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General of the Army
 George Catlett Marshall

In office
January 21, 1947 – January 20, 1949
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by James F. Byrnes
Succeeded by Dean Acheson

In office
September 21, 1950 – September 12, 1951
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Louis A. Johnson
Succeeded by Robert A. Lovett

Born 31 December 1880(1880-12-31)
Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Died 16 October 1959 (aged 78)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Katherine Boyce Tupper
Elizabeth Carter Cole
Alma mater Virginia Military Institute
Profession Soldier
Religion Episcopal[1]
Military service
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1902–1945
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army
Commands CSAFlag.pngChief of Staff of the United States Army
Battles/wars Philippine–American War
World War I

World War II

Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Nobel Peace Prize

General of the Army George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Once noted as the "organizer of victory" by Winston Churchill for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II,[2] Marshall served as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff during the war and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Secretary of State his name was given to the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.[3]


Early life

George C. Marshall was born into a middle-class family in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of George C. Marshall, Sr. and Laura Bradford Marshall.[4] Marshall was a scion of an old Virginia family, as well as a distant relative of former Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI),[5] where he was initiated into the Kappa Alpha Order, in 1901.

World War I

Following graduation from VMI, Marshall was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Until World War I, he was posted to various positions in the US and the Philippines, and was trained in modern warfare. During the war, he had roles as a planner of both training and operations. He went to France in mid-1917 as the director of training and planning for the 1st Infantry Division. In mid-1918, he was promoted to American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, where he worked closely with his mentor General John J. Pershing and was a key planner of American operations. He was instrumental in the design and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which contributed to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front.

Between World War I and II

In 1919, he became an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing. Between 1920 and 1924, while Pershing was Army Chief of Staff, Marshall worked in a number of positions in the US Army, focusing on training and teaching modern, mechanized warfare. Between World Wars I and II, he was a key planner and writer in the War Department, spent 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, Georgia, now named Tybee Island. In 1934, Col. Marshall put Edwin F. Harding in charge of the Infantry School's publications, and Harding became editor[6]:41 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 World War II.

Cover to the book Infantry in Battle, the World War II officer's guide to infantry combat operations. Marshall directed production of the book, which is still used as a reference today.

Marshall was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1936. He commanded the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington from 1936-1938. Nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to be Army Chief of Staff, Marshall was promoted to full General and sworn in on September 1, 1939, the day German forces invaded Poland, which began World War II. He would hold this post until the end of the war in 1945.

World War II

As Chief of Staff, Marshall organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly-equipped army of 189,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the U. S. Army. Though he had never actually led troops in combat, Marshall was a skilled organizer with a talent for inspiring other officers.[7] 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.[8]


Grows military force forty fold

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.[9][10] At the time, most U.S. commanders at lower levels had little or no combat experience of any kind; without 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.[11] In consequence, Army forces deploying to Africa suffered serious initial reverses when encountering German armored combat units in Africa at Kasserine Pass and other major battles.[12] 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.[13]

Replacement system criticized

Originally, Marshall had planned a 200-division Army with a system of unit rotation such as practiced by the British and other Allies.[14] By mid-1943, however, after pressure from government and business leaders to preserve manpower for industry and agriculture, he had abandoned this plan in favor of a 90-division Army using individual replacements sent via a circuitous process from training to divisions in combat.[14] 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.[12][15] In Europe, where there were few pauses in combat with German forces, the individual replacement system had broken down completely by late 1944.[16] Hastily-trained replacements or service personnel re-assigned 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.[12][17][18] 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.[17][12][15] 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."[17][19]

Marshall's abilities to pick competent field commanders during the early part of the war 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.[8]

Plans invasion of Europe

During World War II, 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 invasion would have meant utter failure. But it is true that the German Army in 1943 was overstretched and defense works in Normandy were not ready.[citation needed]

It was assumed that Marshall would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, but Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander. While Marshall enjoyed considerable success in working with Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 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."[20] When rumors circulated 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 Chief of Staff of the Army and lose his seat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff.[citation needed]

On December 16, 1944, Marshall became the first American general to be promoted to 5 star rank, the newly created General of the Army. He was the second American to be promoted to a 5 star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to fleet admiral the previous day. This position is the American equivalent rank to field marshal.

