This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri in three installments November 29th, December 6th and 13th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Occasionally I like to throw some history into this column. Looking back at World War II history, one might think that there was some divine intervention into the placing of our great Generals, Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton into position at the same time. Perhaps, but if so God had some help. Since George Washington is considered the father of our country, George C. Marshall is surely the father of our Army, at least the modern Army. George Marshall’s history is known to all career army soldiers, but to very few civilians under the age of 70.
George Catlett Marshall, Jr., was born to middle class parents in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, December 31st, 1880. Historically after every war, the United States has reduced funding its military to the point of rendering it ineffective. When the Spanish – American War broke out in 1898, the Army was quadrupled in size to around 100,000 soldiers. George C Marshall graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1901, and as part of that military buildup, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army in February 1902. He served as an infantry platoon leader and company commander, attended the army schools and served as an instructor. He graduated first in the Infantry-Cavalry Course in 1907 and first in the Army Staff College in 1908. He served a couple tours in the Philippines in the guerilla wars, and returned to the United States in 1916. Again, when World War I started in Europe the US was totally unprepared for war. In August 1914, as Britain was preparing to enter the war to stop Germany, H.G. Wells wrote an article in the British newspaper The Daily News titled “The War that will End War”. It was picked up worldwide as “The war to end all wars”.
The war in Europe had been under way for about 30 months, when the United States declared war in April 1917. The United States only had divisions on paper. George Marshall was assigned to the staff to help organize the first US combat division, which became the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One). Marshall’s commanders commented that he had the ability to reduce complex problems to simple answers.
General John J (Blackjack) Pershing, a former farm boy from Laclede, Missouri, was made Commander of American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. The French and the British had little confidence in American troops, and in fact initially insisted they simply be integrated into the British forces, so General Pershing was under pressure to get American units trained. He conducted unannounced inspections of the training, including one with the French President, which was a disaster. On October 3rd, 1917, General Pershing again inspected the 1st Division, after which he called the Division Commander, Major General Sibert, and his staff out and “just gave them hell”. As Pershing turned to leave, a tall major who had been serving as the division acting chief of staff spoke up, angrily protesting Pershing’s unfairness. Pershing was in no mood to listen and began to walk away. Suddenly, he felt the major’s hand grabbing his arm. “General Pershing,” the major said, “there’s something to be said here and I think I should say it because I’ve been here the longest.” Pershing turned back and gave the impertinent young officer a cold, appraising glance. “What have you got to say?”
A torrent of facts poured forth: the promised platoon manuals that never arrived and had set back training; the inadequate supplies that left men walking around with gunnysacks on their feet; the inadequate quarters that left troops scattered throughout the countryside, sleeping in barns for a penny a night; the lack of motor transport that forced troops to walk miles to the training grounds. Finally, the deluge subsided. Pershing looked at the major and calmly said: “You must appreciate the troubles we have.” The major replied, “Yes, I know you do, General, I know you do. But ours are immediate and every day and have to be solved before night.” Major George C Marshall’s friends offered their condolences, because they were sure that was the end of his career. Instead he was moved up to AEF Headquarters to help plan training and operations, and when General Pershing became Chief of Staff of the Army in 1921 he made Major George Marshall his Aide-de-camp.
It was there, in France, that Marshall first met and observed the rapid rising Colonel George Patton. Patton had graduated from West Point in 1909. Patton organized and commanded the tank school, in France, and finally commanded the Tank Brigade. Patton had come to France as General Pershing’s Aide. General Pershing was engaged to Patton’s sister Nita. Pershing’s wife and three daughters had died in a house fire at the Presidio of San Francisco, while Pershing was commanding the 8th Brigade at Fort Bliss, Texas preparing to go into Mexico after Poncho Villa. Only Pershing’s six year old son survived the fire. General Pershing was Chief of Staff of the Army from 1921 to September 1924, when he retired.
It was in France, that Marshall saw George Patton personally teach the soldiers how to drive the tanks and maneuver them, organize them into battalions and finally a brigade, then “on foot”, lead them into battle. George Marshall also rose to the rank of Colonel in World War I, was reverted to his permanent rank of Captain on June 30th and promoted to major on July 1st, 1920. The same for George Patton on the same days.
