2-603 To Major General Roy D. Keehn, November 19, 1941

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 19, 1941

To Major General Roy D. Keehn

November 19, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Keehn:

Your letter of November 13th came just as I was leaving for the maneuvers in the Carolinas. Since my return I haven’t had a moment for anything personal, spending most of my time before committees of Congress.1

With regard to Kent, I agree with Homer that it is very important that he take additional work before committing himself to West Point.2 What you tell me of his record would seem to indicate that he has no difficulties with books, and I hope he is sufficiently mathematically inclined not to be troubled in that field. It is important that he have a solid grounding in mathematics. Also I think it is a good thing for a boy to have at least a year in college before going to West Point. He might point his work towards entering the Academy in the summer of 1942, though he would have a broader outlook a year later despite the loss in rank due to the delay.

I am sorry to hear that Roy is not getting along with his commanding officer.3

I note your quotation from Dawes.4 His point of view is quite understandable; however, what few seem to realize is that we have to operate this machine as an army, and such reassignments are exceedingly hard if not impossible to avoid in an army. For the first I prohibited any transfers from the National Guard, with the result that the much smaller Regular army was torn to pieces in order to find men and officers to do what had to be done. For example, a Regular army office starting with 200 men in August a year ago had not only to build itself up but was called upon to provide over 9,000 men, many of them picked men, for other units of special installations. There were a number of cases where Regular divisions lost 50% of their field officers in two months’ time, usually the picked men—to provide the faculties for the new schools or enlarged schools, instructors for the great training centers, and the nuclei for new units. We have very few antiaircraft regiments in the Regular Army, and a great many National Guard units. The consequence has been, we had to rip the regular regiments to pieces time after time. This could not continue beyond a certain point where we must have certain units ready for immediate service.

Under these circumstances, the National Guard was brought into the picture to share its portion of these necessities. You see Dawes is talking about after the emergency, while I am involved in the emergency and its requirements. So far as possible we have endeavored to preserve the unity of the National Guard as such, but it is very difficult as the Army develops.

Mrs. Marshall is better now and in Florida, but she had a very painful time.

Faithfully yours,

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. On November 16 General and Mrs. Marshall flew to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The next morning the chief of staff flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit various maneuver sites before leaving by train for Washington, D.C., that evening. He arrived in his office on the morning of November 18; a few hours later he went to the Capitol to testify before the House Appropriations Committee in support of the War Department’s request for $6,687,369,046 under the Third Supplemental Appropriation Bill. This money was chiefly to fund the maintenance of the National Guard in federal service; to increase ground force strength by 150,000 enlisted men; to mobilize, train, and maintain the Philippine Commonwealth Army; to activate the Aircraft Warning Service; to expand the Army Air Forces from fifty-four to eighty-four groups; and to provide ordnance items, especially tanks and special radio equipment. (House Appropriations Committee, Third Supplemental National Defense Appropriation Bill for 1942, Hearings [Washington: GPO, 1941], p. 54.)

2. Keehn’s younger son, Kent, wished to apply for admission to the United States Military Academy, and Keehn wrote to Marshall asking advice on the boy’s preparation. He had previously talked with Brigadier General John L. Homer on the subject.

3. Major Roy D. Keehn, Jr., was serving with the 106th Cavalry, which was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Johnson, Jr. (U.S.M.A., April 1917).

4. Colonel Charles C. Dawes was the commander of the 202d Coast Artillery Regiment, a Chicago component of the Illinois National Guard that had been called into federal service on September 16, 1940, and stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. As a member of the National Guard Association Executive Council, Keehn had written to Dawes requesting his views on the army’s treatment of the Guard. Keehn quoted at length Dawes’s comments. The colonel was displeased with the number of men his unit had lost through transfer. Moreover, “so many of our Selectees are not coming from Illinois that we are rapidly losing our character as Illinois troops. I think this is a mistake and should be corrected.” Regarding training, he observed: “We have pushed the Guard to just about the limit. I always had the feeling that my regiment reached its peak in 1939.” (Keehn to Marshall, November 13, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

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. 681-682.

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