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George C. Marshall

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George C. Marshall (1880-1959) was the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, and the chief military advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the war he served as Secretary of State and sponsored the Marshall Plan in 1947. He was also Secretary of Defense during part of the Korean War.



World War II

Building an army

Strategy against Germany


Strategy against Japan

Marshall, who had charge of the Air Force, explained American strategy three weeks before Pearl Harbor:[1]

"We are preparing for an offensive war against Japan, whereas the Japs believe we are preparing only to defend the Philippines. ...We have 35 Flying Fortresses already there—the largest concentration anywhere in the world. Twenty more will be added next month, and 60 more in January....If war with the Japanese does come, we'll fight mercilessly. Flying fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won't be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out."

When war began the Philippine airbases were quickly lost. American strategy then focused on getting forward airbases close enough to Japan to use the very-long-range B-29 bomber, then in development. At first the B-29's were stationed in China and made raids in 1944; the logistics made China an impossible base. Finally, in summer 1944, the U.S. won the Battle of the Philippine Sea and captured islands that were in range.



Between 1945 and 1947, Marshall served as special US envoy to China to see what should be done to avert a civil war. His long-term goal was to establish a politically stable, democratic China that was friendly to the U.S. The mission failed because Mao Zedong believed America represented the capitalist enemy of Communism.[2] However, Marshall almost single-handedly kept the United States from actively intervening in in support of the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek . Marshall's conclusion that the United States should stay out of the war went against the thinking of many American political and military leaders, the news media, and State Department officials. But Marshall had concluded that it would be unwise for the U.S. to assume any responsibility for the dismal combat performance of Chiang's troops, not to mention the corruption of Chiang's government. Chiang was eventually defeated by the Communists in October 1949. The failure of Marshall's mission made him the target of intense Republican attacks led by Senator Joe McCarthy.

Marshall Plan

see Marshall Plan

Korean War

see Korean War


  • Bland, Larry; Jeans, Roger B.; and Wilkinson, Mark, eds. George C. Marshall's Mediation Mission to China, December 1945-January 1947. (1998). 661 pp. 24 essays by scholars
  • Bland, Larry I., and James B. Barber. George C. Marshall: Soldier of Peace (1997) online edition
  • Bryan, Ferald J. "George C. Marshall at Harvard: a Study of the Origins and Construction of the 'Marshall Plan' Speech." Presidential Studies Quarterly 1991 21(3): 489-502. Issn: 0360-4918
  • Condit, Doris M. The Test of War, 1950-1953: History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. (1988). 701 pp.
  • Cray, Ed. General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman. (1990). 847 pp.
  • Gullan, Harold I. "Expectations of Infamy: Roosevelt and Marshall Prepare for War, 1938-41." Presidential Studies Quarterly Volume: 28#3 1998. pp 510+ online edition
  • Levine, Steven I. "A New Look at American Mediation in the Chinese Civil War: the Marshall Mission and Manchuria." Diplomatic History 1979 3(4): 349-375. Issn: 0145-2096
  • Matloff, Maurice, and Edwin M. Snell, ‘’Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1941-1942'’ (1952) online edition grand strategy
  • Matloff, Maurice. ‘’Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944'’ (1958) online edition, grand strategy
  • May, Ernest R. "1947-48: When Marshall Kept the U.S. out of War in China." Journal of Military History 2002 66(4): 1001-1010. Issn: 0899-3718 in Jstor
  • Mosley, Leonard. Marshall: Hero for Our Times. (1982). 570 pp.
  • Parrish, Thomas. Roosevelt and Marshall: Partners in Politics and War. (1989). 608 pp.
  • Pogue, Forrest. George C. Marshall (1963–87) Four-volume authorized biography: complete text is online
  • Steele, Richard W. The First Offensive, 1942: Roosevelt, Marshall, and the Making of American Strategy. 1973. 239 pp.
  • Stoler, Mark C. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. (1989) 252pp

Primary Sources

  • primary sources at Marshall Library
  • Marshall, George C. The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland et al.; complete contents are online
    • Volume 1: The Soldierly Spirit, December 1880 - June 1939
    • Volume 2: We Cannot Delay, July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941
    • Volume 3: The Right Man for the Job, December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943
    • Volume 4: Aggressive and Determined Leadership, June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944
    • Volume 5: The Finest Soldier, January 1, 1945--January 7, 1947
  • Marshall, George C. George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue. ed. by Larry I. Bland, Joellen K. Bland, and Sharon Ritenour Stevens; (1991) 698 pp. searchable online
  • Marshall, George Catlett. Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918 (1976)
  • Stimson, Henry L., and McGeorge Bundy.On Active Services In Peace And War (1948, 2007) excerpt and text search

See also

Online resources


  1. Robert L. Sherrod "Memorandum for David W. Hulburd, Jr." November 15, 1941. The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland et al. vol. 2, We Cannot Delay, July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (1986), #2-602 pp. 676-681. online version. Marshall made the statement to a secret press conference.
  2. He Di, "Mao Zedong and the Marshall Mission," in Larry I. Bland, et al. eds. George C. Marshall's Mediation Mission to China, December 1945-January 1947. (1998). There are more explanations as to why the mission failed than this.