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George Catlett Marshall

Marshall, George Catlett, 1880–1959, American general and cabinet member, b. Uniontown, Pa. A career army officer, Marshall graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. He first distinguished himself as a staff officer in World War I and later (1919–24) was aide to General Pershing. After varied tasks, including service in China (1924–27), he headed (1939–45) the army as Chief of Staff, becoming General of the Army (five-star general) in Dec., 1944. In this capacity, he reorganized and mobilized the military during World War II by coordinating training, planning for rearmament, supplying Great Britain with important material, and finally directing the war. Marshall influenced Congress to change the rules of promotion so that promising officers, regardless of seniority, could be promoted. Among his protégés were Dwight D. Eisenhower, H. H. Arnold, Omar Bradley, Mark Clark, and Joseph Stilwell. During World War II he developed and executed U.S. strategy. Marshall advocated the conquest of Germany through France, and his plan was finally adopted. Many of his wartime tasks were diplomatic. When he resigned as Chief of Staff, he was promptly appointed (Nov., 1945) special ambassador to China by President Truman and was later recalled (Jan., 1947) to be made Secretary of State. After engineering (Feb., 1947) immediate aid to Greece and Turkey, he fostered the European Recovery Program (called the Marshall Plan) to promote postwar economic recovery in Europe. This plan was a great success and it laid the groundwork for a revitalized Europe and the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He resigned because of ill health in Jan., 1949. In Sept., 1950, he was called out of retirement to become Secretary of Defense, but he resigned from this post in Sept., 1951. For the Marshall Plan he received the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize.

See his collected papers (6 vol., ed. by L. I. Bland et al. 1981–2012); biographies by F. C. Pogue (3 vol., 1963–73) and Ed Cray (1990); M. Perry, Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace (2007); S. Weintraub, 15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall (2007); A. Roberts, Masters and Commanders (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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