2-031 To Major General Walter S. Grant, August 12, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 12, 1939

To Major General Walter S. Grant

August 12, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Walter:

I have delayed in answering your last letter until the Lieutenant General business had clarified, and as you know now, this rank is only authorized for the four field armies. This undoubtedly will be a great disappointment to you, Dave Stone, and Herron, and I think you are entitled to know the facts of the case.1

It was thought imperative to secure real leadership of the four field armies. The present situation of equal rank with other corps area commanders, and attention largely centered on corps area affairs was getting us practically nowhere. And during this great augmentation period there were many things that required not only opinion and planning, but actual leadership. On the west coast the development of the color plans2 and the defensive set-up in Alaska, was giving us a great deal of concern, and there were too many hundreds of millions [of dollars] involved to go ahead on the old basis.

It was apparent in the Congress that there was opposition to increased rank and additional headquarters. I found that a large number of influential Senators and members of the House felt we had too much administrative over-head. There was no possibility of passing a bill of this nature on the old grounds of approaching parity with the Navy, or as a reward or distinction for special service. It was apparent that the only way we could manage this was on a purely business basis—the necessity for increased rank on the part of the Army Commander, so that the right man could be put in the place and maintained there over a considerable period of time, and not have the office moved about for varying periods—usually short, as various men reached seniority. It was felt, after a careful examination of the situation, that our only chance of getting favorable action was to boil this thing down to its bare essentials. It was stated to the Committees that it would be most appropriate to have Lieutenant Generals in the foreign possessions, but that it was vital to have them at the head of the field armies. As a matter of fact, we expected that a motion would be made to amend the bill and include the foreign commands, and the War Department was going to favorably report on that. But even this had an element of risk connected with it, because we had difficulty in getting the approval on the original proposition out of the [Bureau of the] Budget—which means the President’s O.K. The Budget incidentally does not act on these matters purely on the financial end, but on everything pertaining to legislation, whether money is involved or not.

In these circumstances the course was followed which brought about the final enactment of the bill, and I tell you confidentially, it was not easy even then. I had to seek out the objectors in the committee of the House and particularly the Senators who objected on the floor of the Senate, and convince each one of them that this thing was essential. I was very much gratified to secure the approval of Senator King, of Utah,3 who had made a flat objection to the passage of the bill, and he made me feel that he would actually support the bill on its next presentation—though this did not prove to be necessary.

I am giving you all of the foregoing so you can understand why your position was left out in the cold in the matter of increased rank. That phase of the question will have to be taken up at a later date.

I will not confuse this letter with other matters, and please treat it as confidential.

Faithfully yours,

P.S. There will arrive in the Philippines on October 13th or 14th on the S.S. Tjitjalengka a Mr. Lazarus (as you can see an intimate friend of Hitler’s), who is one of the most powerful men of the Movie colony. I have been appealed to get him some courtesies in Manila. He will only be there over-night, and as I understand it, all he wants is some person to tell him how best to go about seeing Manila, so if you have any young officer out there who would like to have a pass to the inner life of Hollywood, will you have him look this fellow up on the dock and tell him what to do next. If the idea bores you, forget it.4

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. Grant, a cavalryman who had been Marshall’s assistant in First Army G-3 in the autumn of 1918, had been promoted to brigadier general in 1936 and to major general on October 1, 1938. He took command of the Philippine Department in July 1939. The other overseas departments were commanded at this time by Major Generals David L. Stone (Panama Canal) and Charles D. Herron (Hawaii).

2. The army and navy routinely maintained contingency plans to cope with potential enemies. Each possible enemy was designated by a color (e.g., Joint War Plan Orange dealt with Japan). Work on newer plans envisaging coalition warfare had begun by the time Marshall arrived in Washington in mid-1938. The first of these—“Joint Army-Navy Plan 1” (i.e., “Rainbow 1”)—had been submitted to the Joint Board on July 27, 1939, and a revised version was approved by the president on October 14. Four other Rainbow plans were also being prepared at this time. (Watson, Chief of Staff pp. 87, 103.) See the editorial note #2-073 Papers of George Catlett Marshall [2: 100-101].

3. William H. King, a Democrat, was the second-ranking majority member of the Senate Finance Committee.

4. Marshall may have been referring to Hollywood press agent Paul N. Lazarus, Sr., but he was not among the ship’s passengers listed in the Manila Daily Bulletin on October 13, 1939, sec. Pink, p. 4.

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. 35-36.

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