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George C. Marshall
Portrait of a man in military uniform.marshal
Official portrait, 1946
3rd United States Secretary of Defense
In office
21 September 1950 – 12 September 1951
President Harry S. Truman
Deputy Stephen Early
Robert A. Lovett
Preceded by Louis A. Johnson
Succeeded by Robert A. Lovett
10th President of the American Red Cross
In office
1 October 1949 – 1 December 1950
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Basil O'Connor
Succeeded by E. Roland Harriman
2nd Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission
In office
January 1949 – 16 October 1959
Preceded by John J. Pershing
Succeeded by Jacob L. Devers
50th United States Secretary of State
In office
21 January 1947 – 20 January 1949
President Harry S. Truman
Deputy Dean Acheson
Robert A. Lovett
Preceded by James F. Byrnes
Succeeded by Dean Acheson
United States Special Envoy to China
In office
20 December 1945 – 6 January 1947
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
15th Chief of Staff of the United States Army
In office
1 September 1939 – 18 November 1945
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman
Deputy Lorenzo D. Gasser
William Bryden
Preceded by Malin Craig
Succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Personal details
George Catlett Marshall Jr.

(1880-12-31)31 December 1880
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died 16 October 1959(1959-10-16) (aged 78)
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Political party None
Lily Carter Coles
(m. 1902; died 1927)
Katherine Boyce Tupper Brown
(m. 1930)
Education Virginia Military Institute
Civilian awards Nobel Peace Prize
Congressional Gold Medal
Charlemagne Prize
Complete list
Military service
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service 1902–1959
Rank US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army
Commands Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Army
5th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division
Fort Moultrie and District I, Civilian Conservation Corps
Fort Screven and District F, Civilian Conservation Corps
8th Infantry Regiment
Military awards Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Croix de Guerre
Complete list
College football career
VMI Keydets
Position Left Tackle
Career history
College VMI (1900)
Career highlights and awards
All-Southern (1900)

George Catlett Marshall Jr. GCB (31 December 1880 – 16 October 1959) was an American army officer and statesman. He rose through the United States Army to become Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, then served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under Truman. Winston Churchill lauded Marshall as the "organizer of victory" for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II. As Secretary of State, Marshall advocated for a U.S. economic and political commitment to post-war European recovery, including the Marshall Plan that bore his name. In recognition of this work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953, the only Army general ever to receive the honor.

Early life and education

George Catlett Marshall Jr. was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children born to George Catlett Marshall and Laura Emily (née Bradford) Marshall. Both sides of his family were long from Kentucky, but cherished their Virginian roots. He was also a first cousin, three times removed, of former Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall's father was active in the coal and coke business. Later, when asked about his political allegiances, Marshall often joked that his father had been a Democrat and his mother a Republican, whereas he was an Episcopalian.

Marshall was educated at Miss Alcinda Thompson's private school in Uniontown and spent a year at Uniontown's Central School. Having decided early in life that he desired a career in the military, but unlikely to obtain an appointment to the United States Military Academy because of his average grades, he looked to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) for a formal education. Marshall's brother Stuart, a VMI alumnus, believed George would not succeed and argued that their mother should not let George attend out of concern that he would "disgrace the family name." Determined to "wipe his brother's face," Marshall enrolled at the age of sixteen in December 1897. To pay for his tuition and expenses, Marshall's mother sold parcels of land she owned in Uniontown and Augusta, Kentucky.

1900 VMI Keydets football team marshall encircled
1900 VMI Keydets football team. Marshall circled

During his years at VMI, Marshall always ranked first in military discipline and about midway academically. He attained the rank of first captain, the highest a cadet could achieve, and graduated 15th of 34 in the Class of 1901. Marshall received a diploma, not a degree. At the time of his graduation, the top five or six VMI graduates received bachelor's degrees. The rest received diplomas attesting to their status as graduates. He played offensive tackle on the football team and in 1900 he was selected for All-Southern honors.


