Marshall, George C.

views updated May 11 2018

George C. Marshall

Born December 31, 1880
Uniontown, Pennsylvania

Died October 16, 1959
Washington, D.C .

American general and army chief
of staff from 1939 to 1945

In describing the role that General George Marshall played in World War II, British prime minister Winston Churchill (1874-1975; see entry) called him "the true organizer of victory." Although he was neither as flashy nor as famous as military leaders like George Patton (1885-1945; see entry) and Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964; see entry), some historians compare Marshall favorably to the first U.S. president, George Washington. Like Washington, Marshall was a rare combination of soldier and statesman who believed strongly that in a democracy the military must be under civilian control. He also resembled Washington in his intelligence, integrity, quiet self-confidence, and moral authority. Marshall was a great organizer and a perceptive judge of people, qualities that served him well in his job as army chief of staff. He led the buildup of a very small, underequipped U.S. Army into a mighty fighting force. As secretary of state, Marshall led the effort to help Europe recover from the devastation of World War II.

Following family traditions

Marshall came from an old Virginia family. He was a descendant of John Marshall, the third chief justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall noted in later years (as reported by Lance Morrow in Smithsonian, that he didn't approve of his father's frequent references to this fact, because he thought it was "about time for somebody else to swim for the family." A tall, skinny boy, Marshall developed an interest in outdoor activities. He decided to become a soldier after seeing how enthusiastically troops returning to his town from duty in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war (April to August 1898) were greeted and how well they were treated.

Several male members of Marshall's family, including his older brother Stuart, had attended the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). When Marshall heard Stuart—with whom he did not get along very well—telling their mother that he hoped George would not attend VMI, he made up his mind that was exactly what he would do. In a letter to the school's superintendent, Marshall's father wrote, "I send you my youngest son. He is bright, full of life and I believe he will get along well."

A young officer begins his career

Marshall earned good (though not excellent) grades at VMI and demonstrated that he could be a leader. He graduated in 1901 with the rank of first captain of his class (a high honor at the school). Just after he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the army, Marshall married Elizabeth "Lily" Coles, a young woman several years older who had previously been courted by his brother. Lily stayed in the United States when Marshall went to serve his first assignment in the Philippines (which at that time was under the control of the United States), but she joined him at his second post in Oklahoma.

In 1907, Marshall graduated at the top of his class from the army's Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Then he attended Staff College for a year, staying on as an instructor until 1911. After serving assignments in Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Texas, Marshall was assigned to the 13th Infantry in the Philippines, where he served as an aide to General Hunter Liggett. Returning to the United States, he became General J. Franklin Bell's aide. At this time Marshall was performing exceptionally well (one commanding officer even wrote in an evaluation that he would like to serve under this young junior officer) but was not progressing the way he thought he should be; as a result, he considered leaving the army.

Taking part in a world war

In 1917, however, the United States entered World War I (1914-1918; a war that started as a conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and escalated into a global war involving thirty-two countries) and Marshall was called into action. Made a captain with the First Division, Marshall left on the first boatload of troops headed for France. There he worked in operations (the collecting and moving around of soldiers and equipment), quickly gaining a reputation as a brilliant organizer of men and supplies. He served as chief planner of the St. Mihiel battle and supervised the transfer of 600,000 soldiers and 900,000 tons of supplies (including 2,700 guns) into the Meuse-Argonne area, where another battle took place.

During the war, Marshall had earned the temporary rank of colonel, but when the war ended he went back to his former rank of captain. From 1919 to 1924 he served as an aide to General John J. Pershing, the army's chief of staff (highest ranking officer). Marshall had met and impressed the general during the war when he had angrily defended his superior officer, whom Pershing had criticized. Marshall's friends predicted that his career was doomed after this incident, but in fact Pershing liked Marshall's honesty and loyalty and wanted him to join his staff.

Between two wars

Marshall helped Pershing with such tasks as drawing up legislation and preparing reports on World War I, and he took part in many high-level meetings with government leaders. These years gave him experience in dealing with politicians and other officials—lessons that would serve him well in later years.

Marshall was sent to Tianjin, China, in 1924, where he served as the executive officer of the 15th Infantry for three years. In 1927, after Marshall had returned to the United States and was teaching at the Army War College, his wife died suddenly. In an effort to overcome his grief Marshall threw himself with even more vigor into his new assignment. He was soon made assistant commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was in charge of training.

The "Benning Revolution"

This was an important period in Marshall's career, because he was able to play a major role in shaping the army of the future. He oversaw what came to be known as the "Benning Revolution." Faculty members were reassigned, manuals rewritten, and curriculum redesigned to emphasize the new mobile warfare (conducted with tanks, airplanes, and movable weapons and covering a wide area of ground) that modern soldiers would have to wage. Marshall taught his students not to rely on the "school solution" or standard response to problems, but to be bold and innovative.

During Marshall's reign, about 150 future generals came through the school as students, and fifty more served as instructors, including such famous World War II figures as generals Omar Bradley, Joseph W. Stilwell, Matthew Ridgway, and Walter Bedell Smith. Marshall entered the names of the most promising officers in a "little black book" which was to become famous a decade later when it influenced the leadership of the wartime army.

