Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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George C. Marshall, "For the Common Defense," Extract from Final Biennial Report to the Secretary of War, 1 September 1945

As the war ended, George C. Marshall, army chief of staff, put forward proposals for a "peacetime security policy" for the United States. He envisaged a relatively small permanent standing army, buttressed by a citizen soldiery who could be called to arms in case of need. The latter he hoped to create through a program of universal military training, required of all young American men. Marshall expected the regular army to be "a strategic force, heavy in air power, partially deployed in the Pacific and the Caribbean ready to protect the Nation against a sudden hostile thrust and immediately available for emergency action wherever required." In addition, he called for the creation of substantial national stockpiles of arms, ammunition, and other military equipment, and a heavy emphasis on the promotion of scientific research and development in the defense field. Largely due to popular opposition, the United States did not introduce universal military training, but most of Marshall's other recommendations were put into effect.

Our present national policies require us to: Maintain occupation forces in Europe and the Pacific; prepare for a possible contribution of forces to a world security organization; maintain national security while the world remains unstable and later on a more permanent or stable basis.

These policies require manpower. Yet at the same time it is the policy of the nation to completely demobilize the wartime army as rapidly as possible. Unless hundreds of thousands of men of the wartime forces are to remain in service at home and overseas, more permanent decisions must be made.

The War Department recommends that the occupation forces and the U.S. complement in the International security force be composed as much as possible of volunteers. This can be accomplished by establishing now a new permanent basis for the regular military establishment. If this recommendation and those which I will now discuss in detail for establishing a peacetime security policy are now adopted by the Congress, demobilization can proceed uninterrupted until all men now in temporary service have returned to their homes.


To fulfill its responsibility for protecting this Nation against foreign enemies, the Army must project its planning beyond the immediate future. In this connection I feel that I have a duty, a responsibility, to present publicly at this time my conception, from a military point of view, of what is required to prevent another international catastrophe.

For years men have been concerned with individual security. Modern nations have given considerable study and effort to the establishment of social security systems for those unable or unwise enough to provide for themselves. But effective insurance against the disasters which have slaughtered millions of people and leveled their homes is long overdue.

We finish each bloody war with a feeling of acute revulsion against this savage form of human behavior, and yet on each occasion we confuse military preparedness with the causes of war and then drift almost deliberately into another catastrophe. . . .

We must start, I think, with a correction of the tragic misunderstanding that a security policy is a war policy. War has been defined by a people who have thought a lot about it—the Germans. They have started most of the recent ones. The German soldier-philosopher Clausewitz described war as a special violent form of political action. Frederic of Prussia, who left Germany the belligerent legacy which has now destroyed her, viewed war as a device to enforce his will whether he was right or wrong. He held that with an invincible offensive military force he could win any political argument. This is the doctrine Hitler carried to the verge of complete success. It is the doctrine of Japan. It is a criminal doctrine, and like other forms of crime, it has cropped up again and again since man began to live with his neighbors in communities and nations. There has long been an effort to outlaw war for exactly the same reason that man has outlawed murder. But the law prohibiting murder does not of itself prevent murder. It must be enforced. The enforcing power, however, must be maintained on a strictly democratic basis. There must not be a large standing army subject to the behest of a group of schemers. The citizen-soldier is the guarantee against such a misuse of power.

In order to establish an international system for preventing wars, peace-loving peoples of the world are demonstrating an eagerness to send their representatives to such conferences as those at Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco with the fervent hope that they may find a practical solution. Yet, until it is proved that such a solution has been found to prevent wars, a rich nation which lays down its arms as we have done after every war in our history, will court disaster. The existence of the complex and fearful instruments of destruction now available make this a simple truth which is, in my opinion, undebatable.

