To Lieutenant General Ben Lear

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To Lieutenant General Ben Lear

November 1, 1941 [Washington, D.C.]

Personal and Confidential
Dear Lear:

I received your letter regarding a commander for the 27th Division. Orders are issuing today placing General Pendleton [Pennell] in command of the Division.1

Your proposal regarding the assignment of General Robinson to the command of the 33d Division was brought to my attention with the recommendation that it would be unwise to do this.2 I concur, but I think it important to give you my specific reasons. Before doing so, I would like you to get a picture of what is going on here. I can probably save time in doing this by enclosing a copy of a letter I wrote to Krueger the other day. I ask you to look over this letter before reading any further.

The reaction here after release from command grows more and more intense. I had assumed from the start that we would have a most difficult time, and that probably no one relieved from command would agree to the justice of the procedure. However, the weight of the objections and criticisms has largely hung on the procedure of relief. General Truman sent me a long letter on this subject, with which I do not think it worth while to worry you, and I have covered this subject in the attached letter to Krueger.3

Now as to Robinson and the 33d Division: My first objection is his age. To relieve a National Guard commander and replace him with a man over sixty at a time when we are resisting heavy pressures to make exceptions to our age limits recently announced, in my opinion would be most unfortunate. Added to this would be the inevitable criticism that you were seeking to place your own Chief of Staff when he as a matter of fact was practically over-age in grade at the time of the assignment.

I go into details in this matter because I feel a reluctance in restraining the action of an Army Commander, who is in a position of tremendous responsibility and a difficult position, to put it mildly. I mean by this that I feel greatly embarrassed whenever I cannot see my way clear to give you complete support. However, I do feel that while we lack intimate touch with the actual situation in the field, we have a broader perspective from this office.

Haislip was to see you yesterday and no doubt made our situation clear. The problem now is to get over the next six weeks without serious repercussions which might be built up into embarrassing Congressional attacks or investigations. We have public opinion strongly behind us on the general issue and I have the backing of most of the Congress; but it is very easy to upset this balance of power by tactless or crude procedure, whatever the basic merits of the case.

This is a hastily dictated letter, so please accept it as such.

Faithfully yours,
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. Marshall had written to Lear requesting his views on the possibility of designating Brigadier General Alexander E. Anderson, who commanded a brigade of the New York National Guard, to head the division when Major General William N. Haskell retired. Haskell had suggested Anderson. (Marshall to Lear, October 27, 1941, NA/RG 165 [OCS, 20241 239B].) Lear replied that Anderson had “done fairly well,” but he did not have the “technical, tactical or command experience qualifying him for command of a unit of the importance of an infantry division.” Lear noted that Haskell had recently recommended for promotion Brigadier General Ralph McT. Pennell (U.S.M.A., 1906), who commanded the Fifty-second Field Artillery Brigade. (Lear to Marshall, October 28, 1941, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. Brigadier General Donald A. Robinson had been chief of staff of the First Cavalry Division (July 1939–October 1940), the Ninth Corps (November 1940-February 1941), and the Second Army (March-October 1941). At the end of October he was made the commanding general of the Cavalry Replacement Training Center at Fort Riley, Kansas.
3. Lear replied that he would “be very happy in completely carrying out your desires, especially with reference to relief of National Guard officers.” He then discussed the circumstances surrounding his relief of Major General Ralph E. Truman. (Lear to Marshall, November 3, 1941, ibid.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 660–661.

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