George Catlett Marshall
Engagements: • Philippine-American War (1899 - 1902)• World War I (1914 - 1918)• World War II (1941 - 1945)
The Early Years
George Catlett Marshall was born on 31 December 1880 into a middle-class family in Uniontown, PA, the son of George C. and Laura Bradford Marshall. He was a scion of an old Virginia family, as well as a distant relative of former Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall attended the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he was initiated into the Kappa Alpha Order and graduated in 1901.
Following his graduation from VMI, Marshall was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Between his commissioning and the start of World War I, he was posted to various positions in the U.S. and the Philippines, and was trained in modern warfare. He was promoted to first lieutenant on 7 March 1907 and to captain on 1 July 1916.
World War I
During the war, Marshall had roles as a planner of both training and operations. In mid-1917, as a temporary major, he went to France as the Director of Training and Planning for the 1st Infantry Division. In 1918, Marshall was assigned to American Expeditionary Forces Headquarters, where he was a key planner of American operations and worked closely with his mentor, General John J. Pershing. (On 5 January 1918, he received the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel; on 27 August, he was given the temporary rank of colonel.) He made major contributions to the design and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which contributed to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front.
The Inter-War Years
After the armistice ended World War I, he became an aide-de-camp to General Pershing in 1919. (He reverted back to his peacetime rank of captain on 30 June 1920; the following day he, was promoted to the rank of major in the regular army.) While Pershing was Army Chief of Staff (1921-24), Marshall worked in a number of positions with a focus on training and teaching mechanized warfare. (He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army on 21 August 1923.) Between WW I and II, he was a key planner and writer in the War Department; commanded the 15th Infantry Regiment (US) for three years in China; and taught at the Army War College.
From June 1932 to June 1933 he was the Commanding Officer at Fort Screven, Savannah Beach, GA, now named Tybee Island. (Marshall was promoted to colonel in the regular army on 1 September 1933.) In 1934, Colonel Marshall put Edwin F. Harding in charge of the Infantry School's publications, and Harding became editor of Infantry in Battle, a book that codified the lessons of World War I. Infantry in Battle is still used as an officer's training manual in the Infantry Officer's Course, and was the training manual for most of the infantry officers and leaders of WW II.
Marshall was promoted to brigadier general on 1 October 1936. He commanded the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, WA, from 1936-1938. On 1 July 1939, Marshall was promoted to major general. After President Franklin Roosevelt nominated him to be Army Chief of Staff, Marshall was promoted to 4-star general and sworn in as Chief of Staff on 1 September 1939. [With this promotion, he bypassed the 3-star rank of lieutenant general.] His promotion to Chief of Staff occurred on the same day that German forces invaded Poland, which began World War II. Marshall would hold this post until the end of the war in 1945.
World War II
As Army Chief of Staff, Marshall inherited an outmoded, poorly-equipped army of 189,000 men. Drawing on his experience in teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, he organized and coordinated the largest military expansion in U.S. history. Although he had never actually led troops in combat, Marshall was a skilled organizer with a talent for inspiring other officers. Many of the American generals who were given top commands during the war were either picked or recommended by Marshall, including: Dwight Eisenhower; Lloyd Fredendall; Leslie McNair; Mark Wayne Clark; and Omar Bradley.
Faced with the necessity of turning an army of former civilians into a force of over eight million soldiers by 1942 (a fortyfold increase within three years), Marshall directed General Leslie McNair to focus efforts on rapidly producing large numbers of soldiers. With the exception of airborne forces, Marshall approved McNair's concept of an abbreviated training schedule for men entering Army land forces training, particularly in regards to basic infantry skills, weapons proficiency, and combat tactics. At the time, most U.S. commanders at lower levels had little or no combat experience of any kind. Lacking the input of experienced British or Allied combat officers on the nature of modern warfare and enemy tactics, many of them resorted to formulaic training methods emphasizing static defense and orderly large-scale advances by motorized convoys over improved roads. As a result, the Army forces deployed to Africa suffered serious initial reverses when encountering German armored combat units at Kasserine Pass and other major battles. Even as late as 1944, U.S. soldiers undergoing stateside training in preparation for deployment against German forces in Europe were not being trained in combat procedures and tactics currently being employed there.