So far as their ability to defend themselves and their institutions was concerned, the great democracies were sick nations when Hitler openly massed his forces to impose his will on the world. As sick as any was the United States of America. We had no field army. There were the bare skeletons of three and one-half divisions scattered in small pieces over the entire United States. It was impossible to train even these few combat troops as divisions because motor transportation and other facilities were lacking and funds for adequate maneuvers were not appropriated. The Air Forces consisted of a few partially equipped squadrons serving continental United States, Panama, Hawaii, and the Philippines; their planes were largely obsolescent and could hardly have survived a single day of modern aerial combat. We lacked modern arms and equipment. When President Roosevelt proclaimed, on 8 September 1939, that a limited emergency existed for the United States we were, in terms of available strength, not even a third-rate military power. Some collegians had been informing the world and evidently convincing the Japanese that the young men of America would refuse to fight in defense of their country.

The German armies swept over Europe at the very moment we sought to avoid war by assuring ourselves that there could be no war. The security of the United States of America was saved by sea distance, by Allies, and by the errors of a prepared enemy. For probably the last time in the history of warfare those ocean distances were a vital factor in our defense. We may elect again to depend on others and the whim and error of potential enemies, but if we do we will be carrying the treasure and freedom of this great Nation in a paper bag.

Returning from France after the last war, with General Pershing [commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I], I participated in his endeavors to persuade the Nation to establish and maintain a sound defense policy. Had his recommendations been accepted, they might have saved this country the hundreds of billions of dollars and the more than a million casualties it has cost us again to restore the peace. We might even have been spared this present world tragedy. . . .

Twice in recent history the factories and farms and people of the United States have foiled aggressor nations; conspirators against the peace would not give us a third opportunity.

Between Germany and America in 1914 and again in 1939 stood Great Britain and the USSR, France, Poland, and the other countries of Europe. Because the technique of destruction had not progressed to its present peak, these nations had to be eliminated and the Atlantic Ocean crossed by ships before our factories could be brought within the range of the enemy guns. At the close of the German war in Europe they were just on the outer fringes of the range of fire from an enemy in Europe. [German Field Marshall Hermann] Goering stated after his capture that it was a certainty that the eastern Americas would have been under rocket bombardment had Germany remained undefeated for two more years. The first attacks would have started much sooner. The technique of war has brought the United States, its homes and factories into the front line of world conflict. They escaped destructive bombardment in the second World War. They would not in a third.

It no longer appears practical to continue what we once conceived as hemispheric defense as a satisfactory basis for our security. We are now concerned with the peace of the entire world. And the peace can only be maintained by the strong.

What then must we do to remain strong and still not bankrupt ourselves on military expenditures to maintain a prohibitively expensive professional army even if one could be recruited? President Washington answered that question in recommendations to the first Congress to convene under the United States Constitution. He proposed a program for the peacetime training of a citizen army. At that time the conception of a large professional Regular Army was considered dangerous to the liberties of the Nation. It is still so today. But the determining factor in solving this problem will inevitably be the relation between the maintenance of military power and the cost in annual appropriations. No system, even if actually adopted in the near future, can survive the political pressure to reduce the military budget if the costs are high—and professional armies are very costly.

There is now another disadvantage to a large professional standing army. Wars in the twentieth century are fought with the total resources, economic, scientific, and human of entire nations. Every specialized field of human knowledge is employed. Modern war requires the skill and knowledge of the individuals of a nation.

Obviously we cannot all put on uniforms and stand ready to repel invasion. The greatest energy in peacetime of any successful nation must be devoted to productive and gainful labor. But all Americans can, in the next generations, prepare themselves to serve their country in maintaining the peace or against the tragic hour when peace is broken, if such a misfortune again overtakes us. This is what is meant by Universal Military Training. It is not universal military service—the actual induction of men into the combatant forces. Such forces would be composed during peacetime of volunteers. The trainees would be in separate organizations maintained for training purposes only. Once trained, young men would be freed from further connection with the Army unless they chose, as they now may, to enroll in the National Guard or an organized reserve unit, or to volunteer for service in the small professional army. When the Nation is in jeopardy they could be called, just as men are now called, by a committee of local neighbors, in an order of priority and under such conditions as directed at that time by the Congress.

The concept of universal military training is not founded, as some may believe, on the principle of a mass Army. The Army has been accused of rigidly holding to this doctrine in the face of modern developments. Nothing, I think, could be farther from the fact, as the record of the mobilization for this war demonstrates. Earlier in this report I explained how we had allocated manpower to exploit American technology. Out of our entire military mobilization of 14,000,000 men, the number of infantry troops was less than 1,500,000 Army and Marine.

