My VIP for this week is George C. Marshall. I studied about him in my humanities class when I was studying World Wars I and II. I knew very little about him previously other than that he was a great military leader. I now have a great deal of respect for him.
Marshall graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) as a Cadet First Captain with no demerits beside his name. At age 21 he was assigned as the commanding officer for some small outposts in the Philippines. While he was there he studied to learn all that he could about the native peoples, including their language and customs. As a commanding officer he was responsible for maintaining discipline in his troops. He looked first to his own self-discipline, and then he did everything that he could to keep his men occupied mentally as well as physically. He demanded much from his men, but he demanded more from himself.
In 1916 Marshall was transferred to Utah where he was in charge of the training camp. When the camp closed Marshall’s commanding officer filled out an efficiency report on him. A standard question was: “Would you desire to have him under our immediate command in peace and in war.” The colonel answered, “Yes, but I would prefer to serve under his command… In my judgment there are not five officers in the Army so well qualified as he to command a division in the field.” The colonel then recommended Captain Marshall be promoted to brigadier general. The recommendation was declined.
When Marshall sailed to France in June 1917, he was on the first ship of the first convoy of American troops. He had numerous important assignments there in organizing and transferring thousands of troops and guns. He was made a temporary major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. He was again recommended for brigadier general, but the recommendation was not accepted. After World War I ended, Marshall became a captain again and waited fifteen years to become a colonel.
Sometime later General Marshall became chief of staff, and one of the first things that he did was demand that the rules of promotion be changed. Within a year after the amendment went through in September 1940, Major Eisenhower was made a colonel and then brigadier general, jumping 366 colonels who were his senior. This put General Eisenhower in a leading role in World War II, which made a big difference in the outcome of the war.
Marshall was hailed as a hero by both the US Congress and British leaders for his leadership during World War II. Marshall retired from chief of staff and then served as secretary of state (1947-1949). He was instrumental in putting together a plan to help Europe recover from the war. The unofficial name of the plan is “The Marshall Plan.” He was recognized for his efforts when he received the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Marshall Plan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan
(officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave over $13 billion (nearly $140 billion in 2017 dollars) in economic assistance to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II. The plan was in operation for four years beginning on April 8, 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-torn regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, improve European prosperity, and prevent the spread of Communism. The Marshall Plan required a lessening of interstate barriers, a dropping of many regulations, and encouraged an increase in productivity, trade union membership, as well as the adoption of modern business procedures.
Marshall was secretary of defense when war broke out in Korea. He worked to rebuild the army to manage the two-prong fight of the Korean War and the Cold War with Russia. He retired in September 1951 and went back to his home in Leesburg, Virginia, to tend his garden and enjoy his horses. He died at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1959, at the age of 78. His body is interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
I was impressed with Marshall because he seemed to stay humble and have compassion for the common person even though he attained some of the greatest offices and rewards in the world. He held himself to high standards, and his integrity showed in the positions and recognition that came to him.