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Editorial Note on Relations with the French Army
November 3, 1917
Political considerations magnified the importance of this small action. General Bordeaux questioned the wounded closely. Marshall recalled that Jean Hugo whispered to him that the general was trying to discover whether the Americans had resisted with sufficient vigor. “So I interrupted him and said, `General, I understand you are trying to find whether the Americans showed fight or not. . . . I don’t think that is the thing to investigate. I think it would be very much more to the point if you look into the fact that you forbade the Americans to go beyond the wire in any reconnaissance, and now they are surprised by the assault right through the wire. I think General Pershing is going to be very much interested in that reaction of a French commander to American troops.’” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 206-7.)
Marshall further shocked General Bordeaux and the corps chief of staff by threatening, despite his low rank, to see the French corps commander personally about the restrictions. “I was representing the division commander who was a hundred or more kilometers away, so my rank didn’t cut any figure with me as far as I could see. My job was to represent him and his interests, and his interests were very heavily involved here. This was the first American action and we had been surprised and prisoners had been taken, and the Germans were advertising it.” (Ibid., pp. 207-8.)
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), p. 125.