The George C. Marshall Papers


George C. Marshall Lecture on Marching

The infantry drill regulations state that marching constitutes the principle occupation of troops in a campaign, and is one of the heaviest causes of loss. This loss may be reduced materially by training and by proper conduct of the march. This does not sufficiently emphasize the subject. Our military history is crowded with incidents of battles, and even campaigns, lost through the inability of our hastily-raised troops to march. Present experiences prove to the regular army officer that marches mildly imitating the conditions of campaigns generally result in the complete demoralization of national guard and other hastily-trained troops.
Your training thus far has involved only the marching requirements of the drill ground, at the drill cadence, and without packs to burden your shoulders. Next week your company commanders will take you on short road marches for the double purpose of hardening you and of reaching the terrain assigned for your instruction. Your real training in marching and in march discipline will then commence. The effort required for an ordinary walk of 25 miles will be equalled in 15 miles in the ranks of a company, in marching 12 miles in a regiment and 10 miles in larger forces.
When you march in a column all but the first four men of the thousands who follow breathe in a cloud of dust from the time the march is started until it stops. The eyes become full of dust and it sifts through the clothing, producing thirst. The most fatal thing is to drink from the canteen. Even to wash your mouth will create thirst which must be satisfied. One drink will require another, and before the march is half concluded you will not even have the luxury of "spitting cotton." Probably you will have to fall out. An old campaigner never drinks from the time he leaves camp until the new camp is reached, except in the case of sickness after he has fallen out.
Squad discipline requires that no man be allowed to fall out, and the squad leader must insist on his men remaining in the ranks unless actually sick. The men falling out report to the rear, where an officer will generally put them back in the ranks. If the man is really sick, he will receive a note to report to the ambulance when it passes.
When the signal to halt comes, the men fall out instantly to the side of the road, leaving the roadway clear, and sit down to rest. The men should be required to reserve their strength and not indulge in horseplay during the first halts. The first halt is usually made at the end of the first half hour and continues for 15 minutes. The following halts will be made each hour, extending for 10 minutes. When the march is long, a noonday halt of an hour should be made.
Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah), August 26, 1916