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To Major General Frank R. McCoy
August 16, 1936 In bivouac north of Allegan [Michigan]
My dear General:
As you alone are responsible for my present situation I want you to know that never have I had a more delightfully interesting bit of service in time of peace.
In the first place, the maneuvers are an outstanding, an impressive success. All observers, all officers concerned who knew anything about the Pine Camp and Knox affairs, are loud in their praise.1 They say this is the first real, modern affair since 1918. It has gone off in splendid fashion, with a maximum of sustained interest and of, almost, wild excitement. The Mechanized Force has been great, and has learned a lot, operating for the first time on an extended front in strange terrain. Rail heads and generals have been captured, desperate situations created, and the National Guard given all of interest they are capable of absorbing.2
I started off with a command of my brigade, the 1st Bn. 14th Cav., 2d Bn. 3d F.A., all of the 106th Cavalry, and some loose companies. I also run a dump at the Allegan rail head, with a company as a Q.M. regiment.
We covered the first movement forward of the Corps, with the mechanized reconnaissance elements and the 106th Cavalry acting against my people. On a 17 mile front will [we] stopped all efforts at penetration and captured—without the aide of umpires—8 armored cars and a large bunch of motor cycles. That night my force jumped about [25?] miles, over to the Red side, and the following morning (less the 14th Cav.) attacked the front of the VI Corps moving across the Kalamazoo and into a defensive position. We drove in the heads of their flank columns—I left a 2 mile gap in my center—and prevented them from ever reaching their main line of resistance. Part of my infantry acted like horse cavalry. Palmer struck the flank and rear of the 33d, tore up their rail head and cut a swath through their rear.3 He almost—and should have captured the VI Corps C.P.
The following day was somewhat a repetition, Palmer striking the 32nd Div. with considerable success. I largely confined my attacks to the 33d, but had to be more careful about leaving gaps and deep open flanks—but had no difficulties. Tomorrow I defend a line of lakes and open country against the 32nd, while the 33d moves by truck to Custer. Palmer has promised me (on the QT) a platoon of armored cars and a platoon of tanks. If he delivers, I will strive for a genuine surprise, with a counter attack at the crucial moment—as I also have, for the first time, a decent reserve force, as well as the 14th Cav. with some scout cars. The 106th Cav. is enroute for Custer.
Really, the whole thing has been realistic to a remarkable degree. I am writing this in a granary of a little farm. Our message center is on the porch, the clerks in a wagon shed, and our office in the granary. Radio and cars are concealed under trees. We sleep in the open. Fleets of planes go overhead frequently, but so far no artillery fire has disturbed us. I move in the morning to a school house 2 miles from here.
Friday I tried to maintain our wide gap by personal reconnaissance and posting detachments, and just missed capture on three occasions. Today I learn that two regiments in the 33d had NCOs who know me with red hat bands from prisoners, in our lines trying to capture me—for a $25.00 reward. If so, they don’t place much of a price on my head.
I wish you could see this affair. It is great fun, and loaded with highly instructive situations. The men I have seen in the Guard are thrilled and morale never higher.
With affectionate regards
G. C. Marshall
Document Copy Text Source: Frank R. McCoy Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Document Format: Handwritten letter signed.
1. The Fifth Corps Area maneuvers were held at Fort Knox, Kentucky, August 1-15.
2. The Sixth Corps Area maneuvers between Camp Custer and Allegan, Michigan, involved over twenty-six thousand officers and men divided into the Red Force (enemy) and Blue Force. Marshall commanded the Twelfth Brigade (Reinforced). Most of his troops maneuvered with the Blue Force, Wednesday, August 12, and part of Thursday, until they joined the Red Force.
3. Colonel Bruce Palmer had been Marshall’s friend since they were classmates at Fort Leavenworth’s Infantry and Cavalry School and General Staff College (1906-8). During the 1936 maneuvers he commanded the Red Force’s mechanized units.
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. 499-501.