Throughout the remainder of World War II, 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 World War II 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 December 6 and 7. 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.[21][22]

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 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.[23][24] 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 June 5, 1947 in a speech[25] 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.[26][27] 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's Man of the Year for 1947, and 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, telling 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."[28][29][30]

Marshall resigned from the State Department because of ill health on January 7, 1949, and the same month became chairman of American Battle Monuments Commission.[31] 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 September 30, Defense Secretary George 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." [32] 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.

The 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."[33] 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."[34][35]


Marshall died on Friday October 16, 1959. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

After leaving office, in a television interview, 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." [36]

In spite of world-wide acclaim, dozens of national and international awards and honors and two Nobel Peace prizes, 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 supporting him from Eisenhower during the McCarthy hearings.[citation needed]

Family life

He married Elizabeth Carter Cole of Lexington, Virginia, in 1902. She died in 1927. In 1930, he married Katherine Boyce Tupper. Marshall's stepson with Tupper, 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, Virginia. Actress Kitty Winn is his step-granddaughter.

Fictional Portrayals

Dates of rank

No pin insignia in 1902 Second Lieutenant, United States Army: February 2, 1902
US-OF1A.svg First Lieutenant, United States Army: March 7, 1907
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, United States Army: July 1, 1916
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, National Army: August 5, 1917
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: January 5, 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, National Army: August 27, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army (reverted to peacetime rank): June 30, 1920
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army : July 1, 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: August 21, 1923
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: September 1, 1933
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: October 1, 1936
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Regular Army: September 1, 1939
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Regular Army, for service as Army Chief of Staff: September 1, 1939
US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army, Army of the United States: December 16, 1944
General of the Army rank made permanent in the Regular Army: April 11, 1946

Awards and decorations

U.S. military honors

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Philippine Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Philippine Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with four battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany ribbon.svg Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal

Foreign military honors

Civilian honors

  • 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.
  • 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 Alabama, 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, Virginia, 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.
  • In Uniontown, Pa there is an elementary school named for him. The Marshall Elementary School which is in the Laurel Highlands School District.


  • Cray, Ed. General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman. Norton, 1990. 847 pp.
  • Harold I. Gullan; "Expectations of Infamy: Roosevelt and Marshall Prepare for War, 1938-41." Presidential Studies Quarterly Volume: 28#3 1998. pp 510+ online edition
  • May, Ernest R. "1947-48: When Marshall Kept the U.S. out of War in China." Journal of Military History 2002 66(4): 1001-1010. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext: in Swetswise and in Jstor
  • Levine, Steven I. "A New Look at American Mediation in the Chinese Civil War: the Marshall Mission and Manchuria." Diplomatic History 1979 3(4): 349-375. Issn: 0145-2096
  • Parrish, Thomas. Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War. 1989. 608 pp.
  • Steele, Richard W. The First Offensive, 1942: Roosevelt, Marshall, and the Making of American Strategy. 1973. 239 pp.
  • Mark C. Stoler, George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. (1989) 252pp
  • Forrest Pogue, Viking, (1963–87) Four-volume authorized biography: complete text is online

