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To Brigadier General John McA. Palmer
August 26, 1927 Washington, D.C.
My dear General John:
I have been so closely occupied the past ten days that I have not found a favorable moment to write you something of what has been happening to us. Mrs. Marshall made so much of a temporary improvement duwing the time I had her at your apartment and down here at the War College that Colonel Keller felt he was justified in taking the risk of operating on her. He was reluctant to do this, but it was apparent that she could not be built up into better con[di]tion and that she would probably soon have another slump and a more serious one. So he operated on Monday morning.
The operation was much more serious than he had anticipated as indicated by the X ray photographs, and required about twice the normal time. As they could not give her the usual anesthetic, it had to be local, and the extent of the operation required him to risk gas. Her pulse went up to 170 during the operation, but came down considerably by the following morning.
I was not allowed to see her until Wednesday, and tho they all said she was making a very good recovery, yet to me she seemed in a very serious condition, suffering a great deal and subject to prolonged periods of suffocation. She showed no improvement on Thursday and it was not until yesterday that she seemed to feel any improvement. But they tell me she had a poor night and is not feeling very well today. I am only allowed to see her a few minutes a day, as it is important to keep her absolutely quiet. I go out this afternoon after lunch.
I hope that by tomorrow she will really start to show signs of making a real recovery. While this operation was a hard ordeal for her in her weakened condition and with her heart in very bad shape, yet it was the only means of helping her, and we are thankful that Keller found it possible to undertake the task. He is very skillful and has been unusually good to her, seeing her seven or eight times a day.
I have also been deep in preparation for my work at the College, which unfortunately, starts the first day of the term, next Friday. I have had to crowd about three months study into ten days, and Mrs. Marshall’s predicament has made it difficult for me to concentrate.
I gave your book a reading in July but was so distracted by nursing that I could not do it justice. Again a week ago I went through it again, and I want to tell you that I think it the ablest presentation ever put forth by an American Army or Naval officer, in form, English, analysis and conclusions. I will have to read it a third time before I can give you my detailed reactions, but as I see the matter at present I am in agreement with you throughout. I want more time to consider the Naval slant, but my present conclusions are with yours. I am strong for your views on the Regular Army and the Citizen Army. Also for the Department of National Defense.1
With reference to the last sentence, I have just had a sample of the impossibility of cooperation between the services even on the smallest matter, when remote from the influence of the Joint Board.2 The affair was of the smallest importance, but it gave a good sample of the absurdity of the present lack of system. Butler’s Marines were to proceed to Tientsin.3 There was an Army headquarters with all possible data and familiarity regarding the local conditions and terrain. Yet a Marine officer was sent there to make the preliminary reconnaissance and arrangements. He was not sent to our headquarters, and no notification of his coming or intentions was communicated, so far as I know. Our officers attempted to steer him as to the condition of the road to Taku, the housing and camping conditions in Tientsin, but he was there on a completely independent status and tried to do the matter more or less on his own. We could have done everything for him, yet he came unheralded and except for gratutious services, unaided. All of our officers speak Chinese quite well and many of our men, yet there was no request or arrangement for utilizing their helpful services. The Marines tried to put artillery and heavy transport in a recently filled in area bordering on Race Course Road. They were cautioned against it, and went ahead and lost four trucks. Can you beat this for intelligent cooperation. All this is of course, entre nous.
I have no more time at present, but I wanted Mrs. Palmer and you to know about Lily. Your kindly services helped her a great deal to prepare for this ordeal. We shall not forget.
With love to you both,
G. C. M.
Document Copy Text Source: John McA. Palmer Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.
1. John McA. Palmer, Statesmanship or War (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page, 1927). Palmer was particularly interested in proposing ways of adapting the Swiss citizen-army system to the United States without having to adopt universal military training.
2. The Joint Army and Navy Board, usually referred to as the Joint Board, was originally created in 1903 to coordinate military policy and planning. Formally reconstituted in 1919, board members included the army chief of staff, the chief of naval operations, and the heads of their respective operations and planning divisions.
3. As part of the international effort to protect United States and other foreign citizens in China from the mounting antiforeign agitation accompanying Chiang Kai-shek’s victories, a United States Marine detachment landed at Shanghai on February 9, 1927. Reinforcements arrived on May 2 with Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, who took charge of the Third Marine Brigade. In June, Butler took nearly four thousand Marines to Tientsin.
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. 312-314.