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To Mrs. Arthur W. Page
March 19, 1942 [Washington, D.C.]
Dear Mrs. Page:
From several sources, and more recently from Mrs. Marshall following her visit to New York a few days ago, I have learned of the strong feeling on the part of many of the ladies at the head of the Army Relief Society regarding, (1) the subordinate position in which that Association has been placed in the new scheme of Army Emergency Relief, and more particularly, (2) the fact that appropriate advance notice was not given by the War Department to the Army Relief officials regarding the contemplated emergency organization and its effect on your Association.1
In the first place, I doubt if very many people realize what has been happening during the past three months in the way of necessities for special relief for the families of officers and soldiers. Ninety or more per cent of the officers with organizations are temporary officers rather than Regulars. In the Air Corps the percentage is even higher. A common occurrence during December and January was for an Air unit in the South or Southwest to be ordered to some distant overseas theatre on a few hours’ notice, often starting on a flight across Africa out to the Far East, for example, with all the hazards, as well as the delays in communication involved. These moves resulted in wives and children being left behind without adequate financial resources and among strangers. Also, there have been casualties in the Air units which resulted in a further dilemma for the families of the officers. They were not in their own homes, they were scattered all over the United States, in boarding houses or generally inadequate shelter. Most of these young people were on a second lieutenant’s pay, which, established under the peacetime law, is really insufficient for married officers, quite inadequate to meet the present high prices for rents and increased cost of food, as well as the frequent moves that had been necessary during the past year.
Somewhat the same situation, though it did not develop so rapidly, has been the case with the many units of the ground army ordered on foreign service, or shifted about the country. Some of these have moved very suddenly and, in effect, have abandoned the families. We could allow little or no opportunity for consideration with the families and the individual officer usually has no idea of where he is going. Incidentally, so that you may better visualize what has been happening, some two million troops have been moved by rail alone since December 7th. I am not free to give the numbers that have left the country.
The Air Corps, whose officials originally brought up this matter, were suffering such a loss of morale under the conditions of family dilemmas, that General Arnold urged permission be granted him to start immediately to raise a fund. They needed the money immediately, that week in effect. As a matter of fact, I found it advisable to authorize Mrs. Arnold to travel by Army plane for the purpose of reassuring many of these women. I thought it unwise for the Air Corps to start a special campaign for funds, because inevitably the same situation would have to be met for the ground army, and in this transition from a purely Air Corps affair to a general fund occurred the omission that led to a failure to notify your organization, as I will explain later.
I considered it of great importance to the fighting efficiency of the Army that there be no differentiations among personnel in anything we do. Campaigns for funds in any garrison could not be permitted which differentiated among the various groups of officers, regulars, reserves and national guard, especially as there were very few regular officers in proportion to the others. After considerable difficulty an organization was effected within the metes and bounds which we found to be limiting our action, to raise the necessary funds. The Navy is less embarrassed in meeting their problem because they have few temporary officers and all are eligible for participation in the Navy Relief Fund. Our situation with 130,000-odd officers, of whom about 14,000 are regulars, is quite different.
In taking over the Air Corps beginnings General Hilldring was assured that the matter had been cleared with the Army Relief Society, and it was not until I accidentally learned of a meeting in Washington to raise Army Relief funds that he and I became aware of the fact that this was not the case. I wrote a letter personally to the head of the Washington branch explaining the situation, and I had General Haskell go to New York to explain the situation there.2
Now, I am distressed to learn of the depth of feeling in this matter, and I would like you ladies to bear in mind that General Hilldring and General Arnold and I are intensely occupied these days, which we hope will be accepted as our apology for what occurred in organizing the Army Emergency Relief. Personally, I have been intimately familiar with the admirable work of the Army Relief for more than thirty years, and I am also familiar with the problems of the Regular Army families.3
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. The New York-based Army Relief Society had been incorporated in 1900 to provide assistance for the widows and orphans of Regular Army officers and enlisted personnel. Mollie H. Page, wife of a vice-president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, was the society’s president. The March 9 reorganization had created the Army Emergency Relief, and according to March 21 orders the army arranged for women at or near posts to be organized to assist local relief sections.
2. An expert on foreign and domestic relief administration, National Guard Major General William N. Haskell was head of civil defense for New York state.
3. Mrs. Page replied that the Army Relief Society realized that its “peace time organization was inadequate for war times” and had voted on February 11 to expand but had ceased its plans when the Army Emergency Relief was created. “Do not have any illusions (for we have none),” she wrote, “that the peace time organization of the Army Relief Society could have carried on without the support of the War Department and I feel that the way things are going is all for the best.” The chief of staff encouraged the Army Relief Society to continue its volunteer relief work within the new framework of the Army Emergency Relief. (Page to Marshall, March 27, 1942, and Marshall to Page, April 3, 1942, GCMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 137-139.