See also


  1. ^ George Catlett Marshall, General of the Army
  2. ^ "George Catlett Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of State". CNN. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  3. ^ W. Del Testa, David; Florence Lemoine and John Strickland (2001). Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists. pp. 120. 
  4. ^ George Marshall Childhood
  5. ^ Uldrich, Jack (2005). Soldier, Statesman, Peacemaker: Leadership Lessons From George C. Marshall. pp. 14–15. 
  6. ^ Campbell, James (September 30, 2008). The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea—The Forgotten War of the South Pacific. Three Rivers Press. pp. 400. ISBN 978-0307335975. 
  7. ^ Bland, Larry I., George C. Marshall and the Education of Army Leaders, Military Review 68 (October 1988) 27-51, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
  8. ^ a b Ossad, Steven L., Command Failures: Lessons Learned from Lloyd R. Fredendall, Army Magazine, March 2003
  9. ^ Ambrose, Stephen, Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany June 7, 1944 - May 7, 1945, New York: Simon & Schuster (1997), pp. 271-284
  10. ^ Keast, William R. (Maj), Provision of Enlisted Replacements, Army Ground Forces Study No. 7, Washington, D.C.: Historical Section - Headquarters Army Ground Forces, 314.7(1 Sept 1946)GNHIS September 1, 1945
  11. ^ George, John B. (Lt. Col), Shots Fired In Anger, NRA Press (1981), ISBN 093599842X, pp. 13-21
  12. ^ a b c d Keast, William R. (Maj), Provision of Enlisted Replacements
  13. ^ Hanford, William B., A Dangerous Assignment, Stackpole Books, ISBN 9780811734851, p. viii
  14. ^ a b Vandergriff, Donald E., Seven Wars and a Century Later, a Failed System, Article
  15. ^ a b Ambrose, Stephen, Citizen Soldiers, pp. 277-284
  16. ^ Henry, Mark R., The US Army in World War II: Northwest Europe, Osprey Publishing (2001), ISBN 1841760862, 9781841760865, pp. 12-14
  17. ^ a b c Henry, Mark R., The US Army in World War II: Northwest Europe, Osprey Publishing (2001), ISBN 1841760862, 9781841760865, pp. 12-14
  18. ^ Ambrose, Stephen, Citizen Soldiers, pp. 271-284
  19. ^ Ambrose, Stephen, Citizen Soldiers, p. 277
  20. ^ Buell, Thomas B.; John H. Bradley. The Second World War: Europe and the Mediterranean. pp. 258. 
  21. ^ Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Congress of the United States, Seventy-Ninth Congress (Washington, D.C.), Part 39, P 144-145.
  22. ^ Conclusions and Recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Congress of the United States, Seventy-Ninth Congress (Washington, D.C.)P. 252, 265
  23. ^ Stoler, Mark A. (1989). George C. Marshall. pp. 145–51. 
  24. ^ Tsou, Tang (1963). America's Failure in China, 1941-50. 
  25. ^ "The Marshall Plan". Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  26. ^ McCullough, David (1992). Truman. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 717. ISBN 0-671-86920-5. 
  27. ^ Behrman, Greg (2007). The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Time When America Helped Save Europe. Free Press. ISBN 0743282639. 
  28. ^ "President Truman's Decision to Recognize Israel". Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  29. ^ "Truman Adviser Recalls May 14, 1948 US Decision to Recognize Israel". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. May/June 1991. pp. 17. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  30. ^ "Recognition of Israel". The Truman Library. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  31. ^ New York Times: January 8, 1949, p. 1.
  32. ^ Weintraub, Stanley. MacArthur’s war: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-684-83419-7. p.157:158.
  33. ^ McCarthy, Joe (1951). Major Speeches and Debates. pp. 264. 
  34. ^ McCarthy, Joe (1951). Major Speeches and Debates. pp. 191, from speech of March 14, 1951. 
  35. ^ Reeves, Thomas C. (1982). The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy. pp. 371–374. 
  36. ^ "The David Susskind Show: Interview with President Harry S. Truman". 

Primary sources

  • The Papers of George Catlett Marshall: (Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens, eds.)
    • Vol. 1: The Soldierly Spirit," December 1880-June 1939. (1981)
    • Vol. 2: "We Cannot Delay," July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941. (1986)
    • Vol. 3: The Right Man for the Job, December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943. (1991)
    • Vol. 4: "Aggressive and Determined Leadership," June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944. (1996)
    • Vol. 5: "The Finest Soldier," January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947. (2003)
  • Bland, Larry; Jeans, Roger B.; and Wilkinson, Mark, ed. George C. Marshall's Mediation Mission to China, December 1945-January 1947. Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Found., 1998. 661 pp.
  • Marshall, George C. George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue. Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Found., 1991. 698 pp. online edition
  • George Catlett Marshall. Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918 (1976)
  • Greg Behrman. The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and the Time When America Helped Save Europe Free Press, 2007.

Further reading

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Malin Craig
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
1939 – 1945
Succeeded by
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Political offices
Preceded by
James F. Byrnes
United States Secretary of State
Served under: Harry S. Truman

1947 – 1949
Succeeded by
Dean Acheson
Preceded by
Louis A. Johnson
United States Secretary of Defense
Served under: Harry S. Truman

1950 – 1951
Succeeded by
Robert A. Lovett
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Prince Konoye
Cover of Time Magazine
July 29, 1940
Succeeded by
Sir Alan F. Brooke
Preceded by
Ed Flynn
Cover of Time Magazine
October 19, 1942
Succeeded by
John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort
Preceded by
Patriarch Sergius I of Moscow
Cover of Time Magazine
January 3, 1944
Succeeded by
Erich von Manstein


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.

