12/19/06 - george marshall

In today's excerpt - General George Catlett Marshall Jr. Considered by many as the second greatest general in American history behind Washington himself, Marshall was the architect of victory in World War II, as military chief of staff under Roosevelt. Yet, he refused to seek the war's most coveted command, the one that would have brought unprecedented fame: D-Day and Overlord:

"In the four years since 1939 and his appointment as acting chief of staff, George Marshall had raised and equipped an army and air force of almost 7 million men and women; in the last two years, they had fielded fifty combat divisions. More were to come each month. His air force had grown thirty-five-fold, to 2 million men and more than 100,000 aircraft of all types:

"In these same two years he had become the most powerful figure in the government after the president himself. No soldier since George Washington commanded such political influence and public respect as did this soldier of sober optimism.

"[Many assumed that Marshall would take the prestigious Overlord command, and talk began of] Marshall's shift to London and his probable replacement in Washington by Eisenhower. ... From his room at Walter Reed Hospital,the retired general of the armies [and World War I hero John J. Pershing] wrote FDR urging that Marshall be retained as chief of staff. 'To transfer him to a tactical command in a limited area, no matter how seemingly important, is to deprive ourselves of the benefit of his outstanding strategic ability and experience. I know of no one at all comparable to replace him as chief of staff.' ... Roosevelt [himself said] 'I doubt very much if General Marshall can be spared ...'

"[At the Tehran conference with Churchill and Stalin], Roosevelt had one major decision yet to make: command of Overlord. ... The president ... asked his chief of staff which post he preferred. Marshall would not be drawn out. It was for the president to decide. ... The president then decided, as he put it, on a 'mathematical basis.' Eisenhower, as chief of staff, would have to become familiar with the Pacific theater and handle MacArthur ... and would have to learn to deal with a Congress impatient for the war's end. ...

"Roosevelt's decision was politically motivated, influenced by both national and international considerations. As Winston Churchill would later write, 'It is not possible in a major war to divide military from political affairs. At the summit, they are one.' However much the chief of staff sought to put himself above the political, he had paradoxically become the one man acceptable to all. It would cost him the one command he most desired."


Ed Cray


General of the Army: George C. Marshall Soldier and Stateman


First Cooper Square Press


Copyright 1990 by Ed Cray


402, 414, 417, 436-437
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