The George C. Marshall Papers


George C. Marshall to Clyde A. Benton[1]

My dear Benton:

I have your letter of December twenty-ninth regarding the incident of the Fourth of July Field Day sports at Calapan, Mindoro, in the Philippine Islands some forty-eight years ago.
I recall your winning the first event, the 100-yard dash, but there was more to the affair than you realized. I was the youngest officer of the garrison and newly arrived in the Islands, so I was given the chore of organizing the celebrations of the day in a rather gloomy, depressed command.
Entries for the sports were supposed to be submitted in advance. But few came forward and you were one of the only two entries for the first event. I had collected money for prizes to the first four places, so I gave it all to you two competitors in that first race, over the objections of some of the older officers. As an immediate result I had a wealth of competitors for the following events and I recall that we inserted a bare-back pony race—and they were wild little captured ponies. One bolted into a native thatch house, wrecking it and dropping the girls hanging out the windows of the second story to the ground amidst much excitement and the first laughter I had heard in Calapan.
Later on that evening we had an amateur show with hardtack boxes for a stage and tent flies for a curtain. I persuaded the commanding officer to parole a prisoner to me and permit me to take off his shackles. He was the dancing hit of the show.[2]
In those far-off days the soldiers of the regular Army got little attention or consideration from the Government or the public. As I recall, the ration was sixteen cents and privates (there was only one class) got $13.00 a month plus ten percent on foreign service. There was no turkey, chicken or fresh vegetables. Dried peaches and apples and desiccated potatoes were a daily portion. No ice in a tropical hot season. Doughnuts and hot chocolate, Salvation Army and Red Cross girls were unheard of. Cholera was raging throughout the Islands, and in our little village of Calapan of about 1200 natives, I think we lost almost 500—and only one doctor in attendance.
The only contribution I recall during my first year was a box of forty books from Helen Gould.[3] In contrast today I am busy with the efforts of the Red Cross, among other notable things, to bring a touch of home to our many soldiers abroad, to keep them in touch with their families. . . .

Faithfully yours,

GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Pentagon Office, General)
    [1]At the time Marshall wrote this he was head of the American National Red Cross and was attending Red Cross meetings throughout the country. Benton requested that he be allowed to shake the general's hand when the latter visited Oklahoma City. Marshall asked the local committee to invite the former member of Company M, Thirtieth Infantry, to the January 26, 1950, meeting.
    [2]In his recorded interview of March 13, 1957, Marshall described the events of that Fourth of July in considerable detail, "because it had quite a bit to do with my standing in the regiment afterwards, particularly with the men." His insistence on paroling the man, one of the most popular soldiers on the post, in the face of the colonel's and the adjutant's doubts, proved to be a great boost to morale. Marshall thought that the soldier "had suffered a little bit for what I call this tyrannical handling of the place beforehand." (Marshall Interviews, pp. 128-29.)
    [3]Helen Miller Gould (1868–1938), eldest daughter of financier Jay Gould, was widely known for her philanthropy and her interests in education. During the Spanish-American War she had made gifts to United States Army hospitals.
{Maps: Sites of Marshall's 1902–3 assignment.}