1-262 Memorandum for the Commandant, January 9, 1928

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: January 9, 1928

Memorandum for the Commandant

January 9, 1928 Fort Benning, Georgia

Selection of Infantry Officers for the Advanced Course,

Infantry School, and for the Command & General Staff School.

1. I suggest that a recommendation be made to the War Department requesting a modification of the present policy governing the selection of student officers for the Advanced Course, Infantry School, and for the Command and General Staff School.1 It seems to me highly desirable that a limited number of outstanding officers should be given the opportunity of taking the Advanced Course, The Infantry School, or the course at the Command and General Staff School, regardless of present disqualifications as to rank. In principle, the present policy appears the logical method for governing selections for these details, except that it leaves an insufficient loophole for entry of a large class of officers whose present position on the promotion list bears little relation to their military experience and frequently no relation to their qualifications as to military efficiency. That these officers should be barred for many years from entrance into the two schools referred to merely because of a few months difference in service, is not only unfortunate in its effect on morale, but it is especially unfortunate in its effect on the work of such officers in the Company Officers Course at The Infantry School. Considering this question purely from the viewpoint of the efficiency of The Infantry School, the influence of the Academic Board would be greatly strengthened to the manifest advantage of instruction, if, for example, each student in the Company Officers Course realized that a limited number conspicuous for the outstanding quality of their work, would be detailed for the Advanced Course regardless of rank. The same would apply to students in the Advanced Course. There is another slant to this matter, which would also react to the advantage of the school, and to the service in general. Many officers anticipate preferment in obtaining these desirable details largely because of their rank. While it is desirable that the rank of the officer should usually be a preliminary qualification, I think there would be a very wholesome reaction to a policy giving added importance to the individual qualifications of the officer.

2. I have discussed this matter purely from the viewpoint of the efficiency of The Infantry School. There is, however, another consideration which is probably more important. The present promotion situation in the company grades operates directly to the detriment of the efficiency of the army.2 The War Department is now seeking legal methods for correcting this condition. There are, I believe, other methods not requiring legal sanction which would do much towards increasing the morale of those officers who are rather hopelessly overslaughed on the promotion list. The foregoing proposal is but one of these methods, and from that standpoint alone I believe it worthy of approval. The fact that there are lieutenants, captains, and majors the same age and with almost the same length of service, would seem to indicate that a considerable latitude in selection of officers for advancement thru our educational systems is now desirable. In time of peace the law will always regulate rank. The army, therefore, should be careful to recognize efficiency by giving it the reward and distinction of appropriate consideration. In time of war, necessity makes the necessary adjustments. The officer, however, should be fitted for this expectancy in peace.

3. I recommend that:

a. Not to exceed 10% of the officers detailed to pursue the Advanced Course be selected from those whose work has been most outstanding in the Company Officers Course, either during the current year or some previous year, regardless of rank.

b. Not to exceed 10% of the officers detailed to pursue the course at the Command and General Staff School be selected from those whose work has been most outstanding in the Advanced Course, The Infantry School, either during the current year or some previous year, regardless of rank.3

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office 1917- (RG 407), 210.63, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.

Document Format: Typed Memorandum.

1. The third indorsement to Marshall’s memorandum noted that admission to the Advanced Course was limited to field-grade officers (majors and colonels) and to those captains within the first thousand on the promotion list. All who attended had to be less than fifty years old when the course began.

2. A study of the promotion situation made in 1926 noted that it took, on the average, nine years of service to reach the grade of captain and eleven to reach major. But as the “present hump in the personnel of the Army must be taken into account and must be the controlling feature in our promotion system,” the study predicted that by 1940 it would take seventeen years to make captain and twenty-three to make major. The positions available in each grade in 1926 were: major, 1,725; captain, 3,450; first lieutenant, 2,667; second lieutenant, 1,571. (Promotion Study for the Office of the Chief of Infantry by Captain John S. Schwab, October 19, 1926, NA/RG 177 [210.2, Chief of Infantry].)

3. General Collins, the commandant, indorsed Marshall’s recommendations as “highly desirable." But the chief of Infantry, Major General Robert H. Allen, thought they “would necessitate a radical departure in existing policies governing the details of officers to the various schools.“ Marshall reiterated his suggestions in the school’s Annual Report of June 30, 1928.

In a memorandum dated July 1, 1929, Colonel Lorenzo D. Gasser (Office of the Chief of Infantry) stated that Marshall “had repeatedly urged both verbally and in writing” the new selection procedures. “Furthermore, Colonel Marshall brings up the point that if we are to train officers for General Staff positions at the general service school, we must advance materially the opportunities for the younger officers, namely, officers in the grade of lieutenant, to attend this institution, otherwise, in event of war, the present policy of limiting the attendance to the General Staff School of officers of field grade or the senior captains will result, due to the rapid promotion incident to the outbreak of war, to a lack of suitable general staff officers for our divisions. He, therefore, holds that the entire educational program of the Army should be such as to permit the rapid induction of the younger officers of the Army through the special service schools so that they may attend the general service schools at a much younger age and of corresponding lower rank than is permitted at present." (NA/RG 177 [210.6, Chief of Infantry].)

In August, 1929, the new chief of Infantry, Major General Stephen O. Fuqua, approved a rejection of Marshall’s proposals. In addition to the large war-created “hump” on the promotion list, a lack of adequate housing for student officers at Fort Benning made it difficult to detail low-paid junior officers there. Moreover, “to select those `few officers who graduate at the top of their class’ might re-introduce into our school system what is known as `the old Leavenworth competition’ element, an undesirable feature which after years of effort has been reduced to a minimum." (Major Elmer F. Rice to Gasser, August 6, 1929, ibid.)

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. 324-326.

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