1-533 Notes for the Chief of Staff, December 7, 1938

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 7, 1938

Notes for the Chief of Staff

December 7, 1938 [Washington, D.C.]

Meeting with Major Generals at 10:00 A.M. Thursday, December 8, 1938.

Reserve Corps Affairs

Reserve Corps affairs are handled somewhat differently in each Corps Area, though in keeping with general War Department policy. However, the efficiency of the results apparently finally depends very largely on the intimate scheme for promoting this activity. General Thompson, Executive for Reserve Affairs, was much impressed by the arrangements in the Fifth Corps Area, so I am asking Van Voorhis here to give us a brief statement of just how he goes about this particular phase of the business.1

Married Enlisted Men

We have had up for final consideration the last few days recommendations as to a new War Department regulation regarding the handling of the married question among the enlisted men. Of course, like everything else of this kind, the proposed result is considerable of a compromise—you know what I think of a compromise, though it is unavoidable in this instance.

The most important stipulations in the proposed revision are:

1. No man with dependents will be accepted for original enlistment.

2. Marriage will not affect re-enlistment of those in the first three grades.

3. Corps Area Commanders may authorize, in worthy cases, the marriage of 4th grade men with eight years’ service, and air mechanics. This takes the decision from local commanders. Incidentally, there is a saving clause to protect the rights now possessed by married men in the service, provided the enlisted man can maintain his dependents on his pay.

4. The enlistment contract will contain an agreement by the individual that he will not marry except under the conditions of the new regulations. No man will be accepted for enlistment or re-enlistment conditional upon any implied promise to allot part of his pay to any person.

5. Finally, in the future, soldiers who marry without authority will be immediately discharged.

General Sweeney has some very definite views with regard to this matter, particularly as relates to classifying a certain group of soldiers as “professional”, who would thereby be entitled to be married regardless of rank.

Including the 4th grade with eight years’ service has been our effort to meet this view.

New Legislation

The papers have much to say about an enlarged program for National Defense. Unfortunately, I cannot talk this over with you at this time. I merely mention this to explain why I can’t answer any questions.

New Construction

It is desired that as much necessary construction be secured through WPA and PWA funds as it is possible to arrange for. Here, again, we are impressed in the War Department by the difference in results obtained in various Corps Areas, both as to the amount of funds secured for construction or similar purposes, and especially as to the efficiency with which the various projects are organized and carried through. The difficulties seem to reflect two opposite points of view. In some Posts or Corps Areas there has been, undoubtedly, the reaction that the War Department has delayed approval of projects to such an extent as to jeopardize the particular enterprise. On the other hand,—and this is the item I would like particularly to call your attention to—it is evident in the War Department that instructions regarding the methods to be followed in submitting projects of this nature have been very carelessly observed, with the result that so much essential data is omitted that approval has to be delayed until we can secure the complete statement of the essential facts regarding the project.

I would like to see as much advantage taken of these funds for the benefit of the Army as possible, so I wish you would make certain that your Staff and various commanders understand the requirements in order that there may be no more of the delays to which I have referred.


I am told that in some quarters there is a feeling developing among college authorities that the War Department is not sufficiently interested in the further development of the ROTC; that our support of this activity is not strong enough; and that its future is somewhat imperiled. Now, there is no question about the tremendous value of the ROTC. We do lack officers in sufficient numbers for this activity; we lack funds for the creation of new units; and we have little in assistance that we can give existing units. We have increased the number of men permitted to take the Advanced Courses, but we have no available funds for further additions.

The War Department regards the ROTC as one of the most valuable adjuncts to our personnel problem for National Defense. Everything possible should be done to give it encouragement. I merely mention this matter in view of the critical attitude to which I refer.


I think the training of the Army, particularly as to field work, has developed steadily during the past few years, and this preceding season was no exception. However, I think it is of great importance that we find more economical methods for much more extensive training activities. The Navy has a great advantage in not having to hire an ocean, or to assemble the fleet from forty-nine different States. But we must constantly work on the problem of how to assemble and train large bodies of troops without prohibitive expense, and over varied terrain permitting of wide turning movements or the rapidity of motorized movements that we now contemplate.

I am wondering if a region dotted with governmental tracts, like the National Forests such as we find up and down the West Coast, would not lend itself to inexpensive maneuvers off the reservations. Benning offers a very fine concentration point in the Southeast, where large bodies of troops can be brought together with a minimum of expense.

I think we must progress more rapidly along this particular line, and I am hoping that some of our younger officers may come forward with an acceptable economical solution. I think the main trouble is, we feel that we cannot do anything out of sight of the Post water tower.

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

Document Format: Typed notes.

1. Major General Daniel Van Voorhis commanded the Fifth corps Area.

Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 662-664.

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