1-437 To Major Paul E. Peabody, April 6, 1937

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: April 6, 1937

To Major Paul E. Peabody1

April 6, 1937 Vancouver Barracks, Washington

Dear Peabody:

I have been due to acknowledge your note of congratulations when this morning along came your letter inclosing the papers on the Command and General Staff School. Please tell General Embick that I will go over them immediately and give him my reaction.2

I appreciate your cordial expressions regarding my promotion, particularly as I have always appreciated your fine service since the early days in the 1st Division. I had rather lost track of you in the last two years and did not know you were in the War Department. As a matter of fact it has been so long since I have been in touch with the War Department that I know little about it. Posts, schools, and maneuvers are more down my alley. Incidentally, I commanded the Red forces, except the Mechanized troops, in the 2nd Army maneuvers last summer and I have never learned more in my life in a similar period of time. As a matter of fact, that is hardly a correct statement, because it was more a matter of having ideas confirmed than a question of learning. This may sound egotistical, but I think you know what I mean. There is no longer any doubt in my mind but that much, a tremendous amount, of the technical, formerly, and still to a certain extent, taught at Benning, will not hold water as a practical proposition in a warfare maneuver.

I attended the GHQ-CPX in New Jersey, and as I have just said, I attended the 2nd Army maneuvers—in a troop capacity and not as a staff officer or umpire or as a spectator. Among some of the little things exemplified, which we warred about at Benning, were these samples: two armies were involved in the GHQ-CPX and there was not a map co-ordinate and there were very few contours—certainly there was nothing resembling a Gettysburg map; in the 2nd Army maneuvers, proper, again there were no co-ordinates, only small-scale maps and usually no contours. Strange to say, the farmers’ houses had no names on them, on the map. Orders, at least on my side, were almost entirely oral; staff officers were more actively engaged in checking troop executions and dispositions than in sitting at a table fooling with the usual CPX occupations.

All our school officers, certainly those who have not recently been on troop duty in Hawaii or Panama should be placed in a position, at least once in every two years, with troops in the field—off reservations—in a maneuver continuous over several days, and have some of the impractical technique and theories washed out.

Confidentially, and you must not betray my radical statement, it is a crime the way the higher staffs submerge the staffs and units below them with detailed instructions, endless paper reports, and other indications of unfamiliarities with troop doings. I have come almost to feel that my principal duty as a commander is to be out with the troops protecting them against my own staff, however good that staff, under the present state of mind.

I don’t know how I got started on this declaration, except that I remember some of our discussions at Benning, but I have gotten to the point where the sight of paper inflames me. So many officers never seem happy unless they have two pages of highly paragraphed something or other. I find about four sentences will usually do the trick, expeditiously.

I was very fortunate in my hospital experience, though the flu epidemic caused me a delay of five weeks while I waited for them to resume operating. I went into the hospital with a pulse of a hundred, and a pretty rough hundred at that, and I came out registering the old 72 that had done business for me up till last June. Thyroid pressure seemed to have been the difficulty, and not the toxic poisoning that plays such hob with the nerves. My trouble seems to be a tendency to enjoy my food too much and to gain weight for the first time since college; however, a new horse which has just been sent me from Riley, already is beginning to solve my difficulty.

I leave on the 23rd for a month of division maneuvers at Fort Lewis, and am looking forward to this as an opportunity for enjoyable outdoor business.

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Peabody had been personnel officer and supply officer of the First Division during the World War. In 1927, he graduated from the Advanced Course at the Infantry School, and later he served there as an instructor (1928-31). At the time of this letter, he was a member of the General Staff Corps in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff.

2. Major General Stanley D. Embick (U.S.M.A., 1899) had been deputy chief of staff since May 29, 1936. He had sent Marshall a memorandum requesting his views on instruction at the Command and General Staff School. Marshall’s reply of April 13 follows (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-438 [1: 531-33]).

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. 530-531.

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