In 1930 Marshall married Katherine Tupper Brown, a widow with three children (one of whom died in 1944 while fighting in World War II) and a former Shakespearean actress. General Pershing served as best man at the wedding. During the 1930s Marshall served a number of assignments, including several as director of Civilian Conservation Corps (a program President Franklin D. Roosevelt created to improve the environment while giving unemployed people jobs) camps in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Washington. By now he had been promoted to colonel.

Called to an important job

As the 1930s ended, war was looming in Europe and Asia as Germany and Japan moved aggressively to expand their empires. In the summer of 1938, President Roosevelt called Marshall to Washington to head the War Department's War Plans Division, and promoted him to major general. Only three months later, he was made deputy chief of staff of the army. Marshall made a strong impression on Roosevelt when, during a White House conference, he respectfully but decisively disagreed with the president on a policy issue. Those present told Marshall he'd committed political suicide, but in fact Roosevelt—like Pershing many years earlier—decided that Marshall's honesty made him even more valuable.

In the spring of 1939, Marshall was nominated for the chief of staff position, and after serving for four months as acting chief of staff, he was sworn in on September 1—the same day Germany launched World War II by invading Poland. Marshall had now to begin the awesome task of getting the army and Army Air Corps ready for combat, in case the United States should enter the war in the next few years. As it was, the army's size (a little less than 200,000 soldiers) was pitiful, putting it in the same rank as the much smaller countries of Portugal and Bulgaria. Its weapons were outmoded and its bases were neglected.

Marshall lobbied Congress to send more money the army's way, even as others—such as the navy and the Lend-Lease Program (a program that allowed the United States to send troops and supplies to help the countries fighting Germany)—were competing for the same funds. He convinced Congress to approve a draft (requiring all qualified young men to serve terms of military service) and funding that boosted the army's ability to train and equip recruits as well as possible. One of Marshall's most important moves was to change the laws regarding retirement so that older officers could be removed and younger, more capable ones could be rapidly promoted. This practice offended some of Marshall's old colleagues, but he believed that the modern army needed new blood.

Playing a crucial role in the war

With America's entry into World War II (on December 7, 1941) Marshall put his skills into high gear, becoming one of the leading planners of Allied strategy. The Allies were the countries who fought against the Axis countries—Germany, Italy, and Japan—during World War II. Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union were the primary Allied powers. Marshall was present at all the important conferences at which the Allies decided their next moves, including those at Casablanca (Morocco) and Tehran (Iran) in 1943, Quebec in 1944, and Malta, Yalta, and Potsdam in 1945. Marshall often demonstrated his intelligence and analytical ability by inviting forty or fifty reporters to ask him questions one after another, then giving a long response in which each question was answered and all issues were tied together in a logical way.

Along with the secretary of war, Henry Stimson, Marshall was in favor of a "Germany First" approach to winning the war in Europe. He thought the Allies should regain France (which the Germans had invaded in May 1940) and then press on to attack Germany. But the British plan—starting in North Africa, then driving through Italy and finally to Germany—won out. Meanwhile, Marshall continued to push for a cross-channel (the English Channel, which separates England and France) attack on the Germans, and at the end of 1943 the restof the Allied leadership finally agreed with him.

Roosevelt makes a decision

"Operation Overlord" called for the Allies to land troops and equipment on the beaches of the Normandy area in northern France. The attack was scheduled for June 4, 1944 (it didn't actually take place until June 6, 1944), and nicknamed D-Day. Roosevelt had to decide who would direct the campaign. Marshall seemed a good choice, and he had certainly earned the honor. Roosevelt asked Marshall whom he should choose, but Marshall refused to promote himself, even though such an assignment would surely be the crowning achievement in his military career. He left the decision to Roosevelt, who finally chose General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969; see entry), telling Marshall, "I did not feel I could sleep at ease if you were not in Washington."

D-Day was successful, and by May 1945 the Germans had surrendered; the war continued until August, when the Japanese surrendered as well. Marshall retired in November, but only a few days later, President Truman (who had succeeded Roosevelt upon the latter's death in April 1945) called him to serve as a special envoy to China. The ruling Nationalist Party (also called the Kuomintang), under Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975; see entry), and the Communists led by Mao Tsetung were vying for control of the country, although a full-scale civil war had not yet erupted. Marshall was able to halt the hostilities only temporarily, and finally had to return to the United States in defeat.

The Marshall Plan

Once again President Truman recognized Marshall's abilities and experience by appointing him secretary of state in 1947. In June of that year, Marshall made a momentous speech at Harvard University's commencement (graduation) ceremony, proposing that the United States provide aid (in the form of both money and supplies) to help the European nations recover from the war. Pointing out that economic and political chaos in those countries could bring about yet another war or wars, Marshall stated the new plan would be "directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, despotism and chaos. Its purpose shall 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."

Through the European Recovery Act—the formal name for what was commonly known as the "Marshall Plan"— sixteen countries received $13 billion in assistance. Before leaving his position in 1949, Marshall also helped to lay the foundation for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance set up to shield Europe from the threat of the Soviet Union's expansion plans.

One more job to do

After a brief stint as head of the American Red Cross, President Truman again summoned Marshall. The Korean War had started and there was a need for strong leadership. Truman appointed Marshall secretary of defense, and his accomplishments included enlarging the army, increasing weapons production, and helping to put into action the NATO agreements that had been drawn up when he was secretary of state.

