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To Major General James K. Parsons
September 21, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]
I received your letter yesterday as I was leaving the office for lunch, and while I have only had time to read it in the car, I want you to know that I appreciate your writing and giving me the benefit of your views. I agree with you in general regarding most of them, and I will undertake to see that we get action immediately on some of them. Also, please accept my condolences over your illness, and particularly over the childish nature of the disease, considering that you are a Major General.1
I am being very sincere in what I state regarding your comments and I am very glad to have them. As soon as I became Acting Chief of Staff I forced ahead action on the Infantry division by about four months, and finally precipitated a decision in a couple of hours, and it is now an accomplished fact as far as the War Department is concerned. There were things about the proposed organization that I did not like and there were some changes from the previous test which did not particularly appeal to me; but I felt that time was the essence of the plot, and most of the matters were too minor to permit of further delay, and that I should accept the proposals of the officers who had been working with the troops.
I am glad you agree with me about the National Guard; I was interested in your comments regarding modernization of the big division. I feel, like you evidently do, that a change in the Guard at this time would be devastating; I also feel that an approximation of the new division could be quickly secured in the field, if it was found desirable, by the mere elimination of an infantry regiment, a regiment of artillery, and a battalion of engineers. It does seem better to me, aside from the confusion incident to change, to let things come to a tryout in the field before we commit ourselves to one type of division radically different from what we have ever had before.
The confusion of organization argument does not apply to the Regular Army, because we do not have any complete divisions, and something had to be done in any event; so it seemed better to go the whole hog.
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. Parsons, commanding general of the Third Corps Area, had been ill in quarters for several weeks with the mumps (“a disease I thought only juveniles had”) and had used this time to think and to write. “The results of my meditation concerning our Army I am submitting to you for what you may think they are worth.” His letter commented on the new triangular division; complained about the new field uniform being tested, the inscrutable Tables of Basic Allowances, the War Department’s mobilization plans, and its delays in acting upon recommendations from outside the department; and suggested the need for a permanent General Staff Corps and that civilians replace soldiers in certain duties. (Parsons to Marshall, September 20, 1939, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 21097].) Marshall sent the letter to Acting Deputy Chief of Staff Gasser with the stipulation that the various General Staff divisions study and respond to it. (Marshall Memorandum for General Gasser, September 21, 1939, ibid.)
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. 61-62.