General George Catlett Marshall (31 December 188016 October 1959) was an American military leader and statesman best remembered for his leadership in the Allied victory in World War II and for his work establishing the post-war reconstruction effort for Europe, which became known as the Marshall Plan. He is the only United States Army general to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The refusal of the British and Russian peoples to accept what appeared to be inevitable defeat was the great factor in the salvage of our civilization.



  • You know, I know, all of us know that the time factor is the vital consideration — and vital is the correct meaning of the term — of our national defense program; that we must never be caught in the same situation we found ourselves in 1917.
    • Speech to the Army ordinance Association (11 October 1939); The Papers of George Catlett Marshall Vol 2 (1986) by the George C. Marshall Foundation, Ch. 2 "The Time Factor"
The time has come when we must proceed with the business of carrying the war to the enemy...
  • The time has come when we must proceed with the business of carrying the war to the enemy, not permitting the greater portion of our armed forces and our valuable material to be immobilized within the continental United States.
    • As quoted by the Times-Herald [Washington, D.C.] (3 March 1942) p. 1.
  • We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, Our Flag will be recognized throughout the World as a symbol of Freedom on the one hand and of overwhelming force on the other.
    • Statment (29 May 1942); The Papers of George Catlett Marshall Vol 3 (1991) by the George C. Marshall Foundation
  • The one great element in continuing the success of an offensive is maintaining the momentum. This was lost las fall when shortages caused by the limitation of port facilities made it impossible to get sufficient supplies to the armies when they approached the German border.
    • Speech to the Overseas Press Club (1 March 1945)
  • If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known.
    • Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff, US Army (1 September 1945)
  • The refusal of the British and Russian peoples to accept what appeared to be inevitable defeat was the great factor in the salvage of our civilization.
    • Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff, US Army (1 September 1945)
  • I said bluntly that if the president were to follow Mr. Clifford's advice and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the president.
    • Statement indicating his opposition to Clark Clifford's advice to Harry S Truman for the US recognition of the state of Israel prior to UN decisions on the partitioning of Palestine, in official State Department records. (12 May 1948)
    • If you follow Clifford's advice and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you.
      • Marshall's statement as quoted by Clark Clifford in The New Yorker (25 March 1991)
The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.
  • It is not enough to fight. It is the spirit which we bring to the fight that decides the issue. It is morale that wins the victory.
    • Military Review (October 1948)
  • Morale is the state of mind. It is steadfastness and courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty. It is élan, esprit de corps and determination.
    • Military Review (October 1948)
  • The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.
    • As quoted in Freedom's Advocate: a twenty-five year chronicle (1965) by Aaron Levenstein
    • A similar statement appears in the US Strategic Bombing Survey Summary Report (European War) (30 September 1945): The great lesson to be learned in the battered towns of England and the ruined cities of Germany is that the best way to win a war is to prevent it from occurring.
    • Unsourced variant: The only way to win a war is to prevent it.
  • I was very careful to send Mr. Roosevelt every few days a statement of our casualties. I tried to keep before him all the time the casualty results because you get hardened to these things and you have to be very careful to keep them always in the forefront of your mind.
    • As quoted by Forrest C. Pogue, in "George C. Marshall: Global Commander" (1968)
  • Don’t fight the problem, decide it.
    • As quoted in The Wise Men (1986) by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas
  • Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.
    • As quoted in A Toolbox for Humanity: More Than 9000 Years of Thought (2004) by Lloyd Albert Johnson

The Marshall Plan Speech (1947)