Marshall's fifty-year career in public service came to an end on September 1, 1951, when he retired for the last time. A five-star general, he remained on active status, the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military. In 1953, Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to assist in Europe's recovery, becoming the first member of the military to receive the prize. In his acceptance speech, he referred to the military's role in bringing about and maintaining peace: "There had been considerable comment over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a soldier. I'm afraid this does not seem quite so remarkable to me as it quite evidently does to others."

Marshall refused to write any memoirs, which he considered a self-centered activity, but he did agree to be interviewed by historians from the Marshall Foundation. After suffering a stroke in early 1959, he died in October of that year and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Where to Learn More


Cray, Ed. General of the Army. New York: Norton, 1990.

Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall, 4 vols. New York: Viking Press,1963-1987.

Stoler, Mark. George C. Marshall. New York: Macmillan, 1989.


Morrow, Lance. "George C. Marshall: The Last Great American?" Smithsonian (August 1997): 104.

Mulvoy, Thomas F., Jr. "George Marshall's Influence Was Felt Through World War II and on Into the Cold War." Knight-Ridder News Service (August 25, 1994): 0825K2928.

"The Straight Shooter: George Marshall." U.S. News & World Report (Special Report: The Strategists of War) 124, No. 10: 64.

George C. Marshall oversaw the buildup of U.S. military forces and helped plan war strategies and later served as secretary of state.

Facts About the Normandy Invasion: D-Day, June 6, 1944

History's Largest Amphibious Landing

• The invasion involved ground, air, and naval forces that had been gathering in England for months. More than 4,400 ships and landing craft were used to carry 154,000 troops (50,000 would make the initial assault on the beaches) and 1,500 tanks to the area. In the air were 11,000 fighter planes, bombers, transports, and gliders to provide protection for the ground troops.

Where It Took Place

•Troops crossed the English Channel (the body of water that lies between England and France) to land on a 50-mile stretch of beaches on the Normandy region of northern France. The U.S. First Army landed on Utah and Omaha beaches to the west, while the British Second Army landed on Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches to the east.

Who Took Part

•Forty-seven Allied division took part in the invasion. Of these, twenty-one were American and the rest were British, Canadian, and Polish. French, Italian, Belgian, Czech, and Dutch troops also fought. All of them were under the supreme command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969; see entry). General Bernard Montgomery (1887-1976; see entry) headed up the overall ground forces, with General Omar Bradley in charge of the American First Army and General Sir Miles Dempsey in charge of the British Second Army.

What About the Germans?

• Altogether there were about sixty Germany divisions in France and the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg). In the area in which Allied troops would invade, there were nine Germany infantry divisions and one tank division.

A Deception Plan

• The Germans knew the Allies were planning an invasion, but they thought they would land on the Calais coast, not on the beaches of Normandy. In order to fool the Germans, the Allies had stationed some landing craft off Calais, and they had made up a fake unit called the First United States Army Group, which was supposedly commanded by General George S. Patton (1885-1945; see entry).

The Weather Interferes

• Planners used weather and tide forecasts to plan the exact date of the invasion. Originally it was scheduled for June 4, but stormy weather forced Eisenhower to postpone the invasion until June 6. But even before the troops landed, British and American para-troopers dropped into France behind German lines to capture bridges, roads, railroads, and airfields the Allies would need for their advance.

The Invasion Begins

• At 6:30 A.M. on June 6, the Allied troops began their landing. The well-entrenched Germans fought back hard, and casualties (wounded or killed) were high. The Americans who landed at Omaha Beach were the worst hit, suffering 2,000 casualties, whereas those at Utah Beach lost only 210. Allied DDay casualties totaled about 15,000, which was about the same for the German side. The Allies moved inland and by the end of the month German field marshal Erwin Rommel (1891-1944; see entry) would report that the Germans had lost 28 generals, 354 field commanders, and about 250,000 men.

Marshall, George C.

views updated May 23 2018

George C. Marshall

Excerpt from "Remarks by the Honorable George C. Marshall,
Secretary of State, at Harvard University on June 5, 1947"

Published in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Volume III,
1947: The British Commonwealth; Europe,
published in 1972

"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."

F ollowing the passage of the Truman Doctrine in March 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall (1880–1959) put the staff of the State Department to work planning an overall economic recovery program for Europe. By April 1947, communist parties were gaining strength in France and Italy. Postwar Western European economies were in danger of collapsing with resulting political chaos, ripe for communist intervention. Although George Kennan (1904–), author of the "Long Telegram," was in charge of policy planning at the State Department, it was Under-secretary of State Will Clayton (1880–1966) who stressed to Marshall that France and Italy could be lost within a very short time period—weeks or months. Kennan wanted to direct the recovery planning over the next four to five years. Clayton said it was most important to address "starvation" and "chaos" immediately. Marshall, sharing Clayton's concern, saw that a plan was pulled together in a few short weeks.

Marshall was due to receive an honorary degree at Harvard University on June 5 and would be provided time for a short speech. This is where the Marshall Plan was first revealed. It had all been pulled together so fast that few immediately realized they had just heard a plan that would rebuild Western Europe, allow those countries' economies to expand through the 1950s and 1960s, and effectively halt the spread of communism in Europe.