Marshall served in the United States and overseas in positions of increasing rank, including platoon leader and company commander in the Philippines during the Philippine–American War. He was the top-ranked of the five Honor Graduates of his Infantry-Cavalry School Course in 1907 and graduated first in his 1908 Army Staff College class. In 1916 Marshall was assigned as aide-de-camp to J. Franklin Bell, the commander of the Western Department. After the nation entered World War I in 1917, Marshall served with Bell who commanded the Department of the East. He was assigned to the staff of the 1st Division; he assisted with the organization's mobilization and training in the United States, as well as planning of its combat operations in France. Subsequently, assigned to the staff of the American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, he was a key planner of American operations, including the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

After the war, Marshall became an aide-de-camp to then Army Chief of Staff John J. Pershing. Marshall later served on the Army staff, was the executive officer of the 15th Infantry Regiment in China and was an instructor at the Army War College. In 1927, he became assistant commandant of the Army's Infantry School, where he modernized command and staff processes, which proved to be of major benefit during World War II. In 1932 and 1933 he commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment and Fort Screven, Georgia. Marshall commanded 5th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and Vancouver Barracks from 1936 to 1938; he received promotion to brigadier general. During this command, Marshall was also responsible for 35 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in Oregon and Southern Washington. In July 1938, Marshall was assigned to the War Plans Division on the War Department staff; he later became the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff. When Chief of Staff Malin Craig retired in 1939, Marshall assumed the role of Chief of Staff in an acting capacity before his appointment to the position, which he held until the war's end in 1945.

As Chief of Staff, Marshall, working closely with Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, and received promotion to five-star rank as General of the Army. Marshall coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific until the end of the war. In addition to accolades from Winston Churchill and other Allied leaders, Time magazine named Marshall its Man of the Year for 1943 and 1947. Marshall retired from active service in 1945, but remained on active duty, as required for holders of five-star rank. From 15 December 1945 to January 1947, Marshall served as a special envoy to China in an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a coalition government between the Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists of Mao Zedong.

As Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949, Marshall advocated rebuilding Europe, a program that became known as the Marshall Plan, and which led to his being awarded the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. After resigning as Secretary of State, Marshall served as chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission and president of the American National Red Cross. As Secretary of Defense at the start of the Korean War, Marshall worked to restore the military's confidence and morale at the end of its post-World War II demobilization and then its initial buildup for combat in Korea and operations during the Cold War. After resigning as Defense Secretary, Marshall retired to his home in Virginia.

Death and burial

George Marshall Gravesite
Grave site of George Marshall at Arlington National Cemetery

After a series of strokes, Marshall died at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., on 16 October 1959. Although he was entitled to official proceedings, Marshall preferred simplicity, so he received a special military funeral that dispensed with many of the usual activities. The ceremonies included lying in state at Washington National Cathedral for 24 hours, guarded by representatives from each U.S. armed service and a VMI cadet.

Marshall was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 7, Grave 8198, beside his first wife and her mother, Elizabeth Pendleton Coles (1849–1929). His second wife was also buried with him after she died on 18 December 1978. On its reverse side, the marble headstone lists General Marshall's positions held: "Chief of Staff U.S. Army, Secretary of State, President of American Red Cross, Secretary of Defense." The five-star rank adorns both sides of the stone.

Reputation and legacy

Thomas Edgar Stephens - George C. Marshall - Google Art Project
George Marshall portrait by Thomas E. Stephens, (c. 1949)

George Marshall was the best-known and most active – and most selfless – American leader in the early Cold War. In a television interview after leaving office, Truman was asked which American he thought had made the greatest contribution of the preceding 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 addition to his military success, Marshall is primarily remembered as the driving force behind the Marshall Plan, which provided billions of dollars in aid to post war Europe to restart the economies of the destroyed countries.

Tributes and memorials

Marshall Statue Germany
A statue of General Marshall is unveiled at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies on 30 April 1998.

