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To General John J. Pershing
February 18, 1930 Fort Benning, Georgia
We had a visit yesterday from General Ely. Before leaving last night he asked me to write to you in his behalf, regarding his possible appointment as Chief of Staff. He will have one year to serve after General Summerall’s relief, and seems very, very intent on this culmination of his military career. General Ely stated that apparently the Secretary of War was quite agreeable to the appointment, but was embarrassed by the necessity of explaining to the President the justification for departure from the policy of only appointing a man who could serve a complete tour. It was Ely’s hope that you might feel disposed to speak to the Secretary in his behalf, especially in appreciation of the difficulty above mentioned.
Generaly Ely feels that having been a successful head of the Leavenworth schools, a successful head of the War College, and in intimate touch with the War Department throughout this period, he is in a position to take up the burdens of Chief of Staff with a pretty full knowledge of just what they are, and of the policies now in force. He feels that his presence for only a year would not be a deterrent to army development, but under the circumstances, would offer the best guarantee of smooth progression under the existing policies. Furthermore, he states that his appointment would not establish a dangerous precedent, as he is the last (great) troop leader of the World War to pass from regiment to brigade, to division command, all on the battlefield. He feels that he has given evidence in each of the positions filled by him since the war of level-headed and progressive leadership, which has carried with it harmony in the posts or areas under his command, and with regulars, National Guard, and Reserves.
I do not know just what your attitude is in regard to interference in such matters, but I do remember your speaking about Kreger’s case, and, I think, summer before last, you said something about Drum. Whatever your attitude, everyone feels that your expressed opinion carries with it tremendous power.1
I am sorry not to have had a line from you telling me you were coming down. Mr. Eaton, of the Eaton Ranch, with his wife and a friend, have just been with me for four days. They saw more horses here than they did on the ranch, and more riders.
With affectionate regards,
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: John J. Pershing Papers, General Correspondence, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Typed letter signed.
1. The army’s mandatory retirement age was sixty-four. The normal tour for a chief of arm or the army chief of staff was four years. General Charles P. Summerall would have served four years as chief of staff on November 20, 1930. Major General Hanson E. Ely, who had been Second Corps Area commander since November 30, 1927, was born on November 23, 1867, and would reach retirement age on that date in 1931. Major General Edward A. Kreger, since November 16, 1928, the army judge advocate general, was born on May 31, 1868, and could have served eighteen months before retirement. Major General Hugh A. Drum, who was made army inspector general on January 29, 1930, was born on September 19, 1879, and would not reach retirement age until 1943.
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. 349-350.