Things to remember while reading "Remarks by the Honorable George C. Marshall, Secretary of State, at Harvard University on June 5, 1947":

  • Marshall offered the plan to all nations in Europe, including communist-controlled countries—even including the Soviet Union.
  • The Marshall Plan was not a complete, finished plan of action. On the contrary, the nations that decided to take advantage would meet and develop an assessment of their needs and then propose how the plan should work.

Excerpt from "Remarks by the Honorable George C. Marshall, Secretary of State, at Harvard University on June 5, 1947"

Press Release Issued by the Department of State, June 4, 1947

I need not tell you gentlemen 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 ofthis 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.

In considering the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe, the physical loss of life, the visible destruction of cities, factories, mines and railroads was correctly estimated, but it has become obvious during recent months that this visible destruction was probably less serious than the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy. For the past ten years conditions have been highly 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-standingcommercial 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. Recovery has been seriously retarded by the fact that two years after the close of hostilities a peace settlement with Germany and Austria has not been agreed upon. But even given a more prompt solution of these difficult problems, the rehabilitation of the economic structure of Europe quite evidently will require a much longer time and greater effort than had been foreseen.

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. 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 modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down.

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.…

Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States would be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. 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 piece-meal 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.

It is already evident that, before the United States Government can proceed much further in its efforts to alleviate the situation and help start the European world on its way to recovery, there must be some agreement among the countries of Europe as to the requirements of the situation and the part those countries themselves will take.… It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this Government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European program and of later support of such a program so far as it may be practical for us to do so. The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all European nations.…

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.

What happened next …

Britain immediately realized the Marshall Plan would be its "life-line." Even Soviet foreign minister V. M. Molotov (1890–1986) implored Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) to let him take a staff including Soviet economists to Paris on June 26 to at least explore ideas of the plan. Molotov knew the Soviet economy needed help. Begrudgingly, the ever-suspicious Stalin allowed Molotov to go.

By June 30, Molotov learned that the United States also saw Germany as a key participant in the plan. This enraged the Soviets, who had long lobbied for keeping defeated Germany a weak nation. Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II (1939–45) was still fresh in their minds. One of the Soviets' greatest postwar fears was that Germany would rebuild and again threaten the Soviet Union. Molotov returned to the Soviet Union with all hopes of Soviet participation destroyed. At this point, Stalin also firmly believed that the capitalist United States wanted to infiltrate the economies of Eastern Europe and eventually turn them to the capitalist system.

On July 7, Moscow ordered Eastern European countries—Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia—to not take part in the plan. All bowed to Moscow's wishes except Poland and Czechoslovakia. Stalin was furious and within a few days had slapped Czechoslovakia and Poland back into line. Stalin viewed the Marshall Plan as an aggressive escalation of the Cold War. He believed the United States wanted to strengthen the capitalist Western European nations and grab Eastern European economies as well. The Iron Curtain closed tighter over Eastern Europe.

On July 12, the Conference on European Economic Cooperation convened with sixteen Western European nations ready to make shopping lists of their individual wants and pull together a practical Marshall Plan. Washington had to stress that they wanted more than shopping lists. The nations also needed to devise long-term plans of cooperation such as eliminating trade barriers between each other. Finally on September 22, the Europeans had a proposal ready for Washington. They estimated $17 billion would be needed to successfully rebuild. (See the next excerpt for a continuation of the development of the Marshall Plan.)

Whatever happened to France and Italy? By late December 1947, the communists in France had lost favor with the French public. France was able to sustain its democratic government and would participate in the Marshall Plan. Defeating communists in Italy proved even more of a challenge. It took secret operations by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which gathers and interprets the meaning of information on foreign activities as well as carries out secret foreign operations, and Pope Pius XII (1876–1958) to influence the electorate to defeat the communists in an election on April 18, 1948. Italy would also participate in the Marshall Plan.

Did you know …

  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–1967), the father of the U.S. atomic bomb, also received an honorary degree at Harvard along with Marshall on June 5.
  • Through well-placed Soviet spies, Molotov first learned that the United States and Britain also saw the Marshall Plan as a plan for the reconstruction of Germany. One of the most famous spy rings of the Cold War, consisting of four Brits, was responsible for snooping and sending a secret coded cable to Molotov on June 30. The men, called the Cambridge Spies, were Anthony F. Blunt (1907–1983), Guy Burgess (1910–1963), Donald Maclean (1913–1983), and Kim Philby (1911–1988).
  • Czechoslovakia's misstep of first intending to participate in the Marshall Plan would ultimately lead to its takeover by communists in February 1948.

Consider the following …

  • Later, after the Marshall Plan was in operation, debate raged as to whether the United States ever really wanted the Soviet Union and communist Eastern European countries to actually participate. What might have been the consequences of their participation?
  • How do you think the Marshall Plan's aid should have been delivered? Through loans, outright gifts of money, or gifts of goods? Why?
  • Marshall, in his speech, described a cycle of farmer–foodstuffs–city dweller–manufactured goods–farmer. Have class members explain this classic economic cycle and retell this cycle so that everyone understands. What had happened to the cycle in Europe immediately after World War II?

For More Information


Cray, Ed. General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman. New York: Norton, 1990.

Donovan, Robert J. The Second Victory: The Marshall Plan and the Postwar Revival of Europe. New York: Madison Books, 1987.

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), Volume III, 1947: The British Commonwealth; Europe. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972.

