2-095 To Major General Ewing E. Booth, December 29, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 29, 1939

To Major General Ewing E. Booth1

December 29, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Booth:

I have received your letter, check for $5, the box of manuscript, and all have been turned over to The Adjutant General for the customary War Department check.

I endeavored during the Christmas week-end to find a chance to go over what you have written, and while I was not able to read through the manuscript, I did read the major opinions of it and glanced through the remainder.

I hesitate seriously to make any comments on the manuscript of an Army officer for proposed publication. In the first place I am an amateur and in the second place he is an amateur in the writing business. In the third, and most important place, I generally find that I have hurt feelings or offended.

To be perfectly frank with regard to your manuscript: I was amazed at the complete outline of events it records, at the delightful sense of humor you display in places, and at the clever technique you showed in hitching together in such a smooth fashion so much detail of events along with discussions of the rights and wrongs of things.

That portion of the manuscript that refers to your boyhood is a little classic, charming to read, and very impressive as to the conclusions drawn from the character of your early experiences. I was much struck with the fact that the reaction to your call of thanks as a young man in Pueblo had an almost exact counterpart in the life of General Charles G. Dawes, particularly as to the result. This portion of the proposed book is a “best seller.”

Now, as to the purely military portion: I was tremendously interested in what you had to say, naturally because of my knowledge of many of the events, and particularly because of my relationship with General Bell and with you. I believe in every criticism you made, and was most strenuously involved in trying to correct some of them when I joined the GHQ staff in May 1919. If you recall, I had a telephone war with you over the handling of units and individuals at LeMans and Brest, and you brought about a cure of the unfortunate situation I was reporting by having the LeMans officials meet with the Brest officials in a sort of Runnymede island half way between the two points. Whether all of this will be interesting to the ordinary reader, I cannot form an opinion. My guess is, and it is purely a guess, that it will not intrigue the attention sufficiently to bring about a reasonable sale of the book. What you have written will be read by the senior survivors in the Regular Army, of the AEF, and with the greatest interest; but I doubt whether it will make a general appeal to the military reader. I may be all wrong about this, and it is quite probable that I am, but I am giving you the benefit of my honest reaction.

The only point of your account that I was a little dubious about, that is as to its propriety, was the discussion of the method of command by Generals, which occurred at Langres. I gathered that you were referring to General McAndrew, and it is hard for me to believe that he was proposing such an unfortunate technique for troop leadership of Americans.2 I know that we suffered too much from that sort of business.

I have had to handle this very hurriedly, and I submit the foregoing with many apologies and with most sincere congratulations on the remarkably fine job you have done. I knew you were conscientious, and tenacious in carrying out your duty as you saw it, to a degree that few men approximate, but I did not realize that you had concealed within you so much of literary ability.3

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Booth had known Marshall since 1906 when the former was an instructor at Fort Leavenworth. Booth also served as aide-de-camp to Major General J. Franklin Bell from 1912 to 1915; Marshall assumed that position in July 1916. As commander of the Fourth Division’s Eighth Brigade in the offensives of 1918, Booth continued his association with his former student.

2. Major General James W. McAndrew had established and was the first commandant of the A.E.F. General Staff School at Langres, France. (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-170 [1: 195-97], and #1-293 [1: 360-61].) Booth replied: “As soon as the manuscript is returned to me I shall eliminate at once this particular feature. Not for anything would I have anyone think I was referring to General McAndrew.” (Booth to Marshall, January 2, 1940, GCMRL/ G.C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)

3. “I would like to publish at least enough copies to present one with my compliments to each of my friends and associates in the Army,” Booth wrote to Marshall. (Ibid.) The Adjutant General’s Office returned the manuscript in early February 1940. Booth had his autobiography privately printed as My Observations and Experiences in the United States Army (Los Angeles: n.p., 1944).

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. 127-129.

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