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Comments for the C.C.C. District
Review on Camp Inspections1
[June 1937] Vancouver Barracks, Washington
I was much impressed by the uniform standard of excellence of the camps in eastern Oregon. Some camps, of course, were better than others; but as a general rule all came well up to the standard required for this particular district. The most important differences usually lay in the attitude of the boys towards self improvement. There were camps where practically every boy was definitely and determinedly trying to make up his deficiencies in education, or to fit himself practically for a position in civil life—and as rapidly as possible.
This matter of schooling, outside of the forestry, soil conservation, or other work of the companies, is in my opinion, the most important phase of the CCC program at the present time. The work in the woods, on the trails or otherwise, is the justification for the camps; but their primary purpose is to fit young men, now out of employment, to become more valuable and self supporting citizens. On every side it has become glaringly apparent during the past two years of business revival, that hereafter the unskilled man will have a desperately hard time succeeding, much harder than ever before. Today it is almost impossible in many regions for him to find any work that will be continuous or will pay enough to provide a decent living according to the much talked of American standard. At the same time, the skilled man can get work almost anywhere, and at a high wage. Labor saving devices and quantity production have combined to raise wages and eliminate unskilled labor. Fortunately, in America the opportunity is offered every boy in one way or another to fit himself for such work, if, and only if, he has the ambition and will power to drive him to the task of preparation. The CCC offers a rare opportunity; for here in the camps, bed, board and clothing are provided in a generous measure; healthy, outdoor work is the rule, the physical well being of the individual is taken care of to a degree not usually possible in the ordinary home; and an educational adviser, books and other facilities are made conveniently available. If a boy allows this opportunity to slip by, he will allow most of the remaining good things of life to slip past his door.
The weakest features of the camp system at present are involved in the “Spike” or “Trail” camps. Too frequently the leader or assistant leader in charge allows things to deteriorate—in morale, in personal and barracks cleanliness, and in the efficiency of the efforts of the kitchen force. These failures are usually due to one of two reasons: the company commander’s lack of ability as a leader, his influence weakening with each mile of distance of the detachment from the main camp; or, his failure to select the right man as a leader, or to hold him to that duty. Corrective measures are going to be taken in this matter.
I found that the hard rains of last week had demonstrated that a portion of our tentage, in the temporary camps, had seriously deteriorated. This will be replaced. In the camp at Stanfield a severe wind storm had caused considerable damage.
What particularly impressed me was the ingenuity displayed in some of the temporary camps in arranging or fixing things in a convenient fashion. This was especially noticeable at Canyon City. The company near Ukiah has a difficult problem in transportation, which is being met in an efficient manner. The men at Odell Lake and at Enterprise have especially favorable sites, and are making the best use of them. Since my last inspection in Eastern Oregon, there have been marked improvements in several cases, notably at Zig Zag, at Hilgard and at Stanfield. Heppner continues to be a model camp, with Squaw Creek crowding it hard. Baker has been suffering from an epidemic of mumps and such a small enrollment that, with two Spike camps, the base camp has very few men for duty, which makes difficult the conduct of a bountiful mess. Unfortunately, thru lack of time, I was unable to inspect the camp at Moro. Incidentally, we have just received informal notice that there will be a new enrollment in July, and that the present restrictions are to be modified, permitting practically any boy over seventeen to enroll who needs a job. This should result in a material increase in numbers.
I have come in contact with young men here and there in the camps who display such outstanding efficiency, energy and determination, that I am making a special personal effort to locate for them good jobs in civil life. In doing this I have two things in mind—the boy deserves the break, and, what I believe is more important, he will be an excellent advertisement to convince employers that their best labor or job market is in the CCC, if they want wholly dependable men who have demonstrated unmistakably that they have both the character and the ability. I am hopeful that good progress can be made in this matter, which will lead to a really effective system of placing men deserving of such consideration.2
Document Copy Text Source: Vancouver Barracks C.C.C. District Review, July 1, 1937.
Document Format: Printed document.
1. The week of June 7, Marshall traveled fourteen hundred miles inspecting the Civilian Conservation Corps camps of eastern Oregon.
2. The district C.C.C. newspaper later reported that Marshall had “urged sub-district commanders and staff members to be on the lookout for boys who are doing something well. Letters of commendation will be sent to boys achieving excellent records in camps. Last year General Marshall wrote to several hundred enrollees and in many cases such letters proved of value to those seeking employment at the expiration of their terms of service in the C.C.C.” (C.C.C. District Review, March 1, 1938.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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. 542-544.