After World War I, the war to end all wars, the US congress reduced the authorized strength of the Army to 12,000 commissioned officers and 125,000 enlisted men, and funded the War Department at about half of its minimum request. The Army was stabilized at that level until 1936. Many units existed only on paper, and those that did have troops were at less than one third strength. There were practically no promotions. Many officers spent years as lieutenants or captains. Some infantry units trained close to their barracks with sticks instead of rifles, and yelled “bang”.
George Marshall was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1923. After General Pershing retired, George Marshall worked as a key planner and writer in the War Department. He commanded the 15th Infantry Regiment for three years in China, and taught at the Army War College. In 1927 he was assigned as the Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he initiated major changes to modernize command and staff procedures.
When Lieutenant Colonel George Marshall arrived at Fort Benning, he briefly met Major Dwight Eisenhower, who had just completed his command of a battalion. One of Marshall’s instructors in the Infantry School was Major Omar Bradley, Marshall called him “quiet, unassuming, capable, with sound common sense. Absolute dependability. Give him a job and forget it.” Eisenhower, from Kansas, and Bradley, from Missouri, had graduated together from West Point in 1915, the “class the stars fell on”, 36 percent of their class would become general officers. Early in his career, Eisenhower had commanded a tank unit and became a big proponent of tank warfare, and as such he became good friends with George Patton.
There is an old army rumor that George C Marshall had a “little black book” of promising young officers to keep his eye on for future promotions and jobs. None was ever found, and I doubt that the list existed anywhere but in George Marshall’s mind. While he was aide-de-camp to General Pershing, he listed his qualities of the successful leader, in the following order. Good common sense, have studied your profession, physically strong, cheerful and optimistic, display marked energy, extreme loyalty, and determined. He consciously considered character over intellect, for he feared that the United States would forever be unprepared for war, thereby forcing Army officers to lead un-trained and poorly equipped units into battle. He decided that the American military needed officers who were optimistic, quick thinkers, with common sense, and who were aggressive, and took immediate action. He wrote that leaders who looked at the negative side of things should be removed immediately. He definitely valued effectiveness over appearance.
After the Infantry School, George Marshall commanded an infantry brigade in Georgia, was promoted to full Colonel in September 1933, and commanded Fort Moultrie, South Carolina and District I of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1936, and commanded the 5th Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division at Vancouver, Washington, which also made him Post Commander and responsible for 35 CCC camps in Oregon and Washington.
In July 1938, Brigadier General George Marshall was assigned to the War Plans Division in Washington DC, and subsequently reassigned as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army. On November 14, 1938, Marshall and eleven other senior government officials gathered at the White House. That was five days after the Nazis launched nationwide attacks, in Germany, on Jews and their shops and synagogues. The subject was whether to commission the building of ten thousand war planes. That was huge since the Army Air Corps, at that time, only had 160 fighter planes and 50 bombers. Marshall saw the plan as not considering the time and great amount of funding necessary to recruit and train aircrews, to build and staff the bases they would need, and to manufacture the ammunition and bombs, if war came. No one else, at the White House meeting, seemed very concerned, and when President Franklin D Roosevelt polled the room the others present were agreeable and “very soothing”. When asked by the President “Don’t you think so too”, Marshall responded “I am sorry, Mr. President, but I don’t agree with that at all”. The President gave him a “startled” look, thinking that Marshall would be pleased, since he had been pushing for increased military readiness, but Marshall wanted a balanced plan. Again, many believed that Marshall had ended his career, but when General Craig, the Chief of Staff, retired on July 1st, 1939, Marshall was made Acting Chief of Staff, and on September 1st, 1939 George C Marshall was promoted to General and sworn in as Chief of Staff of the Army. Coincidently that was the same day that the German Army invaded Poland.
One of General George C Marshall’s first missions as Chief of Staff of the Army, was a trip to Brazil. There was worry about a growing pro-German sentiment within the Brazilian military. Marshall secured agreements, from Brazil, to freely move American forces by air and sea across the South Atlantic. Colonel Matthew Ridgway, from the War Plans Division, accompanied Marshall on that trip. They spent their hours aboard ship discussing how to get funding for the military buildup, and how to find and promote good officers to lead that growing force. Even before he became chief of staff of the Army, Marshall had started thinking about how to get rid of the “dead weight” in the Army’s senior ranks. He considered most of the senior officers too old and too set in their minds with outmoded procedures, to lead a new Army in the war they would surely face.
