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Memorandum for the Assistant Chief
of Staff, G-1 [Shedd]
March 18, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
I talked to a committee of the Bandsmen’s Association and heard all their representations.1 They brought up the business of commissioning the Band Leader last. Their first request was for some representation in the War Department on band matters.
Apparently the leader of the Army Band is not very popular with these fellows because they (General Burt being the spokesman)2 were urgently of the opinion that he was much too busy and that he had been disassociated with the service bands and regiments for over twenty years.
They also urged larger bands, but I gave them the details of our personnel struggles for the Regular Army, which convinced them that that was out of the question.3 However, I see no reason why we might not easily arrange to have a larger band personnel with the National Guard. Look into this, please.
Consider the possibility of having a semi-formal board composed of about three band leaders to make recommendations about band matters in general. This might be a way to offset the powerful pressure that is now pressing on us.4 I am afraid with the present popularity of orchestra leaders and their prominence in public life, in night clubs and on the radio, that if we are not clever about this business our hand will be forced in a way that will be unfortunate.
I made no commitments on the question of rank. There is a possible “out” there for the head of the Division bands. But in any event I think we should press to have the higher grade warrant officers.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. Marshall met with a group representing the United States Army and Navy Bandsmen’s Association on the morning of March 16.
2. Reynolds J. Burt was a retired brigadier general.
3. The head of all army bands was Thomas F. Darcy, Jr., a warrant officer with a temporary rank of captain; under his command were seventy-five warrant officer bandleaders.
In the February 10, 1940, Army and Navy Journal (p. 540), Warrant Officer (Bandleader) Arthur S. Haynes wrote an article (“What’s the Matter With the Band?”) criticizing the condition of the Regular Army’s musical organizations. “The band has not kept pace with the rapid development in the modernization of other branches of the army. Lacking representation on the General Staff, there has been no one conversant with band problems to assay changes or make recommendations. Too many of our bands are steeped in the outmoded programs of generations past and have no acquaintance with music in the modern idiom.”
Haynes blamed the poor conditions of the bands on the abolition of the Army Music School. Bandleaders had no formal training in martial music, as did the graduates of the music schools in the great European armies. He also observed: “Discipline is lax, alignment faulty, and march music poor and unsuitable in many of our organizations. As a result, they lack the swing, precision, and martial spirit of the European bands.” Moreover, he believed that the twenty-eight-piece band was “unimpressive, both in volume and appearance, and deficient in tonal coloring.” He thought a minimum of thirty-five pieces was necessary.
4. At this time, the House had already passed a bill (H.R. 3840) creating the commissioned rank of bandmaster, and Senate consideration of the measure had begun. The bill was sent to the president on June 18, but on June 24 he vetoed the measure as constituting “a novel departure in the organization of the Army for which there is no necessity from a military standpoint.” (Congressional Record, 76th Cong., 3d sess., 86, pt. 8: 9109.)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers 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), pp. 176-177.