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 George Catlett Marshall, Jr

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George Catlett Marshall, Jr

US Army General, US Secretary of State, US Secretary of Defense, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He served as the 50th Secretary of State from January 1947 until January 1949 and the 3rd Secretary of State from September 1950 until September 1951, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his development of the Marshall Plan, the European Recovery Program after the end of World War II, and was the only career officer in US Army to ever receive this honor. Born into an old Virginia family, he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901 and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army in February 1902. In his early career, he served as an infantry platoon leader and company commander in the Philippines during the Philippine–American War and several other guerrilla uprisings. From 1906 until 1910 he was a student and then an instructor at the US Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during which time he was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He was promoted to the rank of captain in July 1916. When the US entered World War I in April 1917, he went to France as the director of training and planning for the 1st Infantry Division and received a promotion to the temporary rank of major in August of that year. In January 1918 he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel and was posted to American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, where he worked closely with General John J. Pershing and was a key planner of American operations including the planning and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which contributed to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front. In August 1918 he was promoted to the temporary rank of colonel and the following year, he became an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing. In June 1920 he reverted back to his peacetime rank of captain and the following month was promoted to the rank of major. Between 1920 and 1924, while Pershing was the US Army Chief of Staff, he worked in a number of positions in the US Army, focusing on training and teaching modern, mechanized warfare. He was a key planner and writer in the War Department, commanded the US 15th Infantry Regiment for three years in China, and taught at the Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 1927, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he was appointed assistant commandant at Fort Benning, Georgia and from June 1932 to June 1933 he was the commander at Fort Screven, Savannah Beach, Georgia (now Tybee Island) and was promoted to the rank of colonel after leaving that position. In October 1936 he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and commanded the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington, from 1936 until July 1938, when he was assigned to the War Plans Division in Washington DC and subsequently reassigned as Deputy Chief of Staff. In that capacity, he attended a conference at the White House at which President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a plan to provide aircraft to England in support of the war effort, lacking forethought with regard to logistical support or training. With all other attendees voicing support of the plan, he was the only person to voice his disagreement. Despite the common belief that he had ended his career, this action resulted in his being nominated by President Roosevelt to be Army Chief of Staff. In September 1939 he was promoted to the rank of major general and then general, and would hold this post until the end of World War II in August 1945. As Chief of Staff, he organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly equipped army of 189,000 men into a force of over eight million soldiers by 1942. He had originally planned for a 265-division Army with a system of unit rotation such as practiced by the British and other Allies. However, by mid-1943, 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 an individual replacement system sent via a circuitous process from training to divisions in combat. During World War II he was instrumental in preparing the US Army and Army Air Forces for the invasion of the European continent and wrote the document that would become the central strategy for all Allied operations in Europe. He initially scheduled the invasion (codenamed Operation Overlord) for April 1, 1943, but met with strong opposition from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who convinced President Roosevelt to commit troops to Operation Husky for the invasion of Italy. It was assumed that he would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, but Roosevelt selected General Dwight D. Eisenhower for the position. While he enjoyed considerable success in working with Congress and President Roosevelt, he refused to lobby for the position and Roosevelt didn't want to lose his presence in the US. On December 16, 1944 he became the first US general to be promoted to five-star rank, the newly created General of the Army, Army of the US, the American equivalent rank to field marshal (the rank was made permanent in the Regular US Army in December 1946). He was the second American to be promoted to a five-star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to fleet admiral the previous day. Throughout the remainder of World War II, he coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific. Time magazine named him Man of the Year for 1943. He resigned his post of Chief of Staff in 1945, but did not retire as Generals of the Army remain on active duty for life. In December 1945 President Harry Truman sent him to China to broker a coalition government between the Nationalist allies under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Communists under Mao Zedong. He had no leverage over the Communists, but he threatened to withdraw American aid essential to the Nationalists. Both sides rejected his proposals and the Chinese Civil War escalated, with the Communists eventually winning in 1949. With his mission a failure, he returned to the US in January 1947. He was the appointed Secretary of State and became the spokesman for the State Department's ambitious plans to rebuild Europe. On June 5, 1947 in a speech at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he outlined the American proposal. The European Recovery Program, as it was formally known, became known as the Marshall Plan, and it helped Europe quickly rebuild and modernize its economy along American lines. The Soviet Union forbade its satellite countries to participate in the Plan. He was again named Time's Man of the Year for 1947. As Secretary of State, he strongly opposed recognizing the state of Israel, believing that if the state of Israel was declared that a war would break out in the Middle East (which it did in 1948 one day after Israel declared independence). In January 1949 he resigned from the State Department because of ill health and the same month became chairman of American Battle Monuments Commission. In September of that year, he was named president of the American National Red Cross. In September 1950 President Truman named him as Secretary of Defense. In this position, his main role was to restore confidence and rebuild the armed forces from the post-war state of demobilization. He served for one year and retired from public office for good in September 1951. He died 8 years later at the age of 78. Among his military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Silver Star, the Philippine Campaign Medal, the World War I Victory Medal with four campaign clasps, the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. His foreign medals and orders include the British Honorary Knight Grand Cross Order of the Bath, the French Croix de Guerre, the French Grand Cross Legion of Honor, the Brazilian Order of Military Merit, the Chilean Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, the Columbian Grand Cross of the Order of Boyacá Cherifien, the Cuban Order of Military Merit, First Class, the Ecuadorian Star of Abdon Calderon, First Class, the Greek Grand Cross Order of George I with swords, the Italian Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, the Italian Order of the Crown of Italy, the Moroccan Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite, the Dutch Grand Cross with Swords Order of Orange-Nassau, the Soviet Union Grand Cross Order of Military Merit, the Soviet Union Order of Suvorov, 1st class, the Peruvian Gran Official del Sol del Peru, the Liberian Centennial Medal, the Montenegro Silver Medal for Bravery, and the Panamanian Medal of La Solidaridad, 2nd Class. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, he received other civilian honors, including the US Congressional Gold Medal (1946), and the Distinguished Achievement Award (1948). He was portrayed in a number of films, including "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (1970) by actor Keith Anders, "MacArthur" (1977) by actor Ward Costello, "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) by actor Harve Presnell, and "Pearl Harbor" (2001) by actor Scott Wilson.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 673
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George Catlett Marshall, Jr (31 Dec 1880–16 Oct 1959), Find A Grave Memorial no. 673, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .