Editorial Note on the State of Army Morale

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Editorial Note on the State of Army Morale

August–October 1941
Military affairs abroad presented both opportunities and dangers for Marshall. Britain had not been invaded; the Soviet Union had not yet collapsed. But both respites meant that pressures increased on the War Department to divert materiel from the United States Army. The danger of war grew rapidly in the Far East, but the situation seemed far from hopeless—if the final break could be delayed through the winter of 1941–42. Properly positioned, the Air Force’s new heavy bombers might yet be used as a threat to deter Japanese expansion. It was “now apparent,” two of the Air Force’s leading officials wrote during the period, “that air forces may completely disrupt nations; that air forces can dictate terms at peace tables; that the threat of air forces can accomplish without dropping a bomb the breakdown of opposing diplomatic morale.” (H. H. Arnold and Ira C. Eaker, Winged Warfare [New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1941], p. 260.) In this light, reinforcing the Philippine Islands assumed increased importance.

At home Marshall faced another combination of danger and opportunity. The intensity of the army’s morale problem among draftees and National Guard troops began to abate after mid-August, when Congress passed the bill permitting the extension of the period of service. During the September maneuvers in Louisiana, Marshall found much that pleased him during his inspections. While he discovered a remarkable improvement in large-unit management, problems of command and coordination remained at the highest echelons—the corps and field army levels. “Basic training” for the army was over and Marshall concentrated his efforts on improving the quality of the general officers.

Marshall’s vigorous efforts to cull the improperly assigned, the inefficient, the unimaginative, and those lacking physical and mental vigor from the ranks of field-grade and general officers, particularly in National Guard units, produced a “flood of political pressure.” Although convinced that he had the backing of the public and of most members of Congress, the chief of staff worked to prevent complaints against the War Department from causing congressional obstacles to the mobilization effort. (Marshall to Krueger, October 30, 1941, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #2-585 [655–57].)
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), p. 629.

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