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To Private Theron H. Coffelt
February 6, 1943 [Washington, D.C.]
Your letter of January thirteenth was received during my absence in Africa, and your status looked into. I am informed that you asked to be classified for the Airplane Mechanics course at Sheppard Field and that this was done; that you were given further specialized factory training on the A 20 C type airplane; and that you are now awaiting transfer for an assignment in keeping with your expressed preference where the specialized training given you on the A 20 C type ship can be utilized to the greatest advantage.
You now feel that your time is being entirely wasted at Jefferson Barracks “marching up and down and doing K.P., etc.”1
Frankly I am sorry to receive this note from you. The Army requires first of all soldiers, in whatever capacity they may be used, and the process of developing the soldierly instinct requires marching up and down and duty as K.P., etc. One of the greatest problems we have, and it is very apparent in Africa, is the difficulty of getting the proper disciplinary response, particularly in grave emergencies, from scattered detachments of men employed in the multitude of duties other than direct combat. We have little difficulty with the men in the fighting divisions but a great deal of difficulty in the smaller service units. Finally, there are more than 5,000,000 men in the Army and if each one is employed just as he thinks best the ultimate victory would not only be far distant but rather improbable.
With your background and the specialized training you have received you should be able to render excellent service, but it must be as a soldier.
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. Coffelt had formerly operated a flight school. In May 1940 he had met with the chief of staff to discuss manufacturing a light, twin-engine aircraft for which he had plans. In 1942 he had failed to obtain army support for establishing a production facility in Oklahoma, and he had subsequently enlisted. At the time of his letter to Marshall he was at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, awaiting overseas assignment. He wrote that he believed that his time there had “been entirely wasted, what with marching up and down and doing K.P. etc. . . . If I am not of more value to the Army than that I should have continued on in civilian life as I would be paying taxes that would aid the war effort.” (Coffelt to Marshall, January 13, 1943, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].) An Air Staff investigation noted that Coffelt had received the specialized training he had requested, that he would soon go overseas, and that all men awaiting shipment were given drill and small-arms training in order “to condition them physically in order that they may, if necessary, give good account of themselves in combat.” (Lieutenant Colonel Millard A. Libby, Disposition Form for Colonel O. L. Nelson, January 29, 1943, 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. 3, “The Right Man for the Job,” December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 535-536.