The Early Relationship Between The FBI, The U. S. Army & U. S. Marine Corps 1933 Forward...
Every day that passes, history somewhere is lost for a multitude of reasons. Opinions are abundant from all those involved in the search for history.
One particular lost history moment comes to mind involving the FBI's formal beginnings with firearms training and the role of the U. S. military. If one queries most inside the Bureau, and even those outside with some historical background, listeners are likely to hear about the everlasting love between the FBI and the U. S. Marine Corps. Particularly concerning early firearms training, right up to this very day.
Most will draw the association back to the early days of the FBI Academy as we know it, and it's early construction beginning in 1939. But firearms were being used by Bureau agents long before 1939. How did formal training start and when did it "really start" is a question very few entertain today. As a result, researchers and others are lacking the full history of FBI firearms training and who played what role.
Pick up any book in the library, or search online, and even in Bureau publications, and you won't find many references (if any!) to the very early days of U. S. Army training efforts with the Bureau. To do that, one must venture past that 1939 FBI Academy period we seem to dwell on and continue to look beyond 1939 or so to find history lost. The documents you see and read here are but a handful of the many evidentiary items existing in files revealing the early firearms training with the U. S. Army.
The relationship between the FBI and the U. S. Marine Corps has been the longest, and the resulting strongest, remarkable "marriage." But about firearms and other training, the Marine Corps wasn't the first in the batter's box concerning this subject. Simply put but long forgotten is that the U. S. Army was first.....not the U. S. Marine Corps. The Bureau's actual beginning training efforts with the Corps started in 1934, five years before the building of the FBI Academy, but a lot of it was already in motion before that with the U. S. Army.
Bureau documents obtained (FOIA), by us and corroboration by photos existing with families reveal that the early years of the 1930's show the Bureau used several Army locations and their personnel for firearms training. They included Washington, D. C. surrounding locations at Camp Ritchie, Ft. Meade, Ft. Washington, and Camp Sims for new Special Agents and those assigned to offices in the D. C. area.
With regard to firearms training around the USA and Bureau field offices, readers can find in our navigation area a 1933 memorandum that addresses the early beginnings of FBI firearms training with the Army and the overall nationwide plan instituted mainly by SA Frank Baughman with the Secretary Of War. Both Baughman and WFO SAC, John Keith played extensive major roles in setting up the Bureau's firearms training program (on a formal basis) in 1933 immediately after the Kansas City Massacre in June of that year. (More on Baughman and Keith is in our biographical section)
(It's worth noting here that firearms training and possession of weapons in 1933 (and even before that) now makes the whole belief agents were not allowed to carry weapons until the 1934 Legislation a complete myth! That's not what the Legislation did and readers can read our take of it by going to the link "The Myth Of The 1934 Crime Bill.")
We know from Baugman's Bureau application of 1919 that he worked for the U. S. Senate, and was Army trained himself during World War I prior to entering the Bureau. He not only had a long time friendship with J. Edgar Hoover from their college days, but his application to the Bureau contains references given by persons employed at the War Department. In essence, Baughman's influence and allegence to, and with, the U. S. Army, his War Department contacts, and his close association with Hoover, very well may have played a significant role in the Army being chosen first before the U. S. Marine Corps. As WFO SAC, John Keith had multiple high ranking government sources to draw upon for assistance. (Keith's military affiliation, if any, is unknown as of this writing)
Released documents reveal it appears the Bureau's "marriage" to Quantico and the Marine Corps. was during the Fall of 1934 although use of some Army locations continued into the latter 1930s until being totally fazed out. Over the next few years, there was a transition from utilization of the Army and their facilities to specific use of only the Marine Corps location at Quantico. As we now know, construction of the FBI's own Academy, as we know it today, first began there in 1939 and was completed in the early 1940's.
Specifically, the transition from utilizing U. S. Army training facilities to the U. S. Marine Corps facilities at Quntico, Va. apparently happened in the latter part of September, 1934. The FBI's Frank Baughman reached out for the Quantico reps as a result of not being able to schedule firearms training at the Army facilities in the Washington area. The Army was on manuevers and thus could not accommodate the already existing new group of FBI agents.
Baughman makes mention of this in his September, 1934 memo however readers should note his joy in obtaining the assistance of the Marine Corps. since in his opinion, their ranges were "superior."
Baughman follows up his request for assistance with the U. S. Marine Corps and Quantico with a formal letter to the Department Of The Navy for approval.
The September, 1934 document (right) prepares the Director and others for the transition to utilizing Quantico and the U. S. Marine Corps. for firearms training.
In an Oct. 9, 1934 (below link) memo to Director Hoover by WFO SAC and Hoover Committee Member, John Keith states, "As you know, I took the current training school to the Marine Corps Barracks at Quantico, Virginia for firearms training October 2d to 6th inclusive." ( The October class shown is probably the FIRST training class of special agents to appear at Quantico, Va. Keith and Frank Baughman had started these arrangements about 2 months before.)
Later in the memo Keith states, "The Marine Corps operated with greater efficiency in accomplishing this work than has been the case at any of the Army posts heretofore visited. I suggest that it be arranged, if possible, to have all of this work done hereafter by the Marine Corps."
The key to Keith's comment is likely "greater efficiency."
The Marine Corps also supplied instructors who later received a letter of thanks from Hoover. Memos reveal Keith and Baughman made additional arrangements at Quantico for the upcoming classes.
The rest of the relationship between the FBI and the Marine Corps is history. But having said that, the U. S. Army should get its share of accolades too.
As a side note to Camp Sims, just months before, Firearms administrator SA Thomas Frank Baughman had to entertain some written complaints about Thompson training there. Seems some of the rounds from the Thompsons were missing the dirt hill behind the targets and ended up soaring into a residential area on the other side of the hill!