To Reed G. Landis
May 27, 1938 Vancouver Barracks, Washington
I have just read your note of May 23rd, and while I am not going into further ramifications of my views on consolidation, I must comment on one item. Your reference to the difficulties in solution and interchange of Army and Navy officers, is an amusing confirmation of the attitude of most of the fellows in the War and Navy Departments. With this I disagree.1
I refer to the rank of the officers to be exchanged. We are so damned conservative in peace as to who can do what, that we seldom do any otherwise; and the hour war is declared we take a boy out of high school and give him a couple thousand of men. I am exaggerating somewhat, but merely to emphasize the point. In other words, we can exchange safely and efficiently officers of field rank, though I myself would prefer an outstanding captain of the army and commander of the navy. The new broom always sweeps clean, and usually sees things from a fresh and therefore from a more efficient point of view. He is not in a rut, and therefore is invaluable if he has good common sense and a sound military or naval basic education. A naval commander in the War Plans, G-3 or G-4 branches of the General Staff would quickly prove a very valuable General Staff officer of the army. But what is more to the point, he would bring across, by degrees, the best ideas of the navy, the best ideas of navy procedure point of view and vice versa, and would informally convey to the navy the better practices of the army that he observed and came to understand by his actual job of responsibilities.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Vancouver Barracks, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Landis had written: “I presume that much of the routine action in both the Army and the Navy is based on the personal experience in the specific service enjoyed by the officers taking the action and that an Army officer suddenly dropped into a position of major responsibility in the Navy might have some difficulty in turning out the same amount of work that an experienced Naval file would turn out in a given period of time. This objection would, of course, completely disappear if the exchanged officers were started out in relatively low ranking jobs and worked their way up. The objection to this is that such officers would probably be young in service and not yet thoroughly experienced in their own branch. Because of this, it seems to me that it might possibly work out better and more quickly to set up joint offices where Army and Naval officers could handle the specific matters relating to their own services side by side and under coordinating influence experienced in both services. The result, I believe, would be eventually the same as you contemplate, without the initial difficulties." (Landis to Marshall, May 23, 1938, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Vancouver Barracks].)
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. 596–597.