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To Major General Lloyd R. Fredendall
October 13, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Most confidentially, I am sending you the attached letter with these comments:1
In the first place I am disturbed by this recital of General Muir’s approach to the proposition. This business of declaring purges is quite a different matter than the actual business of cleaning house. It seems to me if the procedure described was followed by Muir it bids fair to set up a sort of reign of terror under which the cure is even worse than the bite. Certainly it completely ignores the effect on the public and inevitable political pressures, and will quickly build up a barrier of bitterness between the Regular Army components and the National Guard which will destroy the unity of the Army. We now have public approval for action towards improving leadership, but we will lose it or have the issue seriously confused as a result of tactless methods.
In this particular case, I have known Ritchel intimately and on duty with the National Guard. He is a tremendous worker, relentless in the pursuit of what he does and very able. He is not prepossessing in appearance. My reaction to him—and he was my Executive officer at one time, was that he responded so quickly to my directives that he rather harassed me with immediate proposals for the solution. Certainly he gave no impression of slowness or lack of vigor.
Appropos of what he says, I am concerned over what seems to be Muir’s intention to have only his own people, that is his own selections. This is a desirable state of affairs, from Muir’s viewpoint, but if it is brought about by ruining the careers of other people, then it is most unfortunate.
I am writing to you in this direct, informal and most confidential manner because I am disturbed over the repercussions that are now rapidly building up and will soon present a difficult problem for me to meet. I am disturbed because I feel that much of this could have been avoided by better judgment on the part of commanders as to what they state to their officers. In other words, the reliefs could have been accomplished just as expeditiously with less of threats of purges.2
I do not want you to mention to Muir that Ritchel has written to me. I want you to treat this case as symptomatic of a condition. I will probably give Ritchel another assignment, another regiment in another place, but what I do not want is a continuation of the oral methods related by Ritchel, which I assume was a fairly accurate report.3
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. Marshall had received a lengthy letter dated October 12 from Lieutenant Colonel Charles S. Ritchel (U.S.M.A., 1915), who had known Marshall since 1929. He had been a student under Marshall during the 1930-31 academic year at the Infantry School and had served under him in Chicago between 1933 and 1935 as an instructor with the Illinois National Guard. The chief of staff had helped to get Ritchel assigned to command the 174th Infantry Regiment, a part of Brigadier General James I. Muir’s (U.S.M.A., 1910) Eighty-ninth Brigade of the Forty-fourth Division, which was then engaged in maneuvers in North Carolina.
“I am in a terrible jam,” Ritchel wrote, “and I can conscientiously and truthfully state it is through no fault of my own. My case is so serious that I feel that I must present it to you for your consideration.” When he reported on October 3, Ritchel stated, Muir received him coldly, told him that the 174th Infantry was the worst regiment he had ever seen, and expressed doubts about Ritchel’s capacity to lead because he had not had a troop command since 1930. Ritchel thought that his command had performed creditably in the maneuvers given their two days of preparation under him. Five days after Ritchel arrived, Muir became commanding general of the division. “He immediately called all the Field Officers together and informed them that the Division was in a very sad state of affairs from every standpoint and that he was going to get rid of a lot of officers, especially in the higher grades. I ran into him during the next day and he informed me that he had or was going to put in a requisition for officers for key positions that he personally knew.” Muir told Ritchel that he lacked force, that he was incapable of command, and that his relief would be requested. The general rejected Ritchel’s request for an inspector general to consider his case. (Ritchel to Marshall, October 12, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. On October 18 Marshall sent Fredendall a report of further officer disaffection in Muir’s division. “I have had other rumors regarding the 44th Division under Muir’s administration which are not at all reassuring to my mind. I very much fear his method of procedure is one where the cure may be worse than the bite, because of ramifications of the reactions spreading throughout the country.” (Marshall Memorandum for General Fredendall, October 18, 1941, ibid.) The Forty-fourth was a National Guard division from New York and New Jersey.
3. Fredendall had the division’s administration investigated. He reported that “Muir’s talk had a very good effect,” that Ritchel’s relief was justified, and that he had disapproved of an inspector general’s investigation to avoid placing “another blot on Ritchel’s good record.” But there was a reason which could not be brought out officially, Fredendall wrote, that made Ritchel’s reassignment desirable. “One of the complaints of the enlisted men of the 174th Infantry as developed by an investigation conducted by the 11 Army Corps Inspector General was that there were too many Jewish officers assigned to that regiment and, correctly or incorrectly, Lieut. Col. Ritchel was assumed to be a Jew.” (Fredendall to Marshall, October 20, 1941, ibid.) Marshall assigned Ritchel to the Fourth Division, but Ritchel soon requested to be returned to the Inspector General’s Department, where he had previously served.
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. 640-641.