichols, October 4, 1915

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 4, 1915

To Major General Edward W. Nichols

October 4, 1915 Fort McKinley, Philippine Islands

My dear General:

Captain E. J. Williams, 13th Infantry, now detailed as a Major of Philippine Scouts, has asked me to write to you regarding the admission of his son James into the 4th Class at the Institute next September. James will then be seventeen years old, and is a boy of excellent habits, fine physique and pleasant personality. His schooling has been carefully supervised by his father with a view to preparing him for the V.M.I. I gave Captain Williams the Institute catalogue about eighteen months ago so that he could look up the entrance requirements. Since then he has had James under a private tutor until last April, when he sent him to Bishop Brent’s fine boys school at Baguio—the summer capitol in the high mountains of Benguet.

James is to be educated as an electrical engineer, for which profession he has a marked talent and fondness. His father hopes to have him go through the V.M.I., and then finish at the Boston “Tech.”

Captain Williams plans to send James back to the States next May, but he hesitates to start him on this long journey without some assurance that there will be no difficulty regarding his being accepted at the Institute. For this reason he has asked me to write to you and explain the circumstances. I am positive that James will be fully prepared to start with the 4th Class at least, and I think he will make a most desirable cadet.

Captain Williams is now stationed about 300 miles south of Manila in Mindinao. He will write to you direct about the matter.

Mrs. Marshall and myself continue to enjoy our tour of foreign service. McKinley is a very gay and attractive post—far more desirable than the Texas border. My duties for some time past have been very agreeable, as aide-de-camp to General Hunter Liggett, the former Director of the War College in Washington. I expect to start for home next April, though the War Department may hold me out here until June or July, when my three years will be up. I applied for an extension of my tour beyond the two year point, but I do not expect to stay until General Liggett goes home in January 1917.

I have been much worried at times for fear I would miss an advance on the City of Mexico, but I may go home at the expiration of my tour and still be in time. General Bell sent me a letter of the Chief of Staff’s last November, agreeing to order me home for duty on General Bell’s staff in case he went into Mexico. This has served to make me feel more at ease over the situation. I see now that Locke has been redetailed on General Bell’s staff. The latter and Mrs. Bell think the world of Locke.1

I did not leave the Islands this year, but Mrs. Marshall went up to Japan for two and a half months, ostensibly for her health and to miss the hot season, but I think she went for clothes. We have a little Ford and ride from twenty to sixty miles almost every evening. The roads out here are wonderfully fine—so much better than the roads in the States—and the scenery is magnificient. The main automobile highways are the “Manila North Road”—165 miles long and ending at Baguio 5000 feet above the sea, and the “Manila South Road”—running south 133 miles to Antimonan on the Pacific side of southern Luzon.

Mrs. Marshall looks very well and I am enjoying good health. I ride horseback an hour or more every morning before breakfast, and usually play several sets of tennis in the afternoon. The golf links run almost under our door steps, but I only play the game at infrequent intervals and then very badly.

The absolute stagnation in promotion in the infantry has caused me to make tentative plans for resigning as soon as business conditions improve somewhat. Even in the event of an increase as a result of legislation next winter, the prospects for advancement in the army are so restricted by law and by the accumulation of large numbers of men of nearly the same age all in a single grade, that I do not feel it right to waste all my best years in the vain struggle against insurmountable obstacles. The temptation to accept an absolutely assured and fairly fat living, with little or no prospect of reasonable advancement, is very great when you consider the difficulties and positive dangers of starting anew in civil life at my age. However, with only one life to live I feel that the acceptance of my presnt secured position would mean that I lacked the back bone and necessary moral courage to do the right thing. All this is, of course, confidential, and I am afraid I am boring you with my personal affairs; but I place such a value on your judgment or opinion that I have written so much of my personal affairs.2

There are two or three V.M.I., men out here now. Captain Peek in the C.A.C., Lieut. Gill, 8th Infantry, Lieut. Falligant, 8th Cavalry and Magruder in the Field Artillery. The last named is a splendid officer, though they are all good men. A young fellow named Speer came out last year as a lieutenant in the 13th Infantry. He was a bad egg, worthless, untrustworthy and undesirable. His resignation was soon forced and I now understand that he has entered the Canadian Army. I was sorry to see him put a blemish on the fine record of all our men—but despite his unfortunate personal misconducts he made an excellent impression as an officer.3

I see that you have Derbyshire and Hodges with you now.4 Hodges and I were in the same class at Leavenworth. He is a very hardworking and bright officer. Please give my regards to both of them and to the members of the faculty who may still remember me.

I remember writing to you from Japan last year, but I believe that was before I crossed over to China and Korea. I made a very interesting trip over the battlefields of the Russian-Japanese war. The Japanese officers in Manchuria treated me royally. I was entertained by General, Baron Fukushima, the Governor of Manchuria, at Port Arthur and by Lieutenant General Akiyama, their greatest cavalry leader, at Liaoyang. Officers were detailed to accompany me every where and they furnished riding horses, carriages, etc. I rode horseback from twenty five to forty miles every day for ten days, and sometimes walked long distances in addition. Starting at Dalney I visited Nanshan, Port Arthur, Tellisu, Liaoyang, the Sha ho, Mukden and the Yalu River. The weather was perfect, the scenery in some places was magnificient, and the Chinese villages far off the railroad were most interesting.

This letter has become entirely too long and contains too many “I’s”, but I trust to your patience. Mrs. Marshall joins me in kindest regards to Mrs. Nichols and yourself.

Sincerely yours,

G. C. Marshall, Jr.

Document Copy Text Source: Alumni File, Virginia Military Institute Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.

1. Captain Morris E. Locke.

2. On May 2, 1939, Colonel Harry H. Pritchett wrote to Marshall congratulating him on his appointment as army chief of staff, and reminding him of “a conversation I had with you back in 1913. We were sitting on a bench beside that old cement tennis court at Fort Wm. McKinley, P.I., waiting for a chance to play, and I had remarked that, judging from the slow rate of promotion, it would take me twenty years to reach the grade of captain. You replied that the prospects were certainly discouraging, and that retirement in the grade of major was about all you could see ahead; also if matters did not improve you might seriously consider resigning upon returning to the United States, as you felt if you worked as hard in civil life as you had tried to do in the Army that better success might lie in that direction." (GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Categorical].)

3. First Lieutenant (Captain, effective July 1, 1916) George M. Peek, of the Coast Artillery Corps, and Second Lieutenant William H. Gill, of the Eighth Infantry, were members of the V.M.I. class of 1907. Second Lieutenant Louis A. Falligant, who was in the Fifteenth Cavalry by the time Marshall wrote, was a member of the V.M.I. class of 1909, but did not graduate. First Lieutenant John Magruder, of the Third Field Artillery, was a graduate of V.M.I. in 1909. Second Lieutenant George A. Speer, Jr., formerly of the Thirteenth Infantry, was a graduate of the V.M.I. class of 1912.

4. Captain George A. Derbyshire (V.M.I., 1899) was assistant professor of German, English, and tactics. Colonel Harry L. Hodges (U.S.M.A., 1902), commandant of cadets and professor of military science and tactics, was on detached service from his duties as first lieutenant in the First Cavalry.

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. 93-96.

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