Hogan, Michael J. The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Stoler, Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.

Web Site

George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. (accessed on September 10, 2003).

Cominform, Molotov Plan, Comecon

In reaction to the Marshall Plan, the Soviets held a meeting with Eastern European nations on September 22, 1947. That was the same day the European nations participating in the plan had their proposals of their needs ready to go to Washington. The Eastern European nations, at Stalin's order, formed the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) to create a tighter bond between the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite states. ("Satellite states" was the term coined in the new space age of the 1950s to describe the smaller Eastern European countries controlled politically and economically by the Soviet Union.) Cominform's primary mission was to combat the spread of American capitalism and imperialism (taking control of other countries).

Named after Soviet foreign minister V. M. Molotov, the Molotov Plan provided economic assistance for Eastern European countries. The Soviet Union established a series of trade agreements between itself and the Eastern European countries.

Expanding agreements of the Molotov Plan, the Soviets founded the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) in January 1949. Comecon closely tied Eastern European economies to the Soviet Union's economy. To maximize production of certain products or food, each country was assigned a specific product or crop. Participating in Comecon were the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, and even the communist parties in France and Italy.

Marshall, George C.

views updated May 14 2018

George C. Marshall

Born December 31, 1880
Uniontown, Pennsylvania
Died October 16, 1959
Washington, D.C.

U.S. secretary of state, army general, and
U.S. Army chief of staff

G eorge Marshall was a highly respected U.S. military leader and U.S. official. He served as an army general, secretary of state, and secretary of defense. He was the first military person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the European economic recovery following World War II (1939–45). Most importantly, the Cold War (1945–91) took shape during his time as secretary of state. The policies he developed would influence the next forty years of rivalry with the Soviet Union.

The young officer

George Catlett Marshall Jr. was born on New Year's Eve in 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, son of Laura Bradford and George C. Marshall Sr., a coal merchant. Marshall was a direct descendent of John Marshall (1755–1835), the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Marshall attended the Virginia Military Institute, where his leadership abilities began to show as he moved up in rank to a captain of the cadets. Upon graduating in 1901, Marshall received a commission in the army as a second lieutenant. Only days after receiving his commission in February 1902, he married Elizabeth Coles. They would have no children.

For the next fourteen years, Marshall served at several posts around the country in addition to two stints in the Philippines. In 1906, he was appointed to the Infantry-Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He graduated first in his class and showed exceptional skills for staff work. In 1908, he was appointed instructor at the school. Despite the skills he showed, including serving as an aide to two generals between 1913 and 1916, there was little room for advancement, given the small size of the U.S. Army at that time. In 1916, he finally made the rank of captain.

Early in his career, Marshall showed a quiet self-confidence and a strong self-discipline, as he kept a strong temper under control. The soft-spoken Marshall seemed cool and aloof in manner to those who did not know him well, but very warm and open to those close to him. He also had great communication skills, both in military situations and with civilians.

Rising in the ranks

During World War I (1914–18), Marshall was assigned to the staff of the First Infantry Division. He was one of the first U.S. soldiers to arrive in France in 1917. However, due to his staff skills, he would not have a field command. Instead, he played a key role in training newly arriving U.S. troops and planning battle strategies. During the war, Marshall caught the attention of General John J. Pershing (1860–1948), head of the U.S. Army in Europe. In 1918, Marshall was assigned to the operations staff of Pershing's general headquarters, where he was involved in the planning of major U.S. offenses. By November 1918, at war's end, he was chief of operations for the U.S. First Army. He was one of Pershing's top tactical experts. Pershing recommended Marshall for promotion to brigadier general. Following the war, however, Marshall returned to the rank of major in the smaller postwar army. Through the early 1920s, Marshall served as a key aide to Pershing, who was the army chief of staff. Through Pershing, Marshall became well acquainted with military affairs at the highest levels in Washington, D.C. In 1923, Marshall was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

In 1924, Marshall was assigned to command a U.S. infantry regiment in China for three years before returning to Washington, D.C. There, he became instructor at the National War College. Upon returning to the United States, tragedy struck. His wife died suddenly from a heart condition, putting him into deep depression. Marshall became more absorbed in his career. He became head of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and revamped the program. Two hundred future generals came from the school while he was there from 1927 to 1933. While at Fort Benning, he married Tupper Brown, a widow with three children.

During the early 1930s, Marshall became a colonel and commanded army posts in Georgia and South Carolina, and organized the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in several states. The CCC was a federal program that provided jobs to unemployed young men during the Great Depression (1929–41), the worst financial crisis in American history. In 1936, he finally achieved the rank of brigadier general, serving as commander at Fort Vancouver in the state of Washington.

A World War II leader

In 1938, Marshall was recalled to Washington, D.C., to become head of the army's War Plans Division. By April 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945; served 1933–45) appointed Marshall deputy army chief of staff. He would soon be promoted to chief of staff and was sworn in on September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. Marshall strongly lobbied Congress to enlarge the armed forces in preparation for war. Following the German conquest of France in early 1940, Congress became much more responsive to Marshall's requests. By 1943, the army had grown from 175,000 to 8.3 million.

Following the entrance of the United States into World War II in 1941, Marshall held a crucial role in military planning, the training of troops, and the development of new weapons. He reorganized the War Department in early 1942 and was the leading person in the newly established U.S. joint chiefs of staff. He became Roosevelt's key military advisor, accompanying the president at all war summit conferences.

