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To Arthur J. Hayes
July 17, 1940 [Washington, D.C.]
My dear Arthur:
I am very busy these days but not too busy to answer a letter as interesting as yours.1
The art of military strategy as we in the Army understand it can be mastered only after years of intensive study and through progressive training which must begin with the instruction you have been receiving in your ROTC unit. For you to start on a serious study of strategy at the present time would be somewhat like trying to understand algebra and geometry without a previous background of arithmetic; or like trying to win football games with players who did not know how to tackle and block.
I admire your desire to acquire knowledge, and I hope that the fact that you have not yet been able to obtain books on the subject will not discourage you. Any book on military history is full of examples of good and bad strategy. If you thoroughly understand the military history of the United States, you have already made a good start on the subject of strategy.
As you suggested in your letter, a great military leader of the future might be among your own group of friends in the ROTC. But remember that the eminent commanders usually rose to great heights only after they had mastered the fundamentals such as are now being taught to you.
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, General Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Hayes wrote to the army chief of staff on July 12 to say that when he had joined the Junior R.O.T.C. in Dubuque, Iowa, he had expected to be taught “strategy and its use in various campaigns.” But he was surprised to find this subject absent from R.O.T.C. studies and books on it difficult to find. He suggested that R.O.T.C. cadets be given at least a “taste” of the subject. (Hayes to Chief of Staff, July 12, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 268-269.