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Military History/Adna R. Chaffee, Jr. as Army Chief of Staff


Mr. Patton,

 While President Roosevelt had in mind George C. Marshall to be his new Army Chief of Staff in 1939, he *did* allow a short list of younger, lower rank Generals to be drawn up; and Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., was one among the four chosen.
 If, on some wild circumstance Chaffee had been chose, and accepted the post, what *might* he have done to advance armored theory and practice in the US Army, and what might the shape of the Army be at the time of his death from cancer, in November, 1941 - less than one month from Pearl Harbor?  And just curious, how would/ or could his death affect the Army's search for a *new* Chief of Staff ?
 I thank you in advance for taking the time to answer my questions.


First, I am not sure that Roosvelt had any intention of appointing junior officers over Marshall.  Marshall also wanted a combat command but FDR wanted him in Washington.  He was a political general, as evidenced by his eventual rise to Secretary of State under Truman.

Marshall had a eye for talent and it was he who kept a notebook with the names of almost all the generals who later rose to high command in WWII that he took note of while teaching at the Army War College.

If Chaffee had been appointed CoS he would have had an easier time promoting his vision of a separate Armored Force, he could have pretty much just formed it, as it was he had to politic and convince Marshall which he did.

There might have been some clash over doctrine as Marshall and McNair agreed on the Tank Destroyer Doctrine as the foil for opposing armored forces.  I am not sure where Chaffee stood on this issue, but I would think, he like Patton probably saw the tank as the best way to defeat another tank.  In this it might have led the US army to field a better tank than the Sherman, or certainly one with a better armor defeating gun than the short barrelled low velocity 75mm.  It might have led to upgunning with the high velocity 90mm or 86mm used on the M10 and M36 tank destroyers instead.

As far as doctrine, that might have been the biggest change, before the war, as we were amateurs and had to learn the hard way in the early years of the war.

I really can't envision a difference overall in the standing of the army come 1941, except we might have had more armored divisions, and been less ready.  Marshal had a gift for organization and had experience organizing men for training from his work with the Civilian Conservation Corps.  I don't know if Chaffee would have been as effective overseeing the massive expansion in the army as witnessed under Marshall and McNair.  I don't know much about his relationship with McNair, but Marshall and McNair got along quite well.

Your last question is an interesting one.  It is hard to say who would have fit the bill to fill the shoes of Marshall if it had been Chaffee who left the post vacant.  None of the Generals that come to mind had the accumen and political savy that Marshall had, but that is to say that one would not have risen to the occasion.  Eisenhower perhaps, with Bradley filling his shoes as Shaef.  Requirements might have robbed MacArthur of Eichelberger for a command in Europe.  

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Keith H. Patton


I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.


I was a history major, and had done extensive research in the subject area. I have designed and tested numerous computer games for various
historical periods.

B.A History M.S. Science
I have had the opportunity to live abroad and walk numerous battlefields both in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific.

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