The remainder of our armed forces, sea, air, and ground, was largely fighting a war of machinery. Counting those engaged in war production there were probably 75 to 80,000,000 Americans directly involved in prosecution of the war. To technological warfare we devoted 98 percent of our entire effort.

Nor is it proposed now to abandon this formula which has been so amazingly successful. The harnessing of the basic power of the universe will further spur our efforts to use brain for brawn in safeguarding the United States of America.

However, technology does not eliminate the need for men in war. The Air Forces, which were the highest developed technologically of any of our armed forces in this war, required millions of men to do their job. Every B-29 that winged over Japan was dependent on the efforts of 12 officers and 73 men in the immediate combat area alone. . . .

This war has made it clear that the security of the Nation, when challenged by an armed enemy, requires the services of virtually all able-bodied male citizens within the effective military group.

In war the Nation cannot depend on the numbers of men willing to volunteer for active service; nor can our security in peace.

In another national emergency, the existence of a substantial portion of the Nation's young manpower already trained or in process of training, would make it possible to fill out immediately the peacetime ranks of the Navy, the Regular Army, the National Guard, and the Organized Reserve. As a result our Armed Forces would be ready for almost immediate deployment to counter initial hostile moves, ready to prevent an enemy from gaining footholds from which he could launch destructive attack against our industries and our homes. By this method we would establish, for the generations to come, a national military policy: (1) which is entirely within the financial capabilities of our peacetime economy and is absolutely democratic in its nature, and (2) which places the military world and therefore the political world on notice that this vast power, linked to our tremendous resources, wealth, and production, is immediately available. There can be no question that all the nations of the world will respect our views accordingly, creating at least a probability of peace on earth and of good will among men rather than disaster upon disaster in a tormented world where the very processes of civilization itself are constantly threatened. . . .

The terms of the final peace settlement will provide a basis for determining the strength of the regular or permanent postwar military forces of the United States, air, ground, and naval, but they cannot, in my opinion, alter the necessity for a system of Universal Military Training.

The yardstick by which the size of the permanent force must be measured is maximum security with minimum cost in men, matériel, and maintenance. So far as they can foresee world conditions a decade from now, War Department planners, who have taken every conceivable factor into consideration, believe that our position will be sound if we set up machinery which will permit the mobilization of an Army of 4,000,000 men within a period of 1 year following any international crisis resulting in a national emergency for the United States.

The Regular Army must be comprised largely of a strategic force, heavy in air power, partially deployed in the Pacific and the Caribbean ready to protect the Nation against a sudden hostile thrust and immediately available for emergency action wherever required. It is obvious that another war would start with a lightning attack to take us unaware. The pace of the attack would be at supersonic speeds of rocket weapons closely followed by a striking force which would seek to exploit the initial and critical advantage. We must be sufficiently prepared against such a threat to hold the enemy at a distance until we can rapidly mobilize our strength. The Regular Army, and the National Guard, must be prepared to meet such a crisis.

Another mission of the Regular Army is to provide the security garrisons for the outlying bases. We quickly lost the Philippines, Guam, and Wake Islands at the beginning of this war and are still expending lives and wealth in recovering them.

The third mission of the permanent Army is to furnish the overhead, the higher headquarters which must keep the machine and the plans up to date for whatever national emergency we may face in the future. This overhead includes the War Department, the War College, the service schools, and the headquarters of the military area into which continental United States is subdivided to facilitate decentralized command and coordination of the peacetime military machine. This was about all we had on the eve of this war, planners and a small number of men who had little to handle in practice but sound ideas on how to employ the wartime hosts that would be gathered in the storm. Had it not been for the time the British Empire and the Soviets bought us, those plans and ideas would have been of little use.

The fourth and probably the most important mission of the Regular Army is to provide the knowledge, the expert personnel, and the installations for training the citizen-soldier upon whom, in my view, the future peace of the world largely depends. . . .