Two non-profit organizations, the George C. Marshall Foundation and the George C. Marshall International Center, actively propagate General Marshall's legacy. The Marshall Foundation oversees Marshall's official papers and over two million other documents relating to the 20th century. The International Center preserves Marshall's home, Dodona Manor, as a museum and hosts educational programs focusing on Marshall's life, leadership, and role in American history.

Numerous streets are named for General Marshall, including George-Marshall-Straße in Wiesbaden, Germany and George-C.-Marshall-Ring in Oberursel, Germany.

On 30 April 1998, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies unveiled the first public statue of General Marshall in Europe in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The slightly larger-than-life statue was sponsored by the Marshall Center, the Friends of the Marshall Center and the City of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It shows Marshall in uniform walking across a bronze bridge, facing east, to greet new friends and allies and was designed by artist Christiane Horn of Wartenberg, Bavaria. Vernon A. Walters, former U.S. ambassador to Germany, was a keynote speaker during the dedication ceremony.

Fictional portrayals

Marshall has been played in film and television by:

  • Keith Andes in the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Ward Costello in the 1977 film MacArthur.
  • Dana Andrews in the 1979 film Ike, The War Years.
  • Bill Morey in the 1980 television film Enola Gay: The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb.
  • Norman Burton in the 1988 miniseries War and Remembrance.
  • Hal Holbrook in the 1989 television film Day One.
  • Harris Yulin in the 1995 television movie Truman.
  • Harve Presnell in the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.
  • Scott Wilson in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor.
  • Donald Eugene McCoy in the 2009 Chinese movie The Founding of a Republic.
  • Will Roberts in the 2023 film Oppenheimer.

Dates of rank

Marshall's dates of rank were:

Insignia Rank Component Date
No pin insignia in 1902 Second lieutenant United States Army 2 February 1901

(Appointment accepted February 2, 1902)

US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant United States Army 7 March 1907
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain United States Army 1 July 1916
US-O4 insignia.svg Major National Army 5 August 1917
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel National Army 5 January 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel National Army 27 August 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular Army 30 June 1920

(Reverted to permanent rank)

US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular Army 1 July 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Regular Army 21 August 1923
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Regular Army 1 September 1933
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Regular Army 1 October 1936
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Regular Army 1 September 1939
US-O10 insignia.svg General Army of the United States 1 September 1939
US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army Army of the United States 16 December 1944
US-O11 insignia.svg
General of the Army Regular Army 11 April 1946

Note – Marshall served as Secretary of State from 21 January 1947 to 20 January 1949. He retired from the Army on 28 February 1947 and returned to active duty on 1 March 1949.

