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George Marshall

George Marshall in uniform

Early life

George Marshall was born on December 31, 1880, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, and became a Second Lieutenant in the army. During WWI, he planned training and operations. He traveled to France in 1917 with the 1st Infantry Division, and there he directed training of the soldiers. In 1918, he was sent to the American Expeditionary Forces, where he worked with General John J Pershing. Together they planned key American operations that eventually led to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front. After WWI, Marshall continued working in the army. He taught modern, mechanical warfare.

Marshall and World War II

In 1939, he was nominated by President Roosevelt to be the Army Chief of Staff--he held this position until after World War II ended in 1945. His duties during WWII were mainly to prepare the army and air force for the US invasion of Europe. One of his first actions was to get Congress to pass a draft, because the US’s military was lacking in number of troops. Marshall’s biggest obstacle came in trying to get funding for the military and other war causes. After funding issues were amended, he planned the June 6 invasion of Normandy, France, which involved General Dwight D Eisenhower leading 175,000 troops into battle.

The Marshall Plan

After the war had ended, Marshall retired, as was appropriate because he had reached the age of 65. Shortly thereafter, however, Truman asked Marshall to handle the revolution occurring in China. Marshall led the US Mission; he was unsuccessful. Then, in 1947, he was appointed to be the Secretary of State. He knew that someone needed to provide aid to a struggling Europe. He met with Stalin, to try to team up to help the recovery process. However, Stalin refused. Shortly thereafter, he devised what would come to be known as the Marshall Plan.

Known officially as the European Recovery Act, Marshall detailed his plan at Harvard University’s commencement on June 5, 1947. The plan detailed the establishment of the Economic Cooperation Administration, which provided Europe with millions of dollars to use towards recovery and economic re-growth. Participating European countries soon saw stronger political and economic structures. The plan also was a large part of the containment of communism, since in order to qualify for the aid, the countries could not support a communist government.

You can listen to the full address detailing the Marshall Plan here.