Only by Universal Military Training can full vigor and life be instilled into the Reserve system. It creates a pool of well-trained men and officers from which the National Guard and the Organized Reserve can draw volunteers; it provides opportunities for the Guard and Reserve units to participate in corps and Army maneuvers, which are vital preparations to success in military campaigns. Without these trained men and officers, without such opportunities to develop skill through actual practice in realistic maneuvers, neither the Regular Army, the National Guard, nor the Reserve can hope to bring efficiency to their vital missions. . . .

An unbroken period of 1 year's training appears essential to the success of a sound security plan based on the concept of a citizen army.

It is possible to train individual soldiers as replacements for veteran divisions and air groups as we now do in a comparatively short period of time. The training of the unit itself cannot be accomplished at best in less than a year; air units require even more time. The principle is identical to that of coaching a football team. A halfback can quickly learn how to run with the ball, but it takes time and much practice and long hours of team scrimmage before he is proficient at carrying the ball through an opposing team. So it is with an army division or combat air group. Men learn to fire a rifle or machine gun quickly, but it takes long hours of scrimmage, which the army calls maneuver, before the firing of the rifle is coordinated with the activities of more than 14,000 other men on the team.

All men who might someday have to fight for their Nation must have this team training. The seasoned soldiers of our present superb divisions will have lived beyond the age of military usefulness. The situation will be similar in the peacetime army to that which was obtained when we began to mobilize for this war and all men had to have at least a year of unit training before we had divisions even fit for shipment overseas.

The training program would be according to the standards which have made the American soldier in this war the equal of the finest fighting men. It would be kept abreast of technical developments and the resulting modification of tactics. . . .

The peacetime army must not only be prepared for immediate mobilization of an effective war army, but it must have in reserve the weapons needed for the first months of the fighting and clear-cut plans for immediately producing the tremendous additional quantities of matériel necessary in total war. We must never again face a great national crisis with ammunition lacking to serve our guns, few guns to fire, and no decisive procedures for procuring vital arms in sufficient quantities.

The necessity for continuous research into the military ramifications of man's scientific advance is now clear to all and it should not be too difficult to obtain the necessary appropriations for this purpose in peacetime. There is, however, always much reluctance to expenditure of funds for improvement of war-making instruments, particularly where there is no peacetime usefulness in the product.

The development of combat airplanes is closely allied with development of civil aeronautics; the prototypes of many of our present transport planes and those soon to come were originally bombers. Many of the aeronautical principles that helped give this Nation the greatest Air Force in the world grew out of commercial development and our production know-how at the start of this war was partially the fruit of peacetime commercial enterprise. Since many vital types of weapons have no commercial counterpart, the peacetime development of these weapons has been grossly neglected. Antiaircraft weapons are a good example. The highly efficient antiaircraft of today did not materialize until long after the fighting began. The consequent cost in time, life, and money of this failure to spend the necessary sums on such activity in peacetime has been appalling.

There is another phase of scientific research which I think has been somewhat ignored—the development of expeditious methods for the mass production of war matériel. This is of great importance since it determines how quickly we can mobilize our resources if war comes and how large and costly our reserve stocks of war matériel must be. Serious thought and planning along this line can save millions of tax dollars.

We can be certain that the next war, if there is one, will be even more total than this one. The nature of war is such that once it now begins it can end only as this one is ending, in the destruction of the vanquished, and it should be assumed that another reconversion from peace to war production will take place initially under distant enemy bombardment. Industrial mobilization plans must be founded on these assumptions and so organized that they will meet them and any other situation that may develop. Yet they must in no way retard or inhibit the course of peacetime production.

If this Nation is to remain great it must bear in mind now and in the future that war is not the choice of those who wish passionately for peace. It is the choice of those who are willing to resort to violence for political advantage. We can fortify ourselves against disaster, I am convinced, by the measures I have here outlined. In these protections we can face the future with a reasonable hope for the best and with quiet assurance that even though the worst may come, we are prepared for it.

Further Reading
George C. Marshall, General Marshall's Report: The Winning of the War in Europe and the Pacific: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945, to the Secretary of War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), 101–107. .

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