5-171 To Mrs. Marjorie L. May, July 10, 1945

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 10, 1945

Subject: World War II

To Mrs. Marjorie L. May

July 10, 1945 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Mrs. May:

I have your letter concerning the death of your husband and regret very much the feeling of bitterness you expressed.1 The suffering experienced by American families as a result of casualties caused by this terrible struggle is most distressing to me personally. It was my intent in sending a card of condolence to express my personal sympathy. The heavy daily casualty list made any other procedure impracticable. The envelope was addressed by a Major in the War Department with the thought that this personal action would be more appropriate than a typewritten address.2

The War Department has never received a recommendation for the promotion of your husband to the rank of brigadier general. As you know, officers are recommended for promotion to that grade by the theater commanders and the commanding generals of the three major commands.

In order to insure prompt recognition of heroic accomplishments on the field of battle, the theater commanders are authorized to award in the field all decorations except the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Medal. They have augmented this policy still further by delegating similar authority to subordinate commanders. By far the greatest number of all awards presented during this war have been to officers and men in the field.

I realize that your grief at the loss of your husband is overwhelming, but I hope that your pride in his gallant record and the faith and confidence in his patriotic service to his country will prove some solace for your grief.3

Faithfully yours,


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 widow of Colonel Edwin T. May, who had been killed on Okinawa, wrote to the chief of staff after receiving the condolence card sent out over Marshall’s signature. She expressed bitterness over the “form or formal calling card” and that her husband had neither been promoted to brigadier general nor given decorations when lesser men had. (May to Marshall, no date [received July 1, 1945], GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)

2. Marshall asked his staff to check on the woman’s charge that the condolence card “was addressed in the hand of an illiterate. The address and everything about it was obnoxious.” Captain Lawrence A. Minnich, an assistant secretary of the General Staff, told Marshall that since the recipient’s reaction to the hand-addressed card was not what was desired, “instructions have already been issued to have all cards addressed on the typewriter without exception.” (Minnich Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, July 4, 1945, ibid.)

3. Mrs. May replied to Marshall’s letter to ask that he “please forgive me for writing you that awful letter. My husband would have been so ashamed if he could have seen it.” She also wrote why her husband had been expecting a promotion. Marshall replied on July 23 saying that he wished “to thank you without delay for writing me so frankly.” He noted that his own son-in-law had been killed and briefly explained the backlog in promotion requests from overseas commanders. (May to Marshall, no date [received July 20, 1945], and Marshall to May, July 23, 1945, ibid.)

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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), pp. 239-240.

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