Individual Replacement System Criticized
Originally, Marshall had planned a 200-division Army with the same system of unit rotation used by the British and other Allies. However, by mid-1943, after pressure from government and business leaders to preserve manpower for industry and agriculture, Marshall abandoned this plan in favor of a 90-division Army using individual replacements sent via a circuitous process from training to divisions in combat. The individual replacement system (IRS) devised by Marshall, and implemented by McNair, greatly exacerbated problems with unit cohesion and effective transfer of combat experience to newly-trained soldiers and officers.
In Europe, where there were few pauses in combat with German forces, the individual replacement system had broken down completely by late 1944. Hastily-trained replacements, or service personnel reassigned as infantry, were given six weeks' refresher training and thrown into battle with Army divisions locked in front-line combat. The new men were often not even proficient in the use of their own rifle or weapons system, and once in combat, could not receive enough practical instruction from veterans before being killed or wounded; usually within the first three or four days. Under such conditions, many replacements suffered a crippling loss of morale, while veteran soldiers were kept in line units until they were killed, wounded, or incapacitated by battle fatigue or physical illness. Incidents of soldiers AWOL from combat duty, as well as battle fatigue and self-inflicted injury, rose rapidly during the last eight months of the war with Germany. As one historian later concluded, "Had the Germans been given a free hand to devise a replacement system ..., one that would do the Americans the most harm and the least good, they could not have done a better job."
During the early part of the war, Marshall's skill in picking competent field commanders was decidedly mixed. While he had been instrumental in advancing the career of the able Dwight D. Eisenhower, he had also recommended the swaggering Lloyd Fredendall to Eisenhower for a major command in the American invasion of North Africa during Operation Torch. Marshall was especially fond of Fredendall, describing him as "one of the best" and remarking in a staff meeting when his name was mentioned, "I like that man; you can see determination all over his face." Eisenhower duly picked him to command the 39,000-man Central Task Force (the largest of three) in Operation Torch. Both men would later come to regret that decision after the U.S. Army debacle at Kasserine Pass.
Plans Invasion of Europe
During WWII, Marshall was instrumental in preparing the U.S. Army and Army Air Forces for the invasion of the European continent. Marshall wrote the document that would become the central strategy for all Allied operations in Europe. He initially scheduled Operation Overlord for 1 April 1943, but met with strong opposition from Winston Churchill, who convinced Roosevelt to commit troops to Operation Husky for the invasion of Italy. Some authors think that WWII could have been terminated one year earlier if Marshall had had his way; others think that such an invasion would have met utter failure. But it is true that the German Army in 1943 was overstretched and not all the defense fortifications in Normandy were ready.
It was assumed that Marshall would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, but Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower for that command. Marshall enjoyed considerable success in working with Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he refused to lobby for the position. President Roosevelt didn't want to lose his presence in the states. He told Marshall, "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington." When rumors spread that the top job would go to Marshall, many critics viewed the transfer as a demotion for Marshall, since he would leave his position as Army Chief of Staff and lose his seat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
On 16 December 1944, Marshall became the first American general to be promoted to the newly created 5-star rank of General of the Army. He was the second American to be promoted to 5-star rank; Admiral William Leahy was promoted to Fleet Admiral the previous day. This position is America's equivalent rank to Great Britain's field marshal.
Throughout the remainder of WWII, Marshall coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific. He was characterized as the organizer of Allied victory by Winston Churchill. Time Magazine named Marshall "Man of the Year" for 1943. Marshall resigned his post of Chief of Staff in 1945, but did not retire, as regulations stipulate that Generals of the Army remain on active duty for life.
Analysis of Pearl Harbor Intelligence Failure
After WWII ended, the Congressional Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack received testimony on the intelligence failure. It amassed 25,000 pages of documents, 40 volumes, and included nine reports and investigations, eight of which had been previously completed. Among these documents was a report critical of Marshall for his delay in sending General Walter Short, the Army commander in Hawaii, important information concerning a possible attack on 6 and 7 December. The report also criticized Marshall's admitted lack of knowledge of the readiness of the Hawaiian Command during November and December 1941. Ten days after the attack, Lt. General Short and Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, commander of the Navy at Pearl Harbor, were both relieved of their duties. The final report of the Joint Committee did not single out and fault Marshall. While the report was critical of the overall situation, the committee noted that subordinates had failed to pass on important information to their superiors, including Marshall. The report noted that once General Marshall received information about the impending attack, he immediately passed it on.
