1-480 To Major General James K. Parsons, May 6, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 6, 1938

To Major General James K. Parsons

May 6, 1938 [Vancouver Barracks, Washington]

Dear Parsons:

I am sending you under separate cover the answers and papers to your questions and requests of April 29th. I hope they prove to be what you want. Garrett has gone into considerable detail.1

There have been few changes made since your departure. Changing from our own convoys to commercial vans for deliveries beyond 100 miles has been the principal change. We started this experimentally in eastern Oregon, before we lost that part of the district, and found it more economical—though I had installed it in order to save our transportation and reduce the hazards involved in traversing the Columbia Gorge and the mountainous region of eastern Oregon during the winter months. It was so satisfactory there that we next moved into the Willamette Valley, and then included the coast camps, everything beyond 100 miles.

The other change of moment was the introduction of sub-district commanders. I have three sub-districts.2 The officers are not allowed to have headquarters, and make no reports other than a rough diary once a week and a telephone message three times a week. They can go where they wish and when they wish. Their guiding mission is to raise the standard of poor camps to that of the best. They inspect the funds every other month. At first I did not have them do this, but found it advisable to inflict on them. We have found it more economical in the way of mileage than making all the inspections from here. They declare a great dividend when anything goes wrong, particularly a forest fire. Then I require them to be on the ground, to pick up several CCC boys and establish a command post for the coordination of effort and supply for all the detachments involved in the fire. It has removed the mixed up hurley-burley of this fire fighting business, and created order out of chaos in rear of the actual fire fighting activities. These sub-district fellows have informal schools for clerks, cooks, and for bakers; they take the best educational work in the sub-district and make the other camps conscious of what is being done; they function very much as a battalion commander and I hold them accountable for the sub-districts. But, I have constantly to watch the staff here to see that they do not impose a lot of reports on the sub-district commanders. I find in the army every time I turn my back some staff officer calls on some poor devil for a report or an extra copy or some more damned papers—and I will not have it. I am off for maneuvers next week, and I am not going to allow a mimeograph machine in the war.

It would do your heart good to see what we have been able to do here for the post by the use of WPA money I got through Wilson in the War Department.3 All of the married men’s houses have been completely worked over inside and out, much needed additions made; the same thing has been done for all the junior officers’ quarters, and in a general way for the barracks and for the senior officers. The North Woods has almost been grubbed out, the fence cutting it off from the post has been removed, and now troop training can be conveniently carried on from the vicinity of the officers’ line to the north end of the woods. The post has been greatly beautified, a great deal of planting done—hedges, shrubs, etc.; all the old roads have been blotted out and resodding done; the Victory theater has about been converted into a splendid gymnasium, roller skating rink and basket-ball court. The road in rear of the officers’ quarters has been made a very attractive street, widened and hedged, and the ball diamond and the vicinity of the CCC camp has been hand worked. The old radio house is now a double set of NCO quarters, and the former CMTC headquarters is about converted into a double set.

At Bonneville I picked up another veteran company—the one from Arboretum—for three months, pending its dissolution, and put it in the army cantonment. We transformed that place (This is strictly entre nous), making a splendid set of barracks, fine kitchens and mess halls, etc. out of the old setup. Drainage and wide streets were put in, an infirmary built, a first sergeant’s office created, the front of the little club graded and planted, hedges distributed here and there, underpinning made permanent, reservoirs rebottomed, and the whole made a splendid installation.

The garden at my house is lovely now. They are spraying the roses this morning—for the third or fourth time this season.

Mrs. Marshall and myself leave for Fort George Wright Sunday morning thence to Missoula and thence to Fort Lewis, where she takes the train and I remain for maneuvers.4

With warm regards,

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Parsons’s April 29 letter to Marshall is not in the Marshall papers. According to Parsons’s reply letter, Captain Garrett, the quartermaster, had sent him information concerning the Vancouver Barracks District C.C.C. Having recently assumed command of the Third Corps Area headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, Parsons was striving to increase the authority of the district C.C.C. commanders and reduce interference from his Corps Area headquarters. “The other day I caught a letter calling for an explanation why a grease trap cover had been changed without authority of Corps Headquarters. To prevent things of this kind I have directed that no one from Corps Headquarters will visit a CCC company without a specific order from me. I think I was a very good District Commander but I am sure l would have been a `flop’ if I had been in this Corps Area, since the District Commanders are not allowed any authority. This I am changing as fast as it is possible." (Parsons to Marshall, May 16,1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Vancouver Barracks].)

2. Infantry Reserve officers commanded the subdistricts: Captain Bernhard A. Johnson, Astoria; Captain James M. Carr, Hood River; and Captain Clarence A. Hebert, Eugene.

3. Major Arthur R. Wilson was on duty with the Office of the Chief of Staff.

4. Fort George Wright was located four miles west of Spokane, Washington. Marshall proceeded to Fort Missoula, Montana, for an inspection tour, May 11-13, and then came back to Fort Lewis, Washington, for the Fifth Brigade maneuvers that began on May 16.

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. 590-592.

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