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Editorial Note on the Ft. Leavenworth Schools
Marshall returned to Fort Reno at the end of January 1906, but his stay was destined to be a short one. Brigadier General J. Franklin Bell—commandant of the Infantry and Cavalry School, the Signal School, and the Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas—had been striving to improve the quality of student sent to his schools as well as the quality of instruction. After leaving Leavenworth to become the army chief of staff on April 14, 1906, Bell continued to struggle to overcome the anti-intellectual bias among many army officers. Some regimental commanders, a friend observed, seemed to “give the detail at Leavenworth to their regimental idiot." (Colonel A. L. Wagner to Bell, February 21, 1905, NA/RG 393 [Leavenworth].)
At Fort Reno, Marshall recalled, “we had a competition in the Post School for the Leavenworth detail and I had always come out [number] one [for] two years, but I was never given it. It always went to some higher ranking officer, none of whom did at all well, and all of whom came back with many criticisms and attacks on the Leavenworth procedure. The third year nobody put in for it; and they sent a list around later on account of an inquiry from regimental headquarters. It developed afterwards that I was the only one that put down `yes,’ that I wanted to go, and therefore I got the detail." Probably equally important was the Fort Reno commander’s opinion that Marshall was “an excellent officer.” (Marshall Interviews, p. 150; Efficiency Report, June 30, 1906, NA/RG 94 [Document File].)
Upon arriving at the school, Marshall was dismayed to find that some of the other fifty-three students, particularly those from the Cavalry, had been coached on what to expect and even had copies of the previous year’s examinations. “I wondered what was going to become of me without any preparation of any kind." Marshall had never seen academic tactical problems of this sort. “So I knew I would have to study harder than I ever dreamed of studying before in my life.” (Marshall Interviews, pp. 151, 157.)
Approximately the top half of the graduates of the Infantry and Cavalry School (the name was changed to the Army School of the Line in 1907) were selected for the second year’s prestigious General Staff course. Completion of the second year was usually a prerequisite for attending the Army War College in Washington, D.C.
During the first few weeks of school in August and September, 1906, Marshall heard many of his classmates speculate on who would be the top students; his own name was not mentioned. He perceived that the “game” at Fort Leavenworth was hard work, concentration, and competition. In recalling his experiences on the mapping expedition and with the commissary staff afterwards, he noted that hardships and lack of sympathy were “part of the game and it was a great lesson to me and a very valuable one." After a few weeks at Fort Leavenworth, Marshall recalled proudly, “I developed a position which put me in another light to my classmates who had left me out entirely of the estimate of who was going to be in the next year’s staff class." (Ibid., pp. 146, 157.)
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. 36-37.