In 1944, Marshall became general of the army. Time magazine selected Marshall "Man of the Year." After successfully attaining victory in World War II and becoming an American hero, Marshall resigned as chief of staff in November 1945 at the mandatory military retirement age of sixty-five.

Soldier turned statesman

One week after Marshall's resignation, President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53; see entry) appointed Marshall as U.S. special emissary to China. His job was to resolve the civil war between the Chinese communist forces led by Mao Zedong (1893–1976; see entry) and the Chinese Nationalist government headed by Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975; see entry). Though temporarily achieving some success in early 1946, the two sides soon resumed fighting. Marshall declared the situation hopeless. Upon returning to the United States in January 1947, Marshall influenced Truman to reduce foreign aid to Chiang's government. Marshall believed communist victory was inevitable, given the lack of popularity for the Nationalist government among the general population. The Nationalist government did fall in October 1949. This resulted in Marshall becoming the target of U.S. senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1909–1957; see entry) of Wisconsin during congressional hearings. McCarthy accused Marshall of not providing greater support to Chiang and "allowing" the communists to win.

Upon his return to the United States, Marshall was appointed secretary of state. Marshall was so highly respected in 1947 that he was unanimously approved by the Senate with no hearings or opposition. He was the first military leader to become secretary of state. Convinced the Soviets posed a major risk to Europe, Marshall took a hard-line approach against the Soviets. To create a State Department most responsive to this new threat, Marshall undertook a major reorganization of the department. The department would be ready to tackle its new increased role as a superpower in world affairs. He also influenced the creation of the National Security Council in 1947 to better coordinate foreign and military policy.

A brief trip to Europe pointed out to Marshall how severe Europe's economic problems were. He and other administration officials believed the hardships made a ripe situation for the spread of communism beyond Eastern Europe into Western Europe. The communist parties were already making gains in Italy and France. Marshall was convinced the most effective way to contain the further spread of communism in Europe was to substantially improve Western European economic conditions. Marshall pulled together a group to devise a plan. By June 1947, Marshall announced the Economic Recovery Program, more commonly known as the Marshall Plan (see box).

Marshall played an influential role in shaping many early Cold War events. With Soviet communist pressure applied to Greece and Turkey in early 1947, Marshall successfully pressed Truman and Congress for four hundred million dollars in U.S. aid to those countries. (The Soviet Union had naval stations in Turkey, and nearby Greece was fighting a civil war with communist-dominated rebels.) Marshall opposed creation of the state of Israel and advised Truman not to react too quickly in 1948, when the state of Israel was created. Marshall believed such rapid recognition would harm relations with Arab nations in the region. However, in a rare occasion of Truman going against Marshall's advice, the president, under pressure from conservative Republicans and the Jewish population in the United States during an election year, extended formal recognition within hours of Israel's formation. Marshall was also key in creating a Western European and U.S. defense alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a key factor in the attempt to contain communism. Similarly, he developed defense and economic alliances with Latin American countries, known as the Rio Pact and the Organization of American States.

In June 1948, the Soviets also blockaded access to the Western-controlled sections of Berlin. Truman followed Marshall's advice to combat the blockade by using a massive airlift of supplies to West Berlin, rather than resorting to a more direct military confrontation, as advised by others in the administration. The blockade ended peacefully in May 1949.

The last assignment

After a very busy two years as secretary of state, Marshall resigned due to health problems. However, duty would call again soon. With the beginning of the Korean War (1950–53) in June 1950, Truman asked Marshall to serve as secretary of defense, though he was seventy years of age. As he had done earlier in World War II, Marshall oversaw the rebuilding of the U.S. armed forces and production of weapons. Marshall would also support Truman in the removal of the controversial General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964; see entry), after MacArthur became a leading critic of Truman's and Marshall's war strategies.

Once more, Marshall retired in September 1951, after he had completed his tasks and the war against communist North Korea had come to a stalemate. He remained a high-ranking advisor to the U.S. government. Marshall died at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1959 after suffering a series of strokes. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1964, the George C. Marshall Research Library was dedicated in Lexington, Virginia.

For More Information


Cray, Ed. General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman. New York: Norton, 1990.

Donovan, Robert J. The Second Victory: The Marshall Plan and the Postwar Revival of Europe. New York: Madison Books, 1987.

Hogan, Michael J. The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947–1952. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall. 4 vols. Colorado Springs, CO: U.S. Air Force Academy, 1963–87.

Stoler, Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.

The Marshall Plan

In a speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947, U.S. secretary of state George C. Marshall unveiled a new major U.S. economic aid program for Western Europe. Marshall feared the high poverty and unemployment rates in the region following the devastating effects of World War II created an unstable political climate ripe for the spread of communism. Seventeen nations in Western Europe applied for aid under the program—commonly known as the Marshall Plan—between April 1949 and December 1951.

The United States created the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) to distribute thirteen billion dollars over a four-year period. The European nations receiving the assistance formed the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) to coordinate their participation. The program was highly successful, restoring industry, increasing agricultural production, expanding trade, and stabilizing monetary systems. It solved much hunger and despair. The economic productivity of some nations rose by as much as 25 percent.

