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Editorial Note on Maneuver Division Assignment
Following their visit in Britain, the Marshalls journeyed to France, Italy, and Austria before beginning their return. “We had a very stormy trip home,“ he remembered. “We didn’t see anything of interest in Africa [Algiers] except to argue with the carriage men and others about the prices they were charging—Mrs. Marshall being very embarrassed about my refusal to pay the price they put up." (Marshall Interviews, p. 169.)
Marshall reported for duty—“in a blizzard”—on January 30, 1911, at Madison Barracks, on Lake Ontario near Sackets Harbor, New York. He was assigned to command Company D of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, the regiment to which he had been assigned upon his promotion to first lieutenant on March 7, 1907. This was the first time Marshall had served with his regiment, and his stay proved to be a brief one. (Ibid., p. 162.)
Early in March 1911, Marshall was ordered to Washington. There he found War Department planning in its final stages for the concentration of a “Maneuver Division” on the Mexican border, the first division-sized gathering since the Spanish-American War. Marshall was immediately assigned as an assistant to the division’s chief signal officer, Major George O. Squier. Marshall arrived at the headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, on March 11, and was assigned to special duty with Company D of the Signal Corps. “I found when I got down there,” he recalled, “that they had taken me into the Signal Corps affair just to get me present." (Ibid., p. 163.) Unfortunately, “the weather conditions could hardly have been more unfavorable” for maneuvers. (Major General William H. Carter to TAG, June 13, 1911, NA/RG 94 [Maneuver Division].) Nevertheless, with innovations such as field telephones, wireless transmitters, and airplanes to assimilate, the experience was highly educational for the nearly sixteen thousand officers and men present.
Marshall arrived without equipment of any kind. “I just came by myself. Now they kept sending men in to me which formed a sort of echelon of men in connection with communications detail. So I had command of this outfit.” He also had to act as his own depot quartermaster, drawing supplies for which he was personally responsible. It was a complex situation involving “a lot of paperwork.” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 169-70.)
The division’s chief signal officer had been assigned three army pilots and their two planes. The latter Marshall recalled vividly. “I turned out every morning at 5:30 in the cold of a Texas winter to avoid a possible calamity, as the planes in taking off barely cleared my tent. I saw the Curtiss crash, and I saw the Wright run through a horse and buggy, or rather I saw the horse run over the machine." (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-514 [1: 631-635] Speech at the Air Corps Tactical School, September 19, 1938)
When the aircraft were undergoing repairs—which was often—or the weather was bad—also often—the pilots acted as communications officers. Marshall, having organized the headquarters communications center, “worked out a brief plan of having maneuvers with all the staff, headquarters, communications details, and things of that sort instead of the troops at first. And that took the chief signal officer very strongly; and he advertised it very thoroughly and put it on and had me to draw up the problem and all for the procedure. It involved the whole division and a Cavalry brigade." (Marshall Interviews, p. 163.)
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. 53-54.