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To the Commanding General Third Corps Area1
October 4, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
I am attaching a memorandum correspondence between myself and The Adjutant General regarding Technical Sergeant Walter B. Shooter, on duty at the Fishburne Military School in Virginia, which is largely self-explanatory.2 However, in paragraph 4 of the memorandum of The Adjutant General dated July 30th, the statement is made: “There are others with just as good records, equally deserving.” I am inclined to question this. When a sergeant of the Regular Army, in addition to a highly satisfactory performance of routine duties, coaches a shooting team so that it wins a national contest two years in succession, and also the individual excellency trophy, it seems to me he has given an outstanding performance with practically no approximate competitor.
I know how difficult these matters of rank are, but I also know that the strong tendency is to fall back on a purely seniority basis without regard to exceptional cases of demonstrated merit. My rather recent experience in Chicago gave me glaring examples of a routine arrangement permitting many cases of mediocrity to go ahead of splendid efficiency.3 I realize the difficulties of determination in these matters and the necessity for a very definite policy, but I am strongly of the opinion that exceptions, where the individual is conspicuous, are essential to the business of developing high efficiency in the Army.
I do not wish to embarrass you in this matter, so I stipulate that no acknowledgment be made of this communication, and in all probability I will not learn what happens in Sergeant Shooter’s case, as I have never heard from him or of him since I saw him and inquired into his record last June.
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. Major General James K. Parsons commanded the Third Corps Area until his taking leave in mid-October 1940, prior to his retirement.
2. Marshall had visited Fishburne—in Waynesboro, Virginia, part of the Third Corps Area—on June 1 and had met Shooter. In a memorandum to the adjutant general, the chief of staff observed that the school’s superintendent had praised the sergeant, and Marshall concluded, “It seems to me such a man should win some recognition beyond the ordinary routine regulatory method of advancement.” (Marshall Memorandum for The Adjutant General, July 20, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
3. On this subject, see Marshall’s report on the Illinois National Guard for the year July 1935 through June 1936, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-408 [1: 497].
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), p. 325.