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To Major General Ewing E. Booth
December 21, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
I have just received your letter of December 18th, with the attached clipping, and appreciate very much your writing.1 I am afraid the state of public confusion will continue so long as the situation in this country is critical and newspaper men make a living by filling up the news columns. As quickly as we scotch one line of approach, another one develops; and I believe this is going to continue during the present period of complete freedom for investigation and for publication.
There are many fine reporters and writers doing an excellent job these days, but there are also others who respond to the public desire for excitement, and indifference to ordinary statements of fact. Also, there are naturally some people who speak with an ulterior motive in their minds. But these are all natural reactions in a democracy, and despite the present situation I think we have gotten along pretty well.
With my affectionate Christmas greetings to Mrs. Booth and you,
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 retired from the army in February 1934 and was living in Los Angeles, California. He had written to praise Marshall’s handling of his difficult job and had enclosed a short Associated Press newspaper story which quoted (with minor changes) the following excerpt from Marshall’s December 17 remarks at the National Aeronautic Association dinner. “Today we are in many ways at the critical point in a great transition from a condition of more or less complete unpreparedness to one of tremendous military power. We are confused by statistics and by unrestrained and public debates over each difficulty or delay. Every move that we make is subjected to the closest scrutiny, and every error, real or imaginary, is pounced upon and exploited to the world. This welter of conflicting information has so confused the public mind that few realize either how much has been done, or how much remains to be done.” (Speech at the National Aeronautic Association Dinner, December 17, 1940, GCM RL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Speeches].)
Marshall was “absolutely correct,” Booth observed, in saying that the public was confused. Since May, Booth had given “hundreds of public talks” trying to explain “what is being done and why.” Most people, he found, strongly supported preparedness and understood that delays were inevitable, “but due to pessimistic published statements and critical comments many well read people wonder if a proper start has been made in the procurement of fighting equipment” (Booth to Marshall, December 18, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
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. 371-372.