On May 10th, 1940 Germany invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. On the morning of May 13th the Luftwaffe conducted the largest air strike in history, in moving three divisions into France, where French troops ran from the battlefield, and in London Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned, after having tried to appease Hitler. Winston Churchill was sworn in as Prime Minister. President Franklin D Roosevelt was still trying to avoid war, telling the American people that he would not send American boys to war in Europe.
Thomas E Ricks, wrote in “The Generals” that on the morning of May 13th, 1940; “Marshall spent the morning with Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr., explaining the nature and rationale of a major increase in the size of the military. Then, joined by War Department officials, who made it clear to Marshall and Morgenthau that he “was not desirous of seeing us”, as Marshall recalled. Roosevelt disliked the Army expansion proposal and tried to quell dissent by calling an end to the session prematurely. Morgenthau said that he supported the increase, but “the President was exceedingly short with him,” Marshall said. When Morgenthau finished, FDR shrugged him off: “Well, you filed your protest.” Morgenthau asked if the President would hear out Marshall. Roosevelt responded that he didn’t need to listen to the new Army chief, because, he said airily, “I know exactly what he would say. There is no necessity for me to hear him at all.” Marshall’s two civilian overseers – Secretary of War Harry Woodring and Assistant Secretary Louis Johnson – sat mutely, offering Marshall no support. Roosevelt ended the meeting. Marshall stood, but instead of leaving the room he walked over to the President and looked down on him. “Mr. President may I have three minutes? He asked. “Of course, General Marshall,” Roosevelt said. He did not invite Marshall to sit back down. When the President started to say something else, Marshall interrupted him, fearing that otherwise he would never get another word in. Marshall spoke in a torrent, spewing facts about military requirements, organization, and costs. “If you don’t do something . . . and do it right away, I don’t know what is going to happen to this country,” he told Roosevelt. “You have got to do something, and you’ve got to do it today.” He finally had the President’s attention. The next day the President asked Marshall to draw up as soon as possible a list of what the military needed”.
After World War I, George Patton had commanded a tank unit, served in staff positions, attended Army schools, and served in Washington, DC. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1934 and assigned to Hawaii, where in 1937 he wrote a paper, with which some have called “chilling accuracy” about a Japanese attack on Hawaii. In July 1938, he was promoted to Colonel and given command of the 5th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Clark, Texas. He thoroughly enjoyed training the regiment for war, but six months later, he was called back to Washington, DC to command Fort Myer. The reason for the transfer was that he was to replace Colonel Jonathan Wainwright, who was in debt as a result of the social expenses connected with the job. Patton was independently wealthy and enjoyed an outside family income and could afford the post, but he was dejected and demoralized at having to leave his command. The real reason, for his move, was that George C Marshall wanted Patton close to Washington, DC. Marshall said; “Patton is by far the best tank man in the Army”. When George C Marshall was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army, Marshall’s house at Fort Myer was being remodeled and repainted, so he stayed with George Patton, whose family was away at the time. Patton served as an umpire on the giant Louisiana Maneuvers in 1940, and as a result helped develop an armored force. The force was formed, and Patton was made commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division. Patton was in charge of training the division. He was promoted to Brigadier General on October 2nd, made Acting Division Commander in November, and on April 4th, 1941, was promoted to Major General and made Commanding General of the 2nd Armored Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Major Dwight Eisenhower was appointed Aide-de-camp to General Douglas MacArthur, when MacArthur was Chief of Staff of the Army in 1932. He accompanied MacArthur to the Philippines in 1935, where he served as assistant military adviser to the Philippine government in developing their army. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1936 and returned to the states in 1939. He commanded an infantry battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington, was promoted to Colonel in March 1941, and made Chief of Staff of the Third Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and after successfully participating in the Louisiana Maneuvers, he was promoted to Brigadier General on September 29th, 1941.
Major Omar Bradley left the Infantry School to teach at West Point. He then attended the Army War College. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1936 and worked at the War Department. When George C Marshall was made Chief of Staff, Omar Bradley worked directly for Marshall. In February 1941, Bradley was promoted to Brigadier General, bypassing Colonel, and given command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning.
Once, in discussing the new generation of commanders, Marshall said; “I’m going to put these men to the severest tests which I can devise in time of peace. I’m going to start shifting them into jobs of greater responsibility than they hold now . . . . Then I’m going to change them, suddenly, without warning, to jobs even more burdensome and difficult . . . . Those who stand up under the punishment will be pushed ahead. Those who fail are out at the first sign of faltering.”
