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To Mrs. Alex G. Smith
December 15, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Mrs. Smith:
I received your letter of November 29th regarding your son who has been overseas nearly three years.1
The choice of the individual to be returned from overseas, either permanently or for leave or furlough, is the prerogative of the theater commander. He is the only person familiar with circumstances and the claims of various individuals. His ability to return personnel depends on the number of replacements being sent to him, as well as the military situation at the time in his theater. He selects personnel for return according to their relative length of overseas service and degree of fatigue they have suffered in combat or under other circumstances. The War Department must necessarily refrain from intervening in the theater commander’s decisions in this matter, for he has available first-hand information and is responsible not only for the military operations in his theater but also for the morale of his command.
The present rotation policy authorizing the return of a limited number of individuals each month was made effective last March. The length of time elapsed since then and the shortage in shipping and in trained replacements have not permitted the return of all soldiers who have served overseas for an extended period. There are approximately 9,000 air force enlisted men alone who have been in the Southwest Pacific Area as long or longer than your son. In addition, as I have already indicated, the character of the service, hardship of locality, etc., all bear on the selection of individuals.
Frequently it has been necessary to utilize for combat operations transportation which had been assigned to return personnel to the United States. Under such circumstances the men awaiting transportation are temporarily assigned to training centers for additional training during the delay. This may be the case in regard to your son and would explain the disappointment expressed in his letter to you.
I hope the foregoing explanation will make the situation more understandable for you. This is a great war that involves us in affairs all over the globe, and it is consequently very difficult to meet all the desires of individuals concerned.
The fact that your family has made such a heavy contribution to the war, with four sons in service, makes it very important to me that you and your husband should understand the working of the War Department policy in this matter.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. A columnist for the Latrobe [Pennsylvania] Bulletin, Mrs. Smith wrote that her son had enlisted in the Air Corps three years before Pearl Harbor and had been in the Southwest Pacific Area. She quoted a letter from him: “Today starts my thirty-fifth month over here and they’ve put me in a `Training Center’. I don’t ask favors of anyone but just a fair deal and it looks as though that’s exactly what I’m not getting. After all the rotten deals I’ve received from this army is it any wonder I’m turning bitter, even against my country itself?” Mrs. Smith noted that personnel with shorter service periods and less combat were constantly returning to the United States from the Southwest Pacific. (Smith to Marshall, November 29, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 693-694.