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To Major General Roy D. Keehn
March 25, 1937 Vancouver Barracks, Washington
My dear General Keehn:
Since you have expressed curiosity regarding my new duties and surroundings I will endeavor to give you some idea of their contrast with those of a senior instructor for the 33d Division.
In the first place, I have three different jobs, the most immediate being the command of this post and the regiment and detachments stationed here. Vancouver Barracks is one of the old historic outposts of the army. Established in 1849 on the site of a Hudson Bay Company station, the traces of whose lookout station are still discernable in a tall fir tree, for more than fifty years it was the center for the development of the northwest. General Grant’s log quarters are a part of the present post library building. Phil Sheridan left here a lieutenant to start his meteoric rise to fame. Pickett was a member of the garrison. My quarters were occupied by a succession of Civil War celebrities or Indian fighters. General Miles built the house, which was later occupied by Canby, Crook, Gibbon and Pope.1
During the past thirty years there has been little change in the outward appearance of the post, but the interior of barracks and quarters have been modernized to a degree and made reasonably attractive and comfortable. Giant fir trees ornament the parade; every yard has its holly trees and a profusion of shrubs. The original apple tree of the northwest, planted in the yard of the old trading post, still lives and is carefully fenced against possible harm. In my yard is a cherry tree of reported antiquity, with three grafted varieties of the fruit. All is in delightful contrast to the institution like appearance of many army posts.
The Columbia River, bordering our aviation field (we have four planes) in extension of the parade, emerges from its famous gorge a few miles above the post. In the distance the symmetrical cone of Mt. Hood stands covered with snow, summer or winter.
Another of my duties is the command of the 5th Brigade, one regiment of which occupies posts near Spokane, in Montana and in North Dakota. The local regiment has two companies at Chilkoot Barracks in Alaska. Except for inspections, training policies and periods of concentration, there is little for me to do with the troops of the brigade not stationed here.
My most pressing duty concerns the command of thirty-five CCC companies scattered through Oregon and southern Washington. These camps are beautifully organized, and the supply system and weekly motor transport convoys operate from here in a precise routine, under the capable direction of a staff of reserve officers.
The location of the camps contributes a great deal to the pleasure of my work, situated as they are along the coast, high in the mountains, on lakes, and at other points of scenic interest. Excellent fishing and hunting can usually be found in the vicinity of these camps—the steel head salmon are now running—but it is not necessary to go so far afield. A few evenings ago my orderly called my attention to four cock pheasants and six hens roosting in a tree in the yard.
To reach a large section of my district in Eastern Oregon I must traverse the Columbia River gorge, finally emerging from the dense green of the vegetation of the damp near-coastal region into the typical barrens of the dry western plains. In winter one passes, within a mile, from overcast skies, fogs or rain into the glare of cloudless skies. It is possible now, with the spring flowers blooming, to motor an hour and a half from here to the skiing slopes of Mt. Hood. Oregon is a region of contrasts.
The CCC companies are a source of keen interest. Near Pendleton, the scene of the famous annual “round up” or rodeo, is a company of Boston boys. Under Beacon Rock—except for Gibraltar, the largest monolith in the world, is a group of young fellows from the swamp regions of Arkansas. Providence, Rhode Island has a company near Tillamook on the shore of the Pacific. Their road sign reads, “Tillamook 18 miles. Providence, R. I., 3100." We have groups from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota and the Dakotas.
The boys all seem to like this country, and I imagine that this peaceful invasion will have a marked effect on the future development of the region, as many of these young men remain out here to marry and settle down. As a whole they are a fine lot, hardworking, studious in following the educational courses we provide, and seeming to develop considerable ambition, along with the necessary energy and resolution.
I was very fortunate to find an old army friend in the Governor of Oregon, Major General Charles H. Martin, retired. He has done a great deal to help me in my contacts with the people of the State. I was also fortunate to find our old friend, General Rilea at Salem. The Adjutant General of Oregon and the Commanding General of the 41st Division, General George White, has been most cordial. We served together on an examining board last month. He and I will command the opposing forces in the army maneuvers next August, and I am trusting him not to put a price on my head as you did in the 2d Army Maneuvers in Michigan last summer.
The latter part of April we leave for a month of division maneuvers at Fort Lewis, some of the troops coming from as distant points as Salt Lake City and San Francisco. We will also have a brief joint maneuver with the Navy and Marine Corps, for which I am Chief Umpire.
June and July will be occupied with ROTC, CMTC, and Reserve regiment camps here and on our firing range fourteen miles away. And the last two weeks of August we return to the Fort Lewis reservation and vicinity for army maneuvers.
The town of Vancouver—some 15,000 people—adjoins the post. Portland is across the Columbia eight miles distant. The people are friendly and cordial. The country seems prosperous despite the recent prolonged marine strike which inflicted heavy losses on the lumber people, the apple growers and many other industries of this vicinity.
I have just read the descriptions in the last Guardsman of the work of the Illinois National Guard during the flood.2 Colonel Davis and his command evidently did a magnificent job in a manner which should convince every citizen of the security guaranteed his home and his family by the maintenance of efficient state troops. The frequent employment of the National Guard in times of public disaster, to succor the distressed and to reestablish law and order, should have dispelled all feelings of hostility towards the military, and should win for it the determined support of citizens generally. It is the great non-political force in this country, state or federal, for the security of citizens.
I am deeply interested in the continued development of the 33d Division towards combat team efficiency. As commanders, and particularly staffs, acquire facility in the expeditious conduct of training and handling of troops, the efficiency of the division will reach a state not now considered possible of achievement. Without increase in working time and with less effort they will be able to accomplish twice as much. You have a splendid personnel, and the sky is the limit.
Document Copy Text Source: Illinois National Guardsman, April 1937.
Document Format: printed letter.
1. Marshall was referring to Ulysses S. Grant (U.S.M.A., 1843), Philip H. Sheridan U.S.M.A., 1853), George E. Pickett (U.S.M.A., 1846), Edward R. S. Canby (U.S.M.A., 1839), George Crook (U.S.M.A., 1852), John Gibbon (U.S.M.A., 1847), and John Pope (U.S.M.A., 1842).
2. The Illinois National Guard went to the aid of victims of the flood of January-February, 1937, in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Davis commanded the Guardsmen at Cairo, Illinois, a critical flood area at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
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. 525-528.