Speech at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts introducing what became known as the Marshall Plan (5 June 1947)
  • I need not tell you that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. Furthermore, the people of this country are distant from the troubled areas of the earth and it is hard for them to comprehend the plight and consequent reactions of the long-suffering peoples, and the effect of those reactions on their governments in connection with our efforts to promote peace in the world.
For the past ten years conditions have been abnormal. The feverish preparation for war and the more feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economies.
  • For the past ten years conditions have been abnormal. The feverish preparation for war and the more feverish maintenance of the war effort engulfed all aspects of national economies. Machinery has fallen into disrepair or is entirely obsolete. Under the arbitrary and destructive Nazi rule, virtually every possible enterprise was geared into the German war machine. Long-standing commercial ties, private institutions, banks, insurance companies, and shipping companies disappeared through loss of capital, absorption through nationalization, or by simple destruction. In many countries, confidence in the local currency has been severely shaken. The breakdown of the business structure of Europe during the war was complete.
  • There is a phase of this matter which is both interesting and serious. The farmer has always produced the foodstuffs to exchange with the city dweller for the other necessities of life. This division of labor is the basis of modern civilization. At the present time it is threatened with breakdown. The town and city industries are not producing adequate goods to exchange with the food-producing farmer. Raw materials and fuel are in short supply. Machinery is lacking or worn out. The farmer or the peasant cannot find the goods for sale which he desires to purchase. So the sale of his farm produce for money which he cannot use seems to him an unprofitable transaction. He, therefore, has withdrawn many fields from crop cultivation and is using them for grazing. He feeds more grain to stock and finds for himself and his family an ample supply of food, however short he may be on clothing and the other ordinary gadgets of civilization. Meanwhile, people in the cities are short of food and fuel, and in some places approaching the starvation levels. So the governments are forced to use their foreign money and credits to procure these necessities abroad. This process exhausts funds which are urgently needed for reconstruction. Thus a very serious situation is rapidly developing which bodes no good for the world.
  • The truth of the matter is that Europe's requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products — principally from America — are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character.
    The remedy lies in breaking the vicious circle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole. The manufacturer and the farmer throughout wide areas must be able and willing to exchange their product for currencies, the continuing value of which is not open to question.
Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.
  • Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist. Such assistance, I am convinced, must not be on a piecemeal basis as various crises develop. Any assistance that this Government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative. Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation, I am sure, on the part of the United States Government. Any government which maneuvers to block the recovery of other countries cannot expect help from us. Furthermore, governments, political parties or groups which seek to perpetuate human misery in order to profit therefrom politically or otherwise will encounter the opposition of the United States.
  • An essential part of any successful action on the part of the United States is an understanding on the part of the people of America of the character of the problem and the remedies to be applied. Political passion and prejudice should have no part. With foresight, and a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome... to my mind, it is of vast importance that our people reach some general understanding of what the complications really are, rather than react from a passion or a prejudice or an emotion of the moment. As I said more formally a moment ago, we are remote from the scene of these troubles. It is virtually impossible at this distance merely by reading, or listening, or even seeing photographs or motion pictures, to grasp at all the real significance of the situation. And yet the whole world of the future hangs on a proper judgment.
We have walked blindly, ignoring the lessons of the past...

Essentials to Peace (1953)