Marshall offered the plan to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries as well. However, the Soviets rejected participation and forced those Eastern European countries under its control to not participate as well, even though Czechoslovakia and Poland had already expressed interest. The Soviets claimed conditions of the program posed too much of a Western intrusion in domestic economies. They would offer a separate, far less effective plan to the Eastern European countries.

The Marshall Plan was successful in the rapid economic revival of Western Europe, but it also contributed to the growing split between East and West in Europe, setting the stage for future hostile confrontations between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. Nonetheless, for his role in developing the program and for the positive benefits, Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

Marshall, George C.

views updated May 11 2018


(b. December 31, 1880; d. October 16, 1959) Soldier-statesman.

George Catlett Marshall began his career as a U.S. Army officer after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901. He served as a staff officer with U.S. forces in France (1917–1918) and in numerous important posts in the period between World Wars I and II before being made army chief of staff on September 1, 1939. After Marshall retired from active duty in late 1945, President Harry S. Truman selected him to handle three major jobs: special ambassador to China (December 1945–January 1947), secretary of state (January 1947–January 1949), and secretary of defense (September 1950–September 1951).

Vigorous criticism of the Truman administration for its China policies caused Truman to call on the respected and politically neutral Marshall to mediate the growing Chinese civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists. Marshall believed that although the Nationalists appeared to be militarily superior, neither side was powerful enough to destroy the other and thus a coalition government was essential to prevent the country's destruction. Marshall succeeded in negotiating a cease-fire on January 10, 1946.

During the spring of 1946, however, fighting increased. Marshall continued to seek nationalist government reform, an end to the hostilities, and a coalition government until his departure in early January 1947. Marshall's unwillingness to side entirely with the Nationalist government was one of the chief criticisms of him later raised by conservative critics. Accusations that the Truman administration had "lost" China fueled McCarthyism and the Red Scare that included a hunt for Communist sympathizers in the State Department.

The Department of State had been a marginal player in U.S. diplomacy for fifteen years when Marshall took over on January 20, 1947. He immediately reorganized the department, creating, for example, the Policy Planning Staff under George F. Kennan. Marshall cultivated the friendship of Arthur Vandenburg (R-Michigan), a power in the U.S. Senate and a prewar isolationist who now lead the Republican Party's internationalist wing. Events since Pearl Harbor had weakened the Republican isolationist wing. Marshall and Vandenberg encouraged the growing understanding that foreign policy should be regarded in a nonpartisan or bipartisan manner.

The inconclusive Moscow Foreign Ministers Conference of March and April 1947 convinced Marshall that the United States had to stabilize the socioeconomic situation in Western Europe or communists might take over. His speech on June 5 at Harvard University warned of Europe's economic plight and asserted that the United States could help but insisted that European nations coordinate and take the initiative. The law creating the so-called Marshall Plan was signed by President Harry S. Truman on April 3, 1948, following Marshall's strenuous political and public relations campaign on its behalf. The European Recovery Program's $13.3 billion in grants and loans marked a decisive shift in American culture from isolationism to internationalism, resulting from a combination of self-interest in combating Soviet influence and American generosity to nations ravaged by war.

War damage, weakening of the old colonial powers, and the Soviet Union's status as superpower and Communist world leader were the key problems during Marshall's period as Secretary of State. Many in Europe and Asia viewed both the USSR and Communism with increased respect. Soviet leaders used this, and the Red Army's control of eastern Europe, to strengthen what they considered a defensive barrier around themselves. Western leaders saw Soviet activities as a precursor to social upheaval and Soviet world dictatorship. The future of Germany was a focal point for many disputes between Communists and anti-Communists.

German economic and political problems swiftly escalated into the Berlin blockade and airlift of April 1948 to May 1949. Marshall worked to keep the western Allies unified and urged a firm stance against the Soviets while demonstrating a willingness to use United Nations (UN) machinery to seek a solution.

The communist threat encouraged western leaders to consider a new defensive alliance as a counterpart to the Marshall plan. While Marshall was a vigorous supporter of the UN, he also encouraged the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). America's leading role in this peacetime military alliance signified a radical departure for American foreign policy from prewar isolationism to postwar internationalism. Results of this included enhanced powers for the federal government, continued support by citizens for a large military establishment, and conversion of American domestic problems (e.g., racism) into issues of world importance.

The status of Palestine, especially whether it should be partitioned between Jews and Arabs, was another major issue during Marshall's time at the State Department. While supporting partition, Marshall preferred that the UN find a solution, fearing that unilateral Israeli independence would lead to a war in which the Arabs might overwhelm the Israelis, forcing the United States to intervene militarily, which would hurt U.S. prestige in the UN and in the Arab world and perhaps open the gates to Soviet influence in the Middle East.

Marshall resigned as Secretary of State on January 20, 1949, and Truman soon appointed him to head the American Red Cross. During 1949 and 1950, Marshall campaigned vigorously to improve the organization's image and income.

Marshall replaced Louis Johnson as secretary of defense on September 21, 1950. He and Secretary of State Dean Acheson cooperated well, and Marshall was friendly with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). His job as secretary was to complete the mobilization for the Korean War, but his first key decision was to accept JCS and theater commander Douglas MacArthur's recommendation to pursue the North Koreans—who were rapidly retreating after the Inchon invasion of September 15—beyond the 38th parallel.

