I remember learning about the Marshall Plan in AP US History class and how critical it was to repairing the world after WWII. I did not realize until years later that General George C. Marshall was individual who lent his name to the plan. I’ve been in the Army for thirteen years, as of yesterday, and I’ve developed opinions on many famous generals from our history. Most of those opinions are demonstrably leery of anyone who receives unadulterated hero worship. I am not a fan of Patton, or Chesty Puller (I’m sorry to my USMC brethren). I think MacArthur explains why there is a negative stigma that surrounds THOSE West Point officers. There is one major exception and that is George Marshall. Everyone who knows about him, knows how important and significant he is to our history, our being America’s history. What I found in this biography is that we still manage to short change his contributions to the country that we know.
George Marshall graduated from VMI, commanded Soldiers in the Philippines, and eventually ended up on General “Black” Jack Pershing’s staff. (Fun Fact: He was called “Black” Jack as a slur. He commanded a troop of Buffalo Soldiers, a regiment of black Soldiers led by white officers and at his next assignment as a West Point Instructor, he was so unpopular with his students due to his “strictness and rigidity” that they used the harsher version of the nickname (use your imagination) and it eventually softened to Black Jack. I digress.) Marshall was a key planner for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the major Allied offensive that helped end WWI. He commanded again in China before becoming an instructor. It was during this assignment that he met, observed, and evaluated many of the officers he promoted during his tenure as Army Chief of Staff. He revolutionized the way promotions worked in the Army. After his military career he served as Secretary of State during President Truman’s first term and Secretary of Defense during his second. Personally, I consider him to be one of America’s Top Three Generals, with Ulysses S. Grant and George Washington. If you like history, you will love this book.
The author does a great job of addressing the failures and shortcomings of Marshall as well. While there are not many, they are significant. There is the intelligence failure that contributed to the catastrophe at Pearl Harbor (the base could have been put on higher alert, though the magnitude and timing of the attack was not known, more could have been done to prepare as it was believed the night before that the Japanese were planning something) and the failure of the U.S. Army to help Holocaust victims during WWII, wherein Marshall claims his sole focus was winning the war. The author shows all sides of these criticisms but does seem to end up supporting the decisions made by Marshall.
Again, read this if you any interest in the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or the Cold War as General Marshall played a part in each.
layed a part in each.