Nobel lecture, Oslo, Norway (11 December 1953)
  • Discussions without end have been devoted to the subject of peace, and the efforts to obtain a general and lasting peace have been frequent through many years of world history. There has been success temporarily, but all have broken down, and with the most tragic consequences since 1914. What I would like to do is point our attention to some directions in which efforts to attain peace seem promising of success.
  • We have walked blindly, ignoring the lessons of the past, with, in our century, the tragic consequences of two world wars and the Korean struggle as a result.
    In my country my military associates frequently tell me that we Americans have learned our lesson. I completely disagree with this contention and point to the rapid disintegration between 1945 and 1950 of our once vast power for maintaining the peace. As a direct consequence, in my opinion, there resulted the brutal invasion of South Korea, which for a time threatened the complete defeat of our hastily arranged forces in that field. I speak of this with deep feeling because in 1939 and again in the early fall of 1950 it suddenly became my duty, my responsibility, to rebuild our national military strength in the very face of the gravest emergencies.
  • These opening remarks may lead you to assume that my suggestions for the advancement of world peace will rest largely on military strength. For the moment the maintenance of peace in the present hazardous world situation does depend in very large measure on military power, together with Allied cohesion. But the maintenance of large armies for an indefinite period is not a practical or a promising basis for policy. We must stand together strongly for these present years, that is, in this present situation; but we must, I repeat, we must find another solution, and that is what I wish to discuss this evening.
I know a great deal of the horrors and tragedies of war. ... The cost of war in human lives is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones.
  • There has been considerable comment over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a soldier. I am afraid this does not seem as remarkable to me as it quite evidently appears to others. I know a great deal of the horrors and tragedies of war. ... The cost of war in human lives is constantly spread before me, written neatly in many ledgers whose columns are gravestones. I am deeply moved to find some means or method of avoiding another calamity of war. Almost daily I hear from the wives, or mothers, or families of the fallen. The tragedy of the aftermath is almost constantly before me.
  • A very strong military posture is vitally necessary today. How long it must continue I am not prepared to estimate, but I am sure that it is too narrow a basis on which to build a dependable, long-enduring peace. The guarantee for a long continued peace will depend on other factors in addition to a moderated military strength, and no less important. Perhaps the most important single factor will be a spiritual regeneration to develop goodwill, faith, and understanding among nations. Economic factors will undoubtedly play an important part. Agreements to secure a balance of power, however disagreeable they may seem, must likewise be considered. And with all these there must be wisdom and the will to act on that wisdom.
  • Because wisdom in action in our Western democracies rests squarely upon public understanding, I have long believed that our schools have a key role to play. Peace could, I believe, be advanced through careful study of all the factors which have gone into the various incidents now historical that have marked the breakdown of peace in the past. As an initial procedure our schools, at least our colleges but preferably our senior high schools, as we call them, should have courses which not merely instruct our budding citizens in the historical sequence of events of the past, but which treat with almost scientific accuracy the circumstances which have marked the breakdown of peace and have led to the disruption of life and the horrors of war.
  • I believe our students must first seek to understand the conditions, as far as possible without national prejudices, which have led to past tragedies and should strive to determine the great fundamentals which must govern a peaceful progression toward a constantly higher level of civilization. There are innumerable instructive lessons out of the past, but all too frequently their presentation is highly colored or distorted in the effort to present a favorable national point of view. In our school histories at home, certainly in years past, those written in the North present a strikingly different picture of our Civil War from those written in the South. In some portions it is hard to realize they are dealing with the same war. Such reactions are all too common in matters of peace and security. But we are told that we live in a highly scientific age. Now the progress of science depends on facts and not fancies or prejudice. Maybe in this age we can find a way of facing the facts and discounting the distorted records of the past.
I am certain that a solution of the general problem of peace must rest on broad and basic understanding on the part of its peoples...
  • I am certain that a solution of the general problem of peace must rest on broad and basic understanding on the part of its peoples. Great single endeavors like a League of Nations, a United Nations, and undertakings of that character, are of great importance and in fact absolutely necessary, but they must be treated as steps toward the desired end.
  • In America we have not suffered the destruction of our homes, our towns, and our cities. We have not been enslaved for long periods, at the complete mercy of a conqueror. We have enjoyed freedom in its fullest sense. In fact, we have come to think in terms of freedom and the dignity of the individual more or less as a matter of course, and our apparent unconcern until times of acute crisis presents a difficult problem to the citizens of the countries of Western Europe, who have seldom been free from foreign threat to their freedom, their dignity, and their security. I think nevertheless that the people of the United States have fully demonstrated their willingness to fight and die in the terrible struggle for the freedom we all prize...I recognize that there are bound to be misunderstandings under the conditions of wide separation between your countries and mine. But I believe the attitude of cooperation has been thoroughly proven.
We must present democracy as a force holding within itself the seeds of unlimited progress by the human race.
  • We must present democracy as a force holding within itself the seeds of unlimited progress by the human race. By our actions we should make it clear that such a democracy is a means to a better way of life, together with a better understanding among nations. Tyranny inevitably must retire before the tremendous moral strength of the gospel of freedom and self-respect for the individual, but we have to recognize that these democratic principles do not flourish on empty stomachs, and that people turn to false promises of dictators because they are hopeless and anything promises something better than the miserable existence that they endure. However, material assistance alone is not sufficient. The most important thing for the world today in my opinion is a spiritual regeneration which would reestablish a feeling of good faith among men generally. Discouraged people are in sore need of the inspiration of great principles. Such leadership can be the rallying point against intolerance, against distrust, against that fatal insecurity that leads to war. It is to be hoped that the democratic nations can provide the necessary leadership.
There must be effort of the spirit — to be magnanimous, to act in friendship, to strive to help rather than to hinder...
  • The points I have just discussed are, of course, no more than a very few suggestions in behalf of the cause of peace. I realize that they hold nothing of glittering or early promise, but there can be no substitute for effort in many fields. There must be effort of the spirit — to be magnanimous, to act in friendship, to strive to help rather than to hinder. There must be effort of analysis to seek out the causes of war and the factors which favor peace, and to study their application to the difficult problems which will beset our international intercourse. There must be material effort — to initiate and sustain those great undertakings, whether military or economic, on which world equilibrium will depend.
    If we proceed in this manner, there should develop a dynamic philosophy which knows no restrictions of time or space. In America we have a creed which comes to us from the deep roots of the past. It springs from the convictions of the men and women of many lands who founded the nation and made it great. We share that creed with many of the nations of the Old World and the New with whom we are joined in the cause of peace.
  • A great proponent of much of what I have just been saying is Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the world humanitarian, who today receives the Nobel Peace Award for 1952. I feel it is a vast compliment to be associated with him in these awards this year. His life has been utterly different from mine, and we should all be happy that his example among the poor and benighted of the earth should have been recognized by the Peace Award of the Nobel Committee.
  • I fear, in fact I am rather certain, that due to my inability to express myself with the power and penetration of the great Churchill, I have not made clear the points that assume such prominence and importance in my mind. However, I have done my best, and I hope I have sown some seeds which may bring forth good fruit.


