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Pogue, Forrest Carlisle

(b. 17 September 1912 in Eddyville, Kentucky; d. 6 October 1996 in Murray, Kentucky), historian, educator, and biographer of George C. Marshall.

Pogue was the son of Forrest Carlisle Pogue and Frances Carter Pogue. His politically active grandfather Marion Pogue, a teacher, lawyer, farmer, and proprietor of a country store, had a large library and interviewed local residents and wrote articles about early local settlers for the county newspaper. Years later, Forrest Pogue said that his grandfather might have influenced him to become an oral historian. Young Pogue entered high school at the age of eleven, graduated at fourteen, and studied history with his grandfather for a year. He then entered Murray State College in Kentucky at sixteen, graduating in 1931. He received a M.A. degree from the University of Kentucky in 1932 when only nineteen years old and his Ph.D. in history from Clark University (Massachusetts) in 1939. He was an American Exchange Fellow at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales at the University of Paris during the academic year 1937–1938. Pogue began his teaching career as an instructor at Western Kentucky State College in 1933, and he rose from instructor to associate professor at Murray State College between 1933 and 1942. He met his future wife, Christine Brown, an artist, when she was a student in one of his classes in the mid-1930s; years later they met again in Germany and were married on 4 September 1954. They had no children.

Drafted into the army in 1942, Pogue was digging a foxhole one day at Fort McClellan, Alabama, when his commanding officer received an order to “find a soldier with a Ph.D. in history.” The order had come from Washington, and the bemused Pogue was asked by his immediate superiors if he was “playing politics” he responded that he was not. He was selected as an army combat historian, first writing a training history of the Second Army, and later interviewing men who had gone ashore in Normandy on D-Day in June 1944 shortly after the invasion. He remained with front-line troops, fulfilling a variety of assignments, until the end of the war in Europe, earning a Bronze Arrowhead (for his participation in the invasion), four battle stars, and the Bronze Star and French Croix de Guerre for his “front-line interviewing.”

Following the war Pogue served as a civilian historian with the army from 1945 to 1952 and as an operations research analyst at Johns Hopkins University under contract to the army from 1952 to 1954. His book The Supreme Command (1954), written at the request of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was an official history of the wartime Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force. It was a critical success. Following his military affiliation, Pogue returned to Murray State as a professor of history between 1954 and 1956.

In 1956 he began nearly two decades with the George C. Marshall Research Foundation in Lexington, Virginia, first as director (1956–1964), then as director of the Marshall Library (1964–1974). Pogue made one stipulation in accepting the research directorship: that he be permitted to write the general’s biography. (Marshall, who died in 1959, had refused to write an autobiography.) During his years with the foundation, Pogue embarked upon a balanced and definitive four-volume study of the wartime chief of staff. Based in large part on the many interviews he had done with Marshall, Pogue published George C. Marshall: Education of a General in 1963. Ordeal and Hope appeared in 1966, Organizer of Victory in 1973, and Statesman in 1987. Pogue was also the author of The Meaning of Yalta (1956), and he was a contributor to many other books, including Command Decisions (1960); Total War and Cold War (1962); D-Day: The Normandy Invasion in Retrospect (1970); The Continuing Revolution (1975); The War Lords (1976); Bicentennial History of the United States (1977); and The Marshall Plan in Germany (1991). He was a contributing editor of Guide to American Foreign Relations Since 1700 (1983).

From 1974 until his retirement in 1984, Pogue served as director of the Eisenhower Institute for Historical Research, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, in Arlington, Virginia. In 1993 Pogue moved back to his native Kentucky, residing there until his death from the effects of a stroke. Between 1948 and 1974, Pogue filled a variety of lectureships at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, Virginia Military Institute, and George Washington University.

Pogue’s personal library and much of the correspondence and other papers associated with his publications and other activities are located at the Forrest Pogue Special Collections Library, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky. Another group of papers, having primarily to do with his work on the Marshall biography, is at the library of the George C. Marshall Memorial Foundation, Lexington, Virginia. See also H. Lew Wallace, “Forrest C. Pogue: A Biographical Sketch,” Filson Club History Quarterly 60, no. 3 (July 1986): 373–402, which is based on discussions with Pogue. An obituary is in the Washington Post (8 Oct. 1996).

Keir B. Sterling

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Pogue, Forrest Carlisle

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