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, 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.
George Catlett Marshall was born into a middle-class family in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of George Catlett Marshall, sr. and Laura Bradford Marshall. 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), 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: 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.
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. Many of the American generals who were given top commands during the war were either picked or recommended by Marshall, including Dwight Eisenhower, Lloyd credenda, Leslie McNairy, Mark Wayne Clark and Omar Bradley
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 McNairy 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. The Individual Replacement System (IRS) devised by Marshall and implemented by McNairy greatly exacerbated problems with unit cohesion and effective transfer of combat experience to newly-trained soldiers and officers. in Europe, where there were few pauses in combat with German forces, the individual replacement system had broken down completely by late 1944. 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. 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. 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."
Marshall's abilities to pick competent field commanders during the early part of the war were 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.
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." in spite of world-wide acclaim, dozens of national and international awards and honors and the Nobel Peace Prize, 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.