Post War: China, Secretary of State, Nobel Peace Prize
In December 1945, President Harry Truman sent Marshall to China to broker a coalition government between the Nationalist allies under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communists under Mao Zedong. Marshall had no leverage over the Communists, but threatened to withdraw American aid essential to the Nationalists. Both sides rejected his proposals and the Chinese Civil War escalated, with the Communists winning in 1949. His mission a failure, he returned to the United States in January 1947. As Secretary of State in 1947-48, Marshall seems to have disagreed with strong opinions in The Pentagon and State department that Chiang's success was vital to American interests, insisting that U.S. troops not become involved.
After Marshall's return to the U.S. in early 1947, Truman appointed Marshall Secretary of State. He became the spokesman for the State Department's ambitious plans to rebuild Europe. On 5 June 1947, in a speech at Harvard University, he outlined the American plan. The European Recovery Program, as it was formally known, became known as the Marshall Plan. Clark Clifford had suggested to Truman that the plan be called the Truman Plan, but Truman immediately dismissed that idea and insisted that it be called the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan would help Europe quickly rebuild and modernize its economy along American lines. The Soviet Union forbade its satellites to participate.
Marshall was again named Time Magazine's Man of the Year for 1947, and he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his post-war work in 1953. He was the only U.S. Army General to have received this honor.
As Secretary of State, Marshall strongly opposed recognizing the State of Israel. Marshall felt that if a state of Israel was declared that a war would break out in the Middle East (which it did in 1948 one day after Israel declared independence). Marshall believed that recognizing the Jewish state was a political move to gain Jewish support in the upcoming election, in which Truman was expected to lose to Dewey. He told President Truman in May 1948, "If you (recognize the state of Israel) and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you."
Marshall resigned from the State Department because of ill health on 7 January 1949 and, the same month, he became chairman of American Battle Monuments Commission. In September 1949, Marshall was named president of the American National Red Cross.
Secretary of Defense
When the early months of the Korean War showed how poorly prepared the Defense Department was, Truman fired Secretary Louis A. Johnson and named Marshall as Secretary of Defense in September 1950. On 30 September, Defense Secretary Marshall sent an eyes-only message to MacArthur instructing MacArthur to escalate the war in Korea "We want you to feel unhampered tactically and strategically to proceed north of the 38th parallel." His main role was to restore confidence and rebuild the armed forces from the post-war state of demobilization. He served in that post for less than one year, retiring from public office for good in September 1951. In 1953, he represented America at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
Impact of McCarthyism
U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy, whose hearings and black lists later spawned the term McCarthyism, gave a speech titled America's Retreat from Victory: The Story of George Catlett Marshall (1951), in which he argued that General Albert Coady Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged. He concluded that "If Marshall were merely stupid, the laws of probability would dictate that part of his decisions would serve this country's interest." He suggested that Marshall was old and feeble and easily duped but did not charge Marshall with treason. McCarthy specifically alleged:
"When Marshall was sent to China with secret State Department orders, the Communists at that time were bottled up in two areas and were fighting a losing battle, but that because of those orders the situation was radically changed in favor of the Communists. Under those orders, as we know, Marshall embargoed all arms and ammunition to our allies in China. He forced the opening of the Nationalist-held Kalgan Mountain pass into Manchuria, to the end that the Chinese Communists gained access to the mountains of captured Japanese equipment. No need to tell the country about how Marshall tried to force Chiang Kai-shek to form a partnership government with the Communists."
In a television interview after leaving office, Harry Truman was asked who he thought was the American who made the greatest contribution of the last thirty years. Without hesitation, Truman picked Marshall, adding "I don't think in this age in which I have lived, that there has been a man who has been a greater administrator; a man with a knowledge of military affairs equal to General Marshall."
Orson Welles, in an interview with Dick Cavett, called Marshall "...the greatest human being who was also a great man... He was a tremendous gentleman, an old fashioned institution which isn't with us anymore."
In spite of world-wide acclaim, dozens of national and international awards and honors and the Nobel Peace prize, public opinion became bitterly divided along party lines on Marshall's record. While campaigning for president in 1952, Eisenhower denounced the Truman administration's failures in Korea, campaigned alongside McCarthy, and refused to defend Marshall's policies. Marshall, who assisted Eisenhower in his promotions, and stood aside, turning down the opportunity to command the allied forces to allow Eisenhower to take that role, was surprised at the lack of a positive statement from Eisenhower supporting him during the McCarthy hearings.