When China's intervention in the war in late November 1950 threatened UN forces with disaster, Marshall's job was to restrain MacArthur from widening the war, placate U.S. allies worried about American leadership, and seek a ceasefire. After MacArthur became publicly critical of Truman administration policies in Asia in March 1951, Marshall and the president's other military advisors agreed that MacArthur had to be relieved of command. Frustrations with the war and unhappiness that MacArthur had been relieved of command were other causes of conservative displeasure toward Marshall.

Marshall resigned as secretary of defense on September 12, 1951; it was his last public office. On December 10, 1953, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for what he asserted were the American people's efforts through the Marshall Plan. He died on October 16, 1959, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Marshall, George C. The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, 5 vols. to date. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981–.

Marshall, George C. George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, 3d ed. Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1996.

Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall, 4 vols. New York: Viking, 1963–1987.

Stoler, Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

Larry I. Bland

See also:Containment and Détente; Korea, Impact of; Marshall Plan; McCarthyism; Nitze, Paul; Truman, Harry S.; "Who Lost China" Debate.

Marshall, George C.

views updated Jun 11 2018

Marshall, George C. (1880–1959), World War II army chief of staff; secretary of state, 1947–49; Korean War secretary of defense.Marshall is considered the creator of the World War II U.S. Army, the organizer of Allied victory, and the architect of key U.S. Cold War policies. In 1953, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan) that bears his name. He is the first professional soldier to be so honored.

Born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Marshall graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901 and in 1902 was commissioned a second lieutenant. Throughout his early military career, he exhibited extraordinary ability as a staff officer. Consequently, he was given responsibilities far beyond his rank and deeply impressed his superiors—most notably Gen. John J. Pershing, who assigned Marshall to his World War I staff and became his mentor and supporter. Marshall played a major role in planning the St. Mihiel and Meuse‐Argonne offensives, and developed an exceptional reputation for organizing and operating within Allied commands. During the interwar years, he developed a similar reputation for working with civilians. As head of the Infantry School at Fort Benning (1927–32) he also trained what would become the U.S. High Command in World War II. Promotion during this time was slow, however, and only in 1936 did he obtain his first general's star. Yet in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected him over numerous senior officers to be the new army chief of staff.

In 1939–41, Marshall focused his energies on the creation of a large, modern army to meet the threat posed by Axis military victories. In the process he developed an extraordinary reputation with Congress for honesty as well as military expertise, and he became the administration's most convincing military advocate on Capitol Hill. Largely as a result of his efforts, the army expanded from 175,000 in 1939 to 1.4 million in 1941. Plans were also completed for additional expansion to 8 million and for a global strategy of alliance with Britain to defeat Germany before Japan, if and when the United States officially entered the war. Marshall was far less successful in halting Roosevelt's proclivity to overcommitment, however, particularly in the Far East, and over whether scarce resources should be allocated to the U.S. Army or to potential allies under the Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Marshall became the leading figure in the newly formed U.S. Joint and Anglo‐American Combined Chiefs of Staff and gradually emerged as Roosevelt's chief military adviser. He attended all Allied wartime summit conferences and played a major role in the creation of the joint and combined chiefs and in the application of the unity of command principle to all U.S. and British ground, naval, and air forces. He also strongly promoted a cross‐Channel invasion over British‐supported Mediterranean operations, but he lost that debate and was forced to acquiesce in the 1942–43 North Africa Campaign and the 1943 invasion and conquest of Sicily and Italy. In return, Marshall won presidential and British support for the 1944 cross‐Channel assault that would culminate in the decisive invasion of Normandy. Although it was expected he would command that operation, Marshall was not selected because he had become indispensable in Washington and because he refused to request the position. For such self‐denial as well as for his accomplishments, Marshall was selected Time magazine's “Man of the Year” in 1944, and Congress awarded him a fifth star and the title “General of the Army.”

After World War II, Marshall served as special presidential emissary to China in an unsuccessful effort to avert civil war, and then as Truman's secretary of state from 1947 to 1949. In this position he played a major role in defining, implementing, and winning bipartisan support for an activist Cold War policy of containing Soviet expansionism, most notably in the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan), and won a second “Man of the Year” award as well as a Nobel Prize. He played a major role, too, in the formation of West Germany and NATO. As secretary of defense (1950–51), he rebuilt U.S. military forces during the Korean War and took a key part in the controversial relief of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. For this, as well as his Asian policies while secretary of state, he became a target of attacks by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his associates.

Despite those attacks, Marshall's reputation continued to grow after his death in 1959. In addition to his extraordinary accomplishments, he was one of the foremost defenders of civilian control of the military, a key definer of the army's proper role in a democratic society, and a model of both personal integrity and selfless public service. For all of this he is widely considered one of the world's greatest soldier‐statesmen.
[See also Civil‐Military Relations: Civil Control of the Military; World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course; Joint Chiefs of Staff.]


Forrest C. Pogue , George C. Marshall, 4 vols., 1963–87.
Larry I. Bland, ed., The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, 3 of 6 vols., 1981–91.
Thomas Parrish , Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War, 1989.
Mark A. Stoler , George C. Marshall: Soldier‐Statesman of the American Century, 1989.
Edward Cray , General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman, 1990.
Larry I. Bland, ed., George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, 1991.

Mark A. Stoler

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