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To Major General Frank Parker
April 12, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
I believe the main points in my letter of January sixth will still serve as a broad outline of the major problems with which the Legion can help us.1 The passage of three months’ time has served only to bring them into greater relief.
In that letter I discussed the problem of unnecessary investigations. A great number of these inquiries are now under way and in prospect. The War Department does not desire to remove the war effort from Congressional inquiry, but only to avoid time-consuming duplication and to confine these investigations to a useful purpose. Upwards of 30 committees have concerned themselves with duplicated and overlapping inquiry into War Department activities since January, 1943, resulting in tremendous loss of time and effort and diversion from our military responsibilities.
I mentioned previously the dangers of undue optimism which develop after each momentary success.2 This assumes great importance as the North African campaign approaches its climax, and will probably result in increased pressure to reduce the size of the Army and to divert from it the manpower necessary to enable us to seize the opportunities for bringing the war to the quickest possible conclusion. This movement is based on the idea that the war is going so well that a large Army is an unnecessary burden and that consequently, various occupational groups should be deferred or released from military service to alleviate labor shortages. Actually, our land fighting has only just begun. We must be prepared for a long hard struggle, heavy losses, occasional reverses and all the vicissitudes common to a war of desperation on the part of the Axis. It is of the utmost importance to develop a sound public attitude on this point.
The issue of depriving the Army and Navy of control over the procurement of military supplies and weapons is as dangerous now as it was in January, and my statements then are still applicable.3 Hearings on this proposition before a Congressional committee are scheduled the middle of this month, and an active campaign is being waged to ensure its acceptance by the Congress. Such an involvement of civilian authorities directly in military decisions is based, by way of plausible argument, upon the thesis that the Army and Navy have an inordinate Ambition to control the civilian economy, this being the red herring which beclouds the basic issue. It is important that such measures be defeated; their success would undoubtedly lead to confusion by subjecting the responsible military authorities to the necessity of obtaining the concurrence of individuals wholly unfamiliar with military problems, in reaching military decisions. The civilian Commander-in-Chief and the civilian Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries of the Army and Navy are established by constitution or law to offset undue militaristic authority.
Fundamentally there are two problems, manpower and supply, with the public conviction on their solution fluctuating according to successes or failures of our forces. The public response, of course, determines the actions of the Congress, and the American Legion, in molding the public response, can render a great service toward winning the War.4
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. Parker, a member of the National Defense and National Executive committees of the American Legion, requested that Marshall provide him with the “views of the War Department” so that the American Legion could consider them at its convention and “support intelligently” the War Department’s program. (Parker to Marshall, March 30, 1943, GCML/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) On January 6 a member of Marshall’s staff had drafted a letter to Parker which stated ways in which the American Legion could support the War Department’s policies. (Marshall to Parker, January 6, 1943, ibid.)
2. In January, Marshall had suggested that the most important job for the Legion was “to fight down, everywhere and every day, the dangerous illusion that because we have won some successes the war is ‘in the bag.’” (Ibid.)
3. Marshall had warned against “the frequently discussed proposition to take the determination of the proper military manpower and the responsibility for the procurement of military supplies and weapons out of the hands of the Army and the Navy. . . . These non-military agencies should determine the raw materials and facilities which can be made available for military production, and they must provide the requisite supervision and coordination of industry to obtain maximum production. Within these limits, however, the military must determine the relative needs of the Army, Navy, and Air Forces, and the types and quantities of weapons to be provided for each.” (Ibid.)
4. General Marshall drafted this letter but “not used” is written on Marshall’s file copy.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 639-640.