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To Nat Patton
July 5, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Mr. Patton:
Upon receipt of your letter of June 25th, regarding the 56th Cavalry Brigade, I had a careful investigation made from two sources.1
Immediately after the concentration of the Brigade at Fort Bliss the latter part of May, there was an epidemic of diarrhoea, which has been eliminated. The sick rate is now normal. The excessive rate was apparently due to a combination of factors. One was the excessive drinking of soft drinks by the men who had not become hardened to field service and therefore suffered from thirst. Another cause was failure to properly clean the mess kits, the usual difficulty with unseasoned troops. Regarding the first cause, the hospital authorities issued salt tablets for the purpose of allaying thirst during extremely hot afternoons. Also gauze masks for men on duty in the picket line, where the dust was excessive. Special screening and other measures were taken.
As to the question of morale and discontent, I find no basis for that. Approximately 50 men and 8 or 10 officers were privately questioned on the subject. But on the contrary, it was found that the morale was high, and particularly that the Brigade had taken a very effective part in a recent maneuver. The men who played the game were alert notwithstanding the heat and appeared to enjoy the experience; they were disappointed that it was terminated ahead of schedule. The officers seemed quite enthusiastic, especially over the high commendation they received on the maneuvers.
While I am giving you this data, I would prefer that you do not quote me in the press on the subject.2
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. Congressman Nat Patton, a Democrat representing the Seventh District of Texas, had requested that Marshall investigate the Fifty-sixth Cavalry Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss. “I am advised that the morale of this brigade is at a low ebb due to jealousy among the officers at the Fort and because of the fact that recently a large percentage of the men have suffered a stomach disorder that has been blamed on the mess. This is a relatively small matter, but it may become one of a number of factors that can destroy the present high morale of the army we are now so proud to have.” (Patton to Marshall, June 25, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
2. Patton replied that he appreciated Marshall’s prompt inquiry. “I should like to say that my good friend, the late Senator Morris Sheppard, always had the highest regard for both your ability and your endeavor, and from his own high opinion, I have gained an exalted opinion of your value.” (Patton to Marshall, July 7, 1941, ibid.)
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. 560-561.