  • I don't want you fellows sitting around asking me what to do. I want you to tell me what to do.


  • The price of peace is eternal vigilance.
    • This has been attributed to Marshall, and he might have used the phrase, but earlier uses exist:
    • There is an imperialism that deserves all honor and respect — an imperialism of service in the discharge of great duties. But with too many it is the sense of domination and aggrandisement, the glorification of power. The price of peace is eternal vigilance.
    • Courtney's statement however is probably derived from an earlier statement with several variants:
      The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
      The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
      Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
      • These have often been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but also Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, and many others; Alfred Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) states that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790: "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."

Quotes about Marshall

  • General George Catlett Marshall is widely accepted as this nation's most esteemed 20th century military figure and as a paragon of professionalism and officership... His was a career that paralleled America's rise to and acceptance of global responsibilities. Marshall was a creator not only of America's awesome military power as Army chief of staff in World War II but also of its major foreign and global strategies as a postwar Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. Statesman as well as soldier, his character and accomplishments are so exceptional that he is regularly placed in the company of George Washington when parallels are sought.
    • Colonel Charles F. Brower in George C. Marshall: A Study in Character (1999)
In a war unparalleled in magnitude and horror, millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service; General of The Army George C. Marshall gave it victory. ~ Harry S Truman
  • He is the true 'organizer of victory.'
  • There are few men whose qualities of mind and character have impressed me so deeply as those of General Marshall. He is a great American but he is far more than that. In war he was as wise and understanding in counsel as he was resolute in action. In peace he was the architect who planned the restoration of our battered European economy and at the same time laboured tirelessly to establish a system of Western defense. He has always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion. Succeeding generations must not be allowed to forget his achievements and his example.
    • Winston Churchill as quoted in The Age of Man: The Ascent Of Morality (2004) by Jim Bryan
  • Hitherto I had thought of Marshall as a rugged soldier and a magnificent organizer and builder of armies — the American Carnot. But now I saw that he was a statesman with a penetrating and commanding view of the whole scene.
  • A man devoted to the daily study of war on several continents with all the ardour of a certified public accountant.
  • [Marshall] typified all that we call, or that we look for in what we call, an American patriot.
  • I know that from your own viewpoint your magnificent accomplishments of the past six years have represented a mere performance of duty but I sincerely trust that you have some inkling of the extraordinary place your work has won for you in the respect and affections of the whole country. For myself I want only to assure you once again that in every problem and in every test I have faced during the war years, your example has been an inspiration and your support has been my greatest strength. My sense of obligation to you is equaled only by the depth of my pride and satisfaction as I salute you as the greatest soldier of our time and a true leader of democracy.
  • The quiet power of the man lay in his utter selflessness. It lay in the dignity that emerges from every photograph you've ever seen of him. It lay in his hard work and his immense personal sacrifice. It lay in his compassion, his wisdom. George Marshall practically defined those virtues. Yet he would have thought it odd if you had tried to congratulate him for these things. To him, those virtues were simply expected of a citizen of this country.
  • I have never seen a task of such magnitude performed by a man... I have seen a great many soldiers in my lifetime and you, Sir, are the finest soldier I have ever known.
  • In a war unparalleled in magnitude and horror, millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service; General of The Army George C. Marshall gave it victory.

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George Catlett Marshall
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1902–1945 also through to 1959 (General of the Army regulations)
Rank File:US-O11 General of the Army
Commands held File:Flag US Army Chief ofChief of Staff of the United States Army
Battles/wars Philippine–American War
World War I

World War II

Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Nobel Peace Prize

George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Marshall served as the United States Army Chief of Staff during World War II. As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan. For this plan, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.[1]


  1. W. Del Testa, David; Florence Lemoine and John Strickland (2001). Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists. pp. 120. 


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