In the summer and fall of 1941, it has been estimated that, as Chief of Staff, Marshall forced about 600 officers, from general to captain, out of the Army, either retired or discharged. Marshall promoted “can do’rs” and fired “can’ts”. In March 1939, BG Charles Bundel, Commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas told George Marshall that it would take 18 months to update the complete set of Army Training Manuals. Marshall offered him three, then four, Bundel still said that it couldn’t be done. Marshall then said, “I’m sorry then you are relieved”. He was replaced by BG Lesley J McNair, who got the job done on time.
When Marshall testified before the Senate Military Affairs Committee in 1940, which was questioning his purging and firings, he answered; “You have to lead men in war by requiring more from the individual than he thinks he can do. You have to lead men in war by bringing them along to endure and to display qualities of fortitude that are beyond the average man’s thought of what he should be expected to do. You have to inspire them when they are hungry and exhausted and desperately uncomfortable and in great danger; and only a man of positive characteristics of leadership, with the physical stamina that goes with it, can function under those conditions.”
Once the war started, there was even less sympathy for the “can’t do’rs”. Marshall once ordered a general to France immediately, and was informed that the man said that he couldn’t leave immediately because his wife was away and his household goods weren’t packed. Astounded, Marshall called the general, whom he had known for years, as a friend. “My god man were at war and you are a general”. “Well I’m sorry, the man said. “I’m sorry too,” Marshall concluded, “but you will be retired tomorrow”.
Major General George S Patton trained his 2nd Armored Division, with an intensity that had not previously been seen in the US Army. His men said he looked like a general but talked like a top sergeant. His vulgar and earthy talks to his men earned him the nickname “old blood and guts”. Staff Sergeant Pullen said, while they were at Fort Benning, “He has the damndest way of showing up when things go wrong. He dashes leg-long into a creek, gets a stalled tank and its wretched crew out of the water, and back into the line of march practically by the power of his curses.” He staged a mass exercise in which 1,000 tanks and vehicles were driven from Columbus, Georgia, to Panama City, Florida, and back. He repeated the exercise with his entire division of 1,300 vehicles the next month. The New York Times wrote articles about him, and his picture was on the cover of Life magazine. After a very large exercise designed to test the effectiveness of an armored force, in which Patton’s division far out performed anything the designers of the exercise dreamed of, executing 48 hours’ worth of planned objectives in only nine, he marched the division back to Fort Benning, and wrote an order complimenting his officers and men on their fine performance. The order was published on December 6th, 1941. The next morning the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war.
On December 12th 1941, five days after the Japanese attack, Brigadier General Dwight D Eisenhower sat in his office at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, writing a letter to George Patton asking for a command in Patton’s division, when his telephone rang. He recognized the voice of Colonel Bedell Smith, who worked in the War Department, for the Chief of Staff of the Army. George Marshall wanted Eisenhower to come to the capital immediately. Ike’s heart sank, he had missed World War I working on staff, and he was afraid that this meant a repeat. But, George Marshall already had Eisenhower in mind as the possible commander in Europe. He did not know Eisenhower well personally, but he knew a lot about the man. For a boy who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Abilene, Kansas, Ike was a very sophisticated man, well read and well traveled, and outwardly displayed an even tempered and congenial personality. George Marshall had witnessed the friction between the French, the British, and the American generals in World War I and did not want it repeated.
It was Sunday, December 14th 1941, when BG Dwight Eisenhower arrived at General Marshall’s office. Ike said, “I walked into his office and within ten seconds he was telling me the problem he wanted me to attack . . . . He just said, ‘Look, there are two things we have got to do. We have got to do our best in the Pacific and we’ve got to win this whole war. Now, how are we going to do it? Now, that is going to be your problem.’” Ike said, “Give me a few hours”. Later that afternoon Ike returned to General Marshall’s office with a three page typed memo, which said that we have to keep the air and sea lanes open in the Pacific, which means holding Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, and the other islands along the route, as well as Australia itself. Sacrifice the Philippines, until we win the war in Europe. Win the war in Europe. Marshall read the memo and said’ “I agree”. Ike had passed his first test with George Marshall. Then Marshall said, “Now, tell me how to implement this.” Ike later wrote, “Marshall said, ‘Eisenhower, the War Department is filled with able men who analyze their problems but feel compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.’ I thought, as General Marshall spoke, his eyes were awfully cold.”
