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To Colonel Morrison C. Stayer1
May 30, 1937 Vancouver Barracks, Washington
Your nice note has just come telling me of your conversation with Kirk. He is a splendid surgeon and a dandy fellow. I felt very confident with things in his hands, and he certainly seems to have done a marvelous job on me.
Last July my steady old seventy two pulse, winter or summer, walk or run, suddenly developed an intermission—one beat in twelve. In a week or two it was missing every fifth or sixth beat. Then, in a short time it went completely fluey, a tumultuous 95 to 105. Strange to say, I never felt better in my life; gaining weight steadily from June on, until I had run up from college poundage, and that of practically all my service, to eighteen pounds additional. I had a terribly active part in the 2d Army maneuvers, commanding the Red side, and attacking, with from thre[e]2 to six thousand troops, a corps of eighteen thousand. Nearly got captured three times, reconnoitering on foot. And gained three pounds during the affair, whil[e] every one else lost from five to ten pounds!
As soon as I came out here I commenced a carefu[l] series of tests, finally having the heart expert of the northwest—Homer Coffin,3 go over me. Except for pulse and cardiagram, all tests were normal, including BMR [Basal Metabolic Rate]. Coffin decided the trouble was undoubtedly thyroid, of which I had had a swelling for fifteen years. But he thought pressure was causing the functional disorder of the heart. They came to the same conclusion in San Francisco. Kirk has told you what they found.
He operated one Monday. On Tuesday my pulse was in the eighties; on Wednesday, in the seventies, and on Thursday, in the sixties! Ten days later the EKG [electrocardiogram] showed a normal heart beat, just as they were starting on a treatment with—, you know, a quinine derivative, I think. Apparently I missed all the nervous reaction which comes from toxic poison from the thyroid, as I feel fine, and not the least nervous, within four days of the operation.
I just returned three days ago from a month of 3d Division maneuvers at Fort Lewis. It was all very interesting. I commanded either a reenforced brigade or the division, but I allowed the boys to do all the running around, while I took things easily, except that I made the decisions and told the staff where to look next, and next, for trouble. The only strain was this business, in the field, of breakfast at two-thirty or thereabouts. Even so, I would curl up in my car, with the small seats covered with a blanket, and get in another snooze, early morning, mid-day or late afternoon. I had an EKG the morning after the last, and a three day, maneuver, and it showed a normal heart, with a pulse after a nights rest of 64.
I am telling you some details, so that you will realize that I am taking things slowly and carefully, though I feel like running all over the place. I have a horse, sent me from Riley in February, who furnishes me some fine rides in lovely country.
Katherine and I are doing frequent picnic lunches along with fishing ventures for steel head, bass, salmon and trout. We go out about three times a week; and I am taking her on my CCC inspections to the Snake River country, the Bend Valley, Crater Lake, and the region of Rouge River and the Uncompagr [Umpqua]. My work takes me into the most famous fishing country in the States, and where the scenery is magnificient. I park her at the little inn or hotel, and do the CCC in the vicinity. Then she and I fish and picnic. When Molly is not pressed with engagements here on the post, she goes along. It is a very delightful life.
Give my love to your wife and the Rogers,4 and believe me, always,
G. C. M.
Tell me how things line for you for Asst. Surgeon General and Surgeon General. It is time you were getting underway.
Document Copy Text Source: Morrison C. Stayer Papers, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Author-typed letter signed.
1. Stayer—who first met Marshall in Tientsin, China—was a 1930 graduate of the Advanced Course at the Infantry School. In 1931, Marshall appointed him head of the school’s Third Section (weapons and physical training). While at Fort Benning, Stayer was Marshall’s private physician and became acquainted with Marshall’s fibrillation of the heart. (Major General Morrison C. Stayer, interviewed by Forrest C. Pogue, January 20, 1960, GCMRL.) At the time of this letter, Stayer was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Because the state of his health, real or rumored, could influence his career, Marshall frequently typed or wrote by hand letters dealing with the subject. For example, see Marshall to Stayer, October 18, 1938, (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-518 [1: 638-9]).
2. Marshall occasionally typed off of the right edge of the paper; the missing letters are supplied in brackets.
3. Dr. T. Homer Coffen was a physician in Portland, Oregon.
4. Major and Mrs. Pleas S. Rogers were at Fort Riley, Kansas. He had been a student in The Infantry School’s Advanced Course in 1929-30.
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. 538-540.