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To Major General Roy D. Keehn
March 19, 1937 Vancouver Barracks, Washington
My dear General:
I appreciated very much your interesting and detailed letter which I found on my return from San Francisco. I had had an operation due me since last June or July, and should have had it in January, but the night before they were to operate, the flu epidemic caused them to close down on all but emergency cases, so I returned home for a month and went back to San Francisco in February. Came through in splendid shape, and already weigh about 10 pounds more than when you last saw me. Mine was a thyroid affair, which I had been carrying about for some 15 years. Evidently pressure was getting in some deadly work last summer. In any event, I am in splendid shape now, registering normal in every respect—except probably, you would say, in some of my personal idiosyncrasies, which no operation could alter.
I note you desire to have me write you a lengthy letter suitable for publication in a magazine. I will set about doing that right away, omitting medical details. My duties here are in such marked contrast with those in Chicago, and the country is so different, that possibly I can work up something of general interest.1
I am delighted that you are again feeling so vigorous, but I am sorry to learn that you are having a bout with the flu. My family missed it out here, but practically everybody else succumbed.
I am very glad to learn that you are so well satisfied with the progress Colonel Ayer has been making.2 Naturally, he was prepared to carry on in general the ideas I had developed, or had, half baked in mind. Starting now, I think you should be able to make an excellent selection, effective in September, after your summer camp. Most of the turn-over in the Army of course is during the summer months, and it is much easier to get a good man then than during the other portions of the year. I suggest another try for September, for Colonel E. F. Harding, Infantry, or Colonel William A. Ganoe, Infantry, or Colonel Oscar W. Griswold, Infantry.3 All of these men are of high efficiency, and Harding particularly appealing and effective. I would suggest your writing a little personal note to General Craig, giving him this list of names and asking him if it is possible to get any one of these men for next September—but don’t mention me.
I was much interested in what had happened to the 132nd Infantry. I had known for a long time that this was an impossible situation, but you have gotten rid of the two stumbling blocks who were located in the key positions.4 Nothing, absolutely nothing, but cold efficiency should ever be permitted to become involved in the selection of a colonel. We suffer from poor colonels in the Regular Army, but the solidity, the disciplinary background and other special conditions, serve to save us from the destructive effects that are completely demoralizing the National Guard. Rewards for honest and faithful services, political obligations, and other very human and common factors which are present in civil life, should be paid or made in some other manner than designation to the leadership of a regiment. A figurehead as lieutenant colonel can be carried, but never as colonel.
I find I am sermonizing at a great rate, but I have been very much impressed with their simple duty that would be the correctness and importance of my ideas on this subject.
With affectionate regards,
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Marshall wrote Keehn a letter on March 25 (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-433 [1: 525-28]) which was published in the April, 1937, Illinois Guardsman.
2. Lieutenant Colonel Wesley E. Ayer was acting senior instructor with the Illinois National Guard after Marshall left.
3. Lieutenant Colonel Edwin F. Harding was editor of the Infantry Journal. Colonel William A. Ganoe (U.S.M.A., 1907) had been commanding Officer at Fort Screven, Georgia, since September 14, 1936. Lieutenant Colonel Oscar W. Griswold (U.S.M.A., 1911) had commanded a battalion of the Twenty-fourth Infantry at Fort Benning—October 10, 1931, to June 30, 1932—and at the time of Marshall’s letter was detailed to The Office of the Chief of Infantry.
4. Two officers had resigned following an investigation of conditions in the 132nd Infantry ordered by General Keehn. (Keehn to Marshall, March 12, 1937, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Vancouver Barracks].)
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. 524-525.