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To Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
August 11, 1939 [Washington, D.C.]
I enjoyed your newsy letter, and appreciate the kind invitation to pull your latch-string.
In view of the problem that faces Ibn Saud it appears that the most suitable weapon for him would be either the Thompson sub-machine gun, caliber .45, Model 1928, A-1, or the Colt Monitor machine rifle.1
Since the Arabs would use the gun less as a weapon of precision than as a lead squirt, the Thompson sub-machine gun offers many advantages. It is light and relatively simple because it is a recoil-operated gun and has less mechanism than the gas-operated Colt Monitor. I enclose an Ordnance catalogue which shows the price is something under $200 for the gun without any spare parts. It is for sale by Auto Ordnance Corporation, 31 Nassau Street, New York.
The Colt machine rifle is similar to the type used by the cavalry. The experience of the cavalry has been that this heavier weapon requires a led horse. The greater weight of its ammuniton raises problems that would probably be difficult for the Arabs to solve. Furthermore, it is really a team weapon; its effective operation would probably require a higher degree of organization than Ibn Saud’s troops are likely to have. The Colt machine rifle costs around $300.2
Our new M-1 rifle is in a “restricted” status. However, even if it could be released, it would not serve the purpose you outline for Ibn Saud as well as the Thompson sub-machine gun.3
I hope your holiday will be successful, and that we will not have to call on you again to carry a cane, a stiff leg and a full pack.4
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed letter.
1. Roosevelt had been approached by the munitions purchasing agent for the Arabian King Abdul-Aziz ibn Al Sa’ud regarding light machine guns “for keeping order in his kingdom.” The Saudi king wanted “a weapon that can be carried easily by a man on horseback and that said man can use immediately on dismounting.” (Roosevelt to Marshall, August 4, 1939, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. The Colt Monitor machine rifle was the commercial version of the Browning Automatic Rifle, the standard .30 caliber light machine gun in the Infantry rifle battalion.
3. The United States Rifle Caliber .30 M-1 had been designed by John C. Garand, an employee of the Springfield Armory. Tested during the 1920s, the rifle was adopted as the official Infantry arm in 1936. Roosevelt had immediately thought of the Garand rifle for the Saudis but was unaware of its status. (Ibid.)
4. Marshall was referring to the sight of Roosevelt, wounded at the battles of Cantigny and Soissons, leading his troops of the Twenty-sixth Infantry, First Division, in the last half of 1918. Roosevelt had written Marshall that he was “keeping in top hole condition for the next war. I’m sure I could still carry a full pack!” (Ibid. For Marshall’s views on Roosevelt in World War I, see Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-171 [1: 198-99].)
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 34.