Medals and Awards
• Distinguished Service Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster • Silver Star Medal • Philippine Campaign Medal • World War I Victory Medal with Four Battle Clasps • Occupation of Germany World War I Medal • American Defense Service Medal • American Campaign Medal • World War II Victory Medal • National Defense Service Medal
Foreign Awards and Medals
• Brazilian Order of Military Merit • British Order of the Bath (Knight Grand Cross) • Chilean Order del Merito • Colombian Grand Cross of the Order of Boyacá Cherifien (Given by President Ospina Perez as he opened the IX Panamerican Conference) • Cuban Order of Military Merit, First Class • Ecuadorian Star of Abdon Calderon, First Class • French Croix de Guerre • French Legion of Honor • Greek Grand Cross Order of George I with Swords • Liberian Centennial Medal • Montenegro Silver Medal for Bravery • Netherlands Grand Cross with Swords in the Order of Orange Nassau • Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy) • Order of the Crown of Italy • Moroccan Grand Cross of Ouissam Alaouite • Soviet Grand Cross Order of Military Merit • Soviet Order of Suvorov • Panamanian Medal of La Solidaridad, Second Class • Peruvian Gran Official del Sol del Peru
• In 1948, he was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award for his role and contributions during and after World War II. • Nobel Peace Prize 1953 for the Marshall Plan. • The United States Postal Service honored him with a Prominent Americans series (1965-1978) 20¢ postage stamp. • 1959 Karlspreis (International Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen). • 1960 George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, originally the Army Ballistics Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, AL, became a NASA field center and was renamed. • The British Parliament established the Marshall Scholarship in recognition of Marshall's contributions to Anglo-American relations. • Many buildings and streets throughout the U.S. and other nations are named in his honor. • George C. Marshall Award, the highest award given to a chapter in Kappa Alpha Order. • George C. Marshall High School, founded in 1962 and located in Falls Church, VA, is the only public high school in the United States named for Marshall. The nickname of the school - "The Statesmen" - appropriately reflects his life and contributions. • The Marshall Elementary School is in the Laurel Highlands School District, Uniontown, PA.
In 1902, George Marshall married Elizabeth Carter Cole of Lexington, VA. She died in 1927 and is buried with George at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1930, he married Katherine Boyce "Tupper" Brown. Marshall's stepson, Army Lt. Allen Tupper Brown, was killed by a German sniper in Italy in 1944.
George Marshall maintained a home, known as Dodona Manor (now restored), in Leesburg, VA. Actress Kitty Winn is his step-granddaughter.
Death and Burial
General of the Army George C. Marshall died at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, DC, on Friday, 16 October 1959, at the age of seventy-eight. He was survived by his second wife, Katherine Boyce "Tupper" Brown Marshall, who died 18 December 1978.
By virtue of his former positions as Chief of Staff of the Army and as Secretary of Defense, General Marshall was entitled to a Special Military Funeral and, as a former Secretary of State, he was entitled to the more elaborate honors of an Official Funeral. He received a Special Military Funeral, but in keeping with his known wishes and with what has been described as his "Spartan concept of propriety," the rites for General Marshall were among the simplest ever conducted for a man of his rank and prestige.
According to the plan worked out, General Marshall's body was to lie in Bethlehem Chapel at the Washington National Cathedral for twenty-four hours, beginning at noon 19 October. On the 20th, the general's body was to be taken to the post chapel at Fort Myer, VA, for the funeral service, which would be attended by a limited number of invited guests. A private burial service in Arlington National Cemetery was to follow. The gravesite, in Section 7, a little to the east of the Memorial Amphitheater, had been selected by General Marshall some years earlier and already contained the grave of the general's first wife, Elizabeth Coles Marshall, and her mother.
In spite of his world-wide acclaim, his dozens of national and international awards and honors, including the Nobel Peace prize, George Catlett Marshall remained a very humble man. He was a true leader who served his country each and every time it called upon him - no matter what the position.
Consider these simple words from Winston Churchill:
"As Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939 to 1945, General George C. Marshall was the 'true architect of victory' in the West European arena of World War II."
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