2-022 To Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., August 3, 1939

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 3, 1939

To Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.1

August 3, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]

Dear Roosevelt:

I have just this moment read your letter regarding Colonel Cary Crockett, and am writing you immediately to tell you that I will look into the matter very carefully. I know him and am familiar with his fighting record, his special knowledge of Central and South America and the Philippines, and of his vigorous bearing as an officer, but I am glad to have your personal estimate to verify my own.2

This physical examination business has been pretty strenuous this summer, was specially ordered, and of course, we are having some tragic examples of the wrong man being tagged.3 And, as you write, old man “precedent” steps in and prepares to prop open the door if we do any picking and choosing. Precedent is the rock on which our legal procedure is based, but here in Washington it seems to be our particular curse—to the extent that when we try to utilize or save the good men, we are confronted with the almost certain devastating results from the hordes of mediocrity who crowd through the door. This is old stuff to you, but I will give my personal attention to Crockett’s case.

With warm regards,

Faithfully yours,

I find that he is being ordered to the Hot Springs Hospital for observation.4

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. Roosevelt had known Marshall since 1917 when both sailed for France with the First Division. He had been governor of Puerto Rico (1929-32) and the Philippine Islands (1932-33); since 1935 he had been an editor at Doubleday, Doran and Company.

2. Crockett, a graduate of and currently an instructor at the Command and General Staff School, was scheduled to be retired because of physical disability. But according to Roosevelt, he could “take on most of the majors and a large percentage of the captains and outlast them.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, August 1, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) Crockett retired at the end of January 1940.

3. On April 27, the War Department announced a two-part program aimed at achieving a “rigorous vitalization” of the officer corps. First, Congress was sent a draft of a bill which sought to amend the 1935 promotion act so as to institute forced retirements of over-age field-grade officers. This bill, usually called the age-in-grade promotion bill, was one of the chief topics of discussion and comment in the spring and summer issues of the Army and Navy Journal. Second, special medical boards were convened to conduct “a rigid physical examination for all officers of the grade of captain and above” by June 30. (Army and Navy Journal, April 29, 1939, pp. 801, 818-19.)

4. This postscript, typed at the bottom of the file copy, was probably a handwritten addition by Marshall.

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. 26.

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