1-349 To Major General Fox Conner, May 12, 1934

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 12, 1934

To Major General Fox Conner

May 12, 1934 [Chicago, Illinois]

Dear General:

I have hesitated to send you my suggestions regarding Chapter Headings and other ideas for your book, because up to the present time I have not come to any satisfactory conclusion. However, I have decided to send on to you my first outline as a basis for any discussion you care to have with me on the subject. It is a little hard to make clear my tentative idea without rather copious notes under each heading, but I will endeavor to indicate what I first had in mind, by a few brief hints:

I—The Small Beginning.

A picture illustrating the minute size of this staff, the character of its personnel, the initial ideas of some of its leading members, presenting a basis of comparison for the tremendous developments which followed.

II—The Speed of Developments.

A graphic description of the approach of the staff to the tremendous decisions which had to be made during the Summer and early Fall of 1917.

III—Delegated Authority.

Much that might come under II and IV would be covered in this Chapter as illustrations of the point that I think of important interest that you should make. I have in mind a clear picture of the remarkable extent to which General Pershing delegated authority to various trusted individuals of his staff, in contrast to the practice of the English and the French, and also despite the fact that he managed to retain an absolute dominance over the entire situation which seemed never to be questioned by any individual, however dominant the latter’s personality. I think this is one of the most interesting aspects of the A.E.F. staff, and the one which is least understood in America.

IV—Relations with the French.

While the subject of this Chapter will find a place in almost every other chapter of your book, I think that one chapter should be specifically devoted to a presentation of this matter, however many references there may be in other portions of the book.

V—Relations with the British.

I am not so certain that this should be a separate chapter. Probably it would be better to have included it under IV.

VI—Relations with Washington.

I first had this “Troubles with Washington”. It seems to me this should be given special treatment though it must be referred to in other chapters.

VII—The Selection of Subordinate Leaders.

By this I mean a description and a discussion of the problems concerned connected with the selection of the leading officers of the command and staff. You can make your book a best seller on what you write under this heading. However, I did not have in mind that you would go that far, but I think there is a great deal of tremendous interest and instruction that could be covered under this heading. There is the situation where General Pershing of necessity was first rather confined to a test of his own contemporaries, almost none of whom had had anything like his opportunity for development as great organizers and leaders; then his gradual moves to put the vigorous, able, determined men in control positions; and the further possibilities as to what would have been the situation in this respect in the Spring of 1919. Almost a book could be written under this heading.

VIII—The Expansion into Field Armies.

Nothing that has yet appeared in print gives anything like an adequate picture of what it meant to progress from the organization of a single corps in July to the development of two Field Armies by October 12, 1918. The limitations through lack of special troops (through no fault of ours), creating of a number of corps and two huge Army staffs, the take-over of highly stabilized and immensely complicated sections of the front simultaneously with the initiation of major operations—all of these things are so much Greek at the present time to the people in this country and to most of the members of the A.E.F.

General Pershing’s descriptions in his book do not make this picture at all. As a matter of fact, there is hardly a General officer in our Army today who really understands the real magnitude of what I am referring to here. How many automatically realize that there were more special Army troops required for each Army than the total of Meade’s Army at Gettysburg, or that the full complement of corps special troops almost outnumbered Meade’s and Lee’s combined armies.

Under this heading could come a very interesting discussion of the peculiar situation which developed—and which used to drive you frantic—while General Pershing combined the command of the Field Army with his duties as Commander-in-Chief. This followed by the almost amusing reversal of things the day after he relinquished command of the First Army. Even the most serious movie always includes its lighter touches, and I have to laugh when I think of your diatribes prior to October 12th and a few drums clamoring immediately after October 12th.

IX—The St. Mihiel.

X—The Meuse-Argonne.

XI—On the British Front.

XII—The French Attitude After The Armistice.

Here again you can make your book a best seller if you tell the truth about what happened. Certainly this merits a considerable discussion.

I have had in mind, under the headings I have given, that in one sense your book would not have an exact chronological study of a staff. Rather, that it should be a discussion of various phases of the activities of the A.E.F. as concerned GHQ. What are the most interesting phases or subjects which are debatable. I am merely trying to give you my reaction.

Faithfully yours,

P.S. I hope you and General Brown did not eliminate me on your recent visit to Washington.1

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Illinois National Guard, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. The book Marshall outlined was never written. Conner and Major General Preston Brown, commander of the Sixth Corps Area, were members of the Eligible List Board. This board, composed of at least five major generals, was appointed by confidential War Department special orders. It met annually—in this case, on December 20, 1933—to select colonels to be placed on the list of those eligible for promotion to brigadier general.

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. 429-431.

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