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To Major General Walter S. Grant
July 7, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
Personal and Confidential
Most confidentially, I propose in August to make a sweeping change in army corps commanders in order to get younger and more experienced leadership to these mobile forces from men who have proven themselves very able in organizing and training divisions. The present corps commanders are very good men but not quite up to the jobs from the viewpoint of activity and, on the part of three Coast Artillerymen, from the standpoint of knowledge of the mobile arms.1 I am also bringing about a change of command in Panama in September, and for this purpose will order General Van Voorhis to relieve Trott in the 5th Corps Area.
Under the circumstances and in view of your retirement date, it will help me out of a difficult situation to install your successor about the middle of August. If agreeable to you, on Embick’s recommendation, I would like to have you assist him in strategical planning, in which he is now engaged. Incidentally, he is on the Canadian Defense Board, and the Mexican Defense Board, as well as Serving in a confidential capacity at the White House.2 Also, I would like to have you serve on a general selection board which we must create. I do not imagine it would be necessary for you to change your place of residence because it probably would not be necessary for you to come to Washington every day.
Please treat everything I have said as most confidential, and please give me your frank reaction.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. The three corps commanders with Coast Artillery Corps backgrounds were Major Generals William E. Shedd (First), Frederic H. Smith (Seventh), and Walter K. Wilson (U.S.M.A., 1902) (Third). See Marshall to Wilson, October 7, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-566 [2: 631-33].
On this same day, Marshall also wrote to Lieutenant General John L. De Witt to outline the proposed changes. “I had proceeded initially on the basis that it was essential to put in older officers as corps commanders from the viewpoint of morale and more especially because it seemed much wiser to have the ultimate selection of corps commander confined to men who had had extensive divisional command experience. Also, I wanted to avoid hurting the development of these new divisions by changing commanders in the middle of the process. Now, we have gotten to the point where such change of divisional command can be carried out, I think, without too much harm.” (Marshall to De Witt, July 7, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. Since the completion of the American-British staff conferences in late March, Marshall had called upon Major General Stanley D. Embick to advise not only the War Department but the president on military affairs. Secretary Stimson noted in his diary that Roosevelt considered Embick one of his trusted advisers. “He is one of our best strategists—a Retired General whom we all rely on, including the President.” (April 15 and October 1, 1941, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 33: 163; 35: 103].)
3. Grant replied that while he was due to retire on January 31, 1942, he had hoped to command the Third Corps Area until December 1, 1941, but if Marshall preferred that he be relieved in August and assist Embick in strategic planning it was all right with him. “I’ll conform to any plan that is for the best interests of the army and the country.” (Grant to Marshall, July 9, 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. 561-562.