Although George C. Marshall was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, he made Dodona Manor in
Leesburg, Virginia his permanent home for the last fourteen years of his life. Marshall was a
remarkable man, whose contributions as a leader made him Time’s “Man of the Year” twice,
once in 1943, and again in 1947. Indeed, Marshall was a key player in many historic events of
the 20th century. Marshall was a young officer in World War I and an aide to General John J.
Pershing in the early 1920s. Rising through the ranks, he became U.S. Army Chief of Staff in
World War II. In this role, he participated in eight wartime allied conferences, helping to shape
outcomes of global importance.
As Marshall biographer Ed Cray noted, “By dint of cool authority, Marshall had come to be the acknowledged leader of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff. He alone had held his post since the outbreak of war. He alone had the global vision to balance competing European and Pacific theaters and commanders, the personal reputation to keep such headstrong men as Douglas MacArthur and Joseph Stilwell in line, and the sheer physical presence to convince Congress and the public that the war was in good hands. . . . Those meeting him even for the first time came away reassured by Marshall’s confidence, his commanding grasp of a war waged in five theaters, and his austere manner. Somehow he seemed a man to whom one could trust one’s sons and the fate of the nation.”
Shortly after the war, Marshall was tapped by President Harry Truman as special ambassador to China, where he attempted to mediate the forces of democracy and communism vying for control of that government. While Secretary of State, he developed and sought passage for the European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan, which brought a unique and enlightened approach to the reconstruction of war-torn Europe. By encouraging economic integration, and supporting methods for increasing productivity and modernity, the ERP raised living standards, curbed Communism, and helped in restoring political stability on that continent. Many historians consider the Marshall Plan the most successful foreign aid program in American history.
As an outgrowth of his work on the European Recovery Program, Marshall encouraged the formulation of a system of mutual defense for Western Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Marshall’s final call to duty was as Secretary of Defense during the Korean War, directing U.S. military policy in that United Nations “police action.” A permanent 5-star General, Marshall was the only professional soldier to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor that acknowledged his role in the reconstruction of Europe at war’s end. Although he wielded considerable power, especially in World War II, Marshall was never tempted to abuse it. Further, his sense of duty to country led him to accept Truman’s various calls to duty, long after he might have expected a peaceful retirement.
American diplomat Charles Bohlen said of Marshall: “He was a man of absolute integrity. You felt the firmness, as if it were written in large letters all over him. . . . We realized we were working for a great man.”