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Alone among the great figures of World War II and its aftermath, General George C. Marshall has until now remained voiceless and unportrayed. And yet, in the absence of his full life story, the books by other leaders of the free world give an incomplete picture: a key figure is missing. In entrusting to the George C. Marshall Foundation the abundant record of his career to Alone among the great figures of World War II and its aftermath, General George C. Marshall has until now remained voiceless and unportrayed. And yet, in the absence of his full life story, the books by other leaders of the free world give an incomplete picture: a key figure is missing. In entrusting to the George C. Marshall Foundation the abundant record of his career to be made into a biography, George Marshall filled a vital gap in the history of our age. The unprecedented collection of source material, either bequeathed by General Marshall to the Foundation or collected later by it, consists of: all General Marshall's personal papers, including his letters; taped interviews with the General made in 1956 and 1957 containing some 125,000 words about his early life; taped interviews with several score of his relatives, classmates, fellow officers, friends, and associates; incomparable newspaper files of the period; and microfilm copies of more than half a million items from official government files, many of them classified until now, but released for this purpose by the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations. Much of the material about the conduct of both World Wars and about the crucial problems of international diplomacy -- and almost all the rich personal material -- will be new even to students of the period. Education of a General, 1880-1939, the first of the three-volume definitive biography, follows Marshall's unswerving progress from his childhood in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to 1939 when Hitler marched into Poland and Marshall took the oath as Chief of Staff of the United States Army. The scenes of his strenuous career include the Philippine Islands during the Spanish-American War, France in World War I, China in the time of the War Lords, and the length and breadth of his native land. In triumphing over formidable odds to become, first, an army officer with responsibilities far beyond his rank, then a member of Pershing's staff, and finally Chief of Staff amidst the complex tensions of service rivalries, Marshall never lost sight of the ideals of integrity and fair play. We come to understand not only the soldier but the man -- his family devotion, his humanity, his unfailing consideration toward his fellow officers and those who served under him, and his increasing insight into men and nations. Education of a General is also a picture of America's end of innocence, her altered course toward world power, away from isolation, and the part played by a great American in shaping his country for her new role in world affairs.


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Alone among the great figures of World War II and its aftermath, General George C. Marshall has until now remained voiceless and unportrayed. And yet, in the absence of his full life story, the books by other leaders of the free world give an incomplete picture: a key figure is missing. In entrusting to the George C. Marshall Foundation the abundant record of his career to Alone among the great figures of World War II and its aftermath, General George C. Marshall has until now remained voiceless and unportrayed. And yet, in the absence of his full life story, the books by other leaders of the free world give an incomplete picture: a key figure is missing. In entrusting to the George C. Marshall Foundation the abundant record of his career to be made into a biography, George Marshall filled a vital gap in the history of our age. The unprecedented collection of source material, either bequeathed by General Marshall to the Foundation or collected later by it, consists of: all General Marshall's personal papers, including his letters; taped interviews with the General made in 1956 and 1957 containing some 125,000 words about his early life; taped interviews with several score of his relatives, classmates, fellow officers, friends, and associates; incomparable newspaper files of the period; and microfilm copies of more than half a million items from official government files, many of them classified until now, but released for this purpose by the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations. Much of the material about the conduct of both World Wars and about the crucial problems of international diplomacy -- and almost all the rich personal material -- will be new even to students of the period. Education of a General, 1880-1939, the first of the three-volume definitive biography, follows Marshall's unswerving progress from his childhood in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to 1939 when Hitler marched into Poland and Marshall took the oath as Chief of Staff of the United States Army. The scenes of his strenuous career include the Philippine Islands during the Spanish-American War, France in World War I, China in the time of the War Lords, and the length and breadth of his native land. In triumphing over formidable odds to become, first, an army officer with responsibilities far beyond his rank, then a member of Pershing's staff, and finally Chief of Staff amidst the complex tensions of service rivalries, Marshall never lost sight of the ideals of integrity and fair play. We come to understand not only the soldier but the man -- his family devotion, his humanity, his unfailing consideration toward his fellow officers and those who served under him, and his increasing insight into men