2-173 To Walter G. Andrews, May 16, 1940

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: May 16, 1940

To Walter G. Andrews1

May 16, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]


Dear Andrew:

I have just received your note of May 15, with the enclosure of copy of letter to Senator Wadsworth from General O’Ryan.2

In line with what General O’Ryan says I think in effect that today, meaning this Thursday, the Government is moving to advance the state of National Defense in response to the pressure of public opinion to which General O’Ryan refers. All is not included that should be at this time, and I refer specifically to the fact that there is no material increase of the Regular Army. But I think that will come closely on the heels of the move about to be made.

With reference to his thought “People now seem to be leagues ahead of the Government in the understanding of aggression menace”, I think it only fair to the President to say that he had moved in each instance almost as rapidly as public opinion would permit. Naturally, I have not always agreed with the specific character of each move, but that is merely a matter of opinion as to the best means for accomplishing a general purpose. But I do think that in each measure, beginning with his special defense message of January, 1939, and on down to date, he has pressed about as rapidly as public opinion would permit. Possibly—and I mean also politically—the Army could have been given a larger budget sum for the fiscal year 1941. But there again, it is a question of what the public and the Party at that time would stand for.

The tag end of February I was before the Appropriation Committee of the House, and while they did give the Army an increase over budget funds of money for materiel, they also cut our plane program down to 57 planes and wiped out the Anchorage Base. And the point is, that apparently met public approval, not of course the approval of well informed men like General O’Ryan, and certainly not my approval. Since that date, there has occurred the affair in Norway, which brought about almost a reversal of public opinion; and the assault on the Western front has created a deluge of recommendations for the increase of our military forces. This is a typical American process, apparently with nothing abnormal about it.

I stated what I thought was a wise policy before the Military Appropriation Committee of the House last February, to advance step by step with the situation abroad. There were two considerations then; one related to materiel, and on that I urged the immediate provision of what we needed for the PMP. I did not go into the Assistant Secretary’s portion of the plot as to the building of additional facilities, leaving that entirely to his presentation. I urged then that the Regular establishment be brought up by a small sum of 15,000 men, whose importance was out of all proportion to the small number involved, because it meant the rounding out of organizations now in existence. I had in mind when I spoke of step by step, the further increase of the Regular establishment to 280,000 and beyond, and, of course, the eventual mobilization of the National Guard.

I think at the present moment the War Department should be permitted to go ahead with enlistments in order that we may have available as early as possible seasoned soldiers, in highly trained units, to meet sudden responsibilities in the Western hemisphere. We can reach 280,000 on an ordinary volunteer basis by September, and from there we should go on towards 400,000.

As to the National Guard, and whether or not it should be mobilized at this moment is a question in my mind. I am rather inclined to think that it would be better to consider that a little later and in relation to the Army Maneuvers, which portions of the Guard have been so violently opposed to. And incidentally I might say that while it is a fine thing to train companies and battalions, unless we get these brigade and division staffs, we will have an impossible situation, and there is no other way to do it except by large maneuvers.

In relation to a possible mobilization of the National Guard, I have the feeling at the moment that we should avoid a complication of burdens in order that the development of highly trained, seasoned division and corps troops in the Regular Army can be brought to a pitch of instant preparedness to take action in this hemisphere. If you remember that chart I showed you, that gives the first objective which should be reached, certainly as to enlistments for the Regular establishment by September, and we should go on beyond that towards war strength rather than peace strength which, as I have said above, carries us towards 400,000.

The question in my mind again in relation to the mobilization of the National Guard, is whether in this crisis, with its menace of the moment along with the indefinite period which may be involved, it would not be better, particularly so far as jobs, families, etc. are concerned, to get a temporary increase to the Regular establishment, which will be brought about by those men who feel perfectly free to volunteer,—young reserve officers, young fellows of the type now being cared for by the Government in the CCC, etc., rather than to mobilize the Guard at this particular juncture. We will have no trouble in giving it the extra training in this crisis; everybody will cooperate towards that end.

This is very hastily written, but it gives you my ideas of the moment.

Faithfully yours,

P.S. The foregoing idea of temporarily increasing the Regular Army rather than mobilizing the National Guard, might seem to be a return to the former unfortunate policy of initially trying to fight a war with Regular troops. However, today the situation is quite different, and I am not talking about the permanent advancement of Regular officers, but rather of the rounding out of forces already on the make, and the urgent necessity of having trained people ready to operate in the Western hemisphere. Our initial missions will inevitably be those of relatively small forces here and there, for which the troops must be instantly available.

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. Andrew was the ranking Republican on the House Military Affairs Committee.

2. Major General John F. O’Ryan—a New York City lawyer, the World War commander of New York’s Twenty-seventh Division, and a strong supporter of aid to the Allies—had sent a telegram on May 10 to Congressman James W. Wadsworth (Republican from New York) urging greater military preparedness. “People now seem leagues ahead of government in understanding of aggression menace. Wilson mobilized guard divisions on border as war measure without hostile public reaction though with presidential campaign pending. This of greatest value to later war efficiency. Our man power urgently requires mobilization and training as defense measure for eventualities.” Andrew had received a copy and had forwarded it to Marshall for comment.

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. 215-217.

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