In January 1942, George Patton was given command of I Armored Corps. He personally mapped out and established a 10,000 acre Desert Training Center in California to train his Corps.
Omar Bradley was promoted to Major General in February 1942 and in March assumed command of the newly reactivated 82nd Infantry Division. Dwight Eisenhower was promoted to Major General in March 1942 in the War Plans Division at Army Headquarters.
In May 1942, General Marshall sent Lieutenant General Henry H (Hap) Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Corps, and Major General Dwight Eisenhower to England to assess the condition of the American command there. They found it working peacetime hours, and the staff unfamiliar with the overall world Army plans for the war. Major General James B Chaney was relieved and sent back to the states, and Dwight D Eisenhower was sent back to England and made Commanding General of the European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA). He was promoted to Lieutenant General in July 1942.
On July 28th 1942, the German Army, under General Erwin Rommel, captured the Egyptian seaport of Mersa Matruh, only 140 miles from Alexandria.
It was 120 degrees at the Desert Training Center, at 10:45 in the morning on July 30th 1942. George Patton was alone in his big air conditioned office, when he received a phone call. Colonel John Hull was on the other end of the line, he said; “General, I am calling you by order of General Marshall. He wants to see you here in Washington, as soon as you can leave the Center.” Patton immediately felt that was a turning point in his life. He went down on his knees and prayed.
In August 1942, Omar Bradley turned over the 82nd Division to Major General Matthew Ridgeway, as the division was re-designated the 82nd Airborne Division. Bradley was then given command of the 28th Infantry Division, with the mission of getting it “trained up”.
In Washington, George Patton was assigned the mission of planning and commanding the allied invasion of North Africa, Operation Torch, which was under the overall command of Lieutenant General Eisenhower. On November 8th 1942 Patton’s force of 100 ships and 33,000 men landed on the shores of North Africa, centering on Casablanca, Morocco. Vichy French forces opposed the landings, but by November 11th, Casablanca was captured and an armistice negotiated with the Vichy French. Patton then converted Casablanca into a military port.
On February 19th 1943, eight days after Dwight D Eisenhower had been promoted to full General, Major General Lloyd Fredendall was commanding the US II Corps, under operational control of the British 8th Army. For the first time the US Army met and engaged the German Army at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. They suffered a terrible defeat, being pushed back 50 miles by General Erwin Rommel’s German Afrika Corps.
General Marshall sent Omar Bradley to North Africa to be Eisenhower’s front line trouble shooter. Fredendall was relieved, George Patton was given command of II Corps and promoted to Lieutenant General. Patton requested Bradley as his deputy. Eisenhower approved, but retained a direct line to Bradley. Patton defeated the German Army at every engagement, and in April turned II Corps over to Bradley, who was promoted to Lieutenant General in June. On July 10th 1943, Patton commanded 90,000 troops of the US 7th Army as it invaded Sicily, Operation Husky.
In August 1943, George Patton got in trouble for slapping two “battle fatigued” troops, and was sent to England to be commander of a fake army, conducting a ruse to convince German intelligence that Patton would be commanding an invasion to take place at Pas de Calais. Omar Bradley was also sent to England to be commander of the US First Army and prepare for the Normandy invasion.
In January 1944. George Patton was formally given command of the Third US Army, which was newly arrived in England, and told to prepare it for combat in Europe.
Omar Bradley commanded the US First Army during the Normandy invasion on June 6th 1944, then took command of the 12th US Army Group, under which George Patton’s Third Army was assigned on July 10th 1944.
On December 16th 1945, George C Marshall was promoted to five stars General of the Army, four days before Dwight D Eisenhower was promoted to the same rank. George Marshall saw the Army peak at 8.3 million soldiers in 1945. After the war ended, Marshall left active duty and became a special envoy to china. He was Secretary of State 1947 – 1949, responsible for the “Marshall Plan” in the rebuilding of Europe. When the Korean War started, President Truman ask Marshall to be his Secretary of Defense, because once again the US Army was woefully unprepared for combat in Korea. It was in that capacity that he recommended to President Truman that General Douglas MacArthur be relieved in Korea. MacArthur was replaced by General Matthew Ridgway, who turned the war around.
George C Marshall retired, in 1951, to his home in Leesburg, Virginia, and served as Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, until his death in 1959

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