Awards and decorations

U.S. Military Decorations
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Former U.S. Army Marksmanship Badge for rifle.
Expert Rifleman Badge
U.S. Service Medals
Philippine Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Philippine Campaign Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
Silver star
World War I Victory Medal with five campaign clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany ribbon.svg Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal (First recipient)
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
Overseas Service Chevrons
Four Overseas Chevrons (for service in World War I)
Army Overseas Service Bar
One Overseas Service Bar
Foreign Orders
Order of the Bath (ribbon).svg Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (United Kingdom)
Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France)
Order of Blue Sky and White Sun with Grand Cordon ribbon.png Order of Blue Sky and White Sun (Republic of China)
BRA Ordem do Merito Militar Gra-cruz.png Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit (Brazil)
CHL Order of Merit of Chile - Grand Cross BAR.svg Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Chile)
COL Order of Boyaca - Grand Cross BAR.svg Grand Cross of the Order of Boyacá Cherifien (Colombia)
PRT Order of Christ - Commander BAR.svg Member 1st Class of the Order of Military Merit (Cuba)
Order of Abdon Calderon First Class.svg Member 1st Class of the Order of Abdon Calderon (Ecuador)
GRE Order of George I - Grand Cross BAR.png Knight Grand Cross with swords of the Order of George I (Greece)
Cavaliere di gran Croce Regno SSML BAR.svg Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy)
Gran croce OCI BAR.svg Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy (Italy)
Ordre de l'Ouissam Alaouite GC ribbon (Maroc).svg Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco)
Order of Orange-Nassau ribbon - Knight Grand Cross.svg Knight Grand Cross with swords of the Order of Orange-Nassau (Netherlands)
PER Order of the Sun of Peru - Grand Officer BAR.png Grand Officer of the Order of the Sun (Peru)
Order of Suvorov 106x30.png Member 1st Class of the Order of Suvorov (Soviet Union)
Foreign Decorations and Medals
CroixdeGuerreFR-BronzePalm.png Croix de Guerre 1914–1918 with bronze palm (France)
Medal for the Centennial of the Republic of Liberia.png Medal for the Centennial of the Republic of Liberia (Liberia)
DK Forsvarets Medalje for Faldne i Tjeneste Ribbon.png Silver Medal for Bravery (Montenegro)
PAN Medalla de la Solidaridad.png Medal of Solidarity, 2nd Class (Panama)
Ribbon – QE II Coronation Medal Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal (United Kingdom)
Fourragère CG.png
Fourragère in the colors of the Croix de Guerre (France)

Civilian honors

Date Awarding Organization Award
1943 American Legion Distinguished Service Medal
1943 Time magazine Man of the Year
1944 Pennsylvania Society Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement
1945 Reserve Officers Association Permanent Membership
1945 Theodore Roosevelt Association Distinguished Service Medal of Honor
1946 United States Congress Congressional Gold Medal
1946 American Philosophical Society Resident Member
1947 Freedom House Freedom Award
1947 Time magazine Man of the Year
1948 Grand Lodge of New York Distinguished Achievement Award
1948 Kappa Alpha Order Award for Distinguished Achievement
1948 Variety Clubs International International Humanitarian Award
1949 American Planning Association Gold Medal
1949 New Orleans, Louisiana Key to the City
1949 San Juan, Puerto Rico Key to the City
1949 Fraternal Order of Eagles National Civic Service Award
1949 New York Board of Trade Award for distinguished service and contribution to the American way
1949 U.S. Conference of Mayors Award for Distinguished Public Service
1950 Franklin Institute Honorary Membership
1950 Youngstown, Ohio Key to the City
1950 Disabled American Veterans, New York Chapter Citizenship Award
1951 Commonwealth of Virginia Virginia Distinguished Service Medal
1952 Four Freedoms Fund Four Freedoms Fund Award
1953 Norwegian Nobel Committee Nobel Peace Prize
1954 American Veterans 10th Anniversary Award
1956 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for Distinguished Service
1957 Organization for European Economic Cooperation Silver Medal
1957 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Meritorious Medal
1959 Aachen, Germany Charlemagne Prize
1959 Virginia Military Institute New Market Medal

Honorary degrees

Honorary degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
 Kansas 1934 Command and General Staff College Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
 Pennsylvania 1939 Washington and Jefferson College Doctor of Science (Sd.D)
 Pennsylvania 1940 Pennsylvania Military College Doctor of Military Science (DScMil)
 Virginia 1941 College of William and Mary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Connecticut 15 June 1941 Trinity College Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Vermont 1942 Norwich University Doctor of Military Science (DScMil)
 New York 1947 Columbia University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 New Jersey 22 February 1947 Princeton University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Massachusetts 6 June 1947 Harvard University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Massachusetts 16 June 1947 Amherst College Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Rhode Island 16 June 1947 Brown University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) Yes
 Quebec 1947 McGill University Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 Pennsylvania 1947 Lafayette College Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 California 1947 University of California Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 United Kingdom 1947 University of London Doctor of Laws (LL.D.)
 United Kingdom 11 November 1947 University of Oxford Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)

Images for kids

See also

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