1-332 To Major General John L. De Witt, October 16, 1933

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: October 16, 1933

To Major General John L. De Witt1

October 16, 1933 [Fort Moultrie, South Carolina]

Dear Dewitt:

I am leaving here Friday for duty with the Illinois National Guard, after duty with troops since 1924—3 years in China, 5 at Benning, 1 at Screven and four months here. Naturally I have reached some conclusions during those nine years, frequently at variance with my point of view as a staff officer in Washington.

Knowing you well and having the greatest admiration for your ability and your unselfish devotion to duty, I propose singing my troop swan song by listing certain matters connected with the Q.M.C. which do not impress me favorably. Please accept these comments, not as criticisms, but as a desire, an effort to lead to something constructive. They in no way apply to your period of Q.M. leadership, but are old affairs in my experience, made conspicuous by my long period with troops. I will not attempt much of discussion, merely mentioning the points that impress me as requiring attention, for the benefit of the line of the Army.

Clothing and Equipment.

Why does the Army have to have so much of poor grade or shoddy clothing, as compared to the Navy and Marine Corps? Every soldier has to buy his cotton shirt or he is not allowed at parade.

Flannel shirts are also of very poor quality. Not so with the Marines. Blankets are of poor quality, generally shoddy. Sheets are short length and soldiers are long.

It ought not to be necessary for officers to send to Marine Corps Depots for cotton shirts, or to depend on the mixed shopping of Post Exchanges for satisfactory shirts.

Khaki shows great improvement.


Here, for example, a very soft, small lump or almost dust coal is delivered. This may seem to be an economy, but I doubt it. Certainly it gives infinite trouble, and does not help morale. Freshly painted houses or offices (often heated by stoves) are soot covered after one month of fire. My quarters have just been painted. Already the room in which we have started an open fire is badly marred by coal smoke. The outside of the quarters turn a bilious, dirty mustard color from soft coal smoke. I have had buildings scrubbed, but they tell me it [is] of little use—only temporizing—and I know the small troop personnel cannot afford the men for this purpose. The coal purchases may show an economy, but maintenance requirements is increased and morale is certainly not improved.

Personnel and System.

The clerical or business system in vogue requires a tremendous amount of attention and some skill—certainly experience. It requires more men to maintain a satisfactory paper system than it leaves to serve the garrison. It is so complicated that post commanders can easily be confused as to just what is going on, and their supervision either becomes perfunctory or too close and time consuming.

The Q.M. personnel is usually inadequate, decidedly so at this post. A partial reason is the elaborate clerical work and elaborate reports required, the mass of requisitions seemingly necessary, etc, etc. Part of the trouble, I know, is due to legal requirements—but not all.

I have come to feel that if my Q.M. seems to have all his papers in proper shape, then I will find he gives little time to his real business of doing his part by the post and garrison. If he does the latter well, then I am suspicious about the state of his records, warehouses, etc. Few men can manage both phases satisfactorily. Therefore, the system would appear to be faulty.

All this is probably old stuff to you, but what I can not understand is why the Navy and Marine Corps seem always to be able to do better in this clothing matter, year after year, ever since I have been in the Army. I know they have more money, because they are more popular with Congress and I believe they are less rigidly held to account for the details of their expenditures, but even this would not appear to excuse their tremendous advantage over us in the way of uniform materials and cut of garments.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Fort Moultrie File, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. De Witt had been quartermaster general of the army since February 3, 1930. He had been a fellow student of Marshall’s at the Infantry and Cavalry School in 1906-7. During the World War, De Witt served as assistant chief of staff for supply (G-4) for the A.E.F.’s First Corps (February-July, 1918) and First Army (August, 1918-January, 1919). Between 1919 and 1924 he was a member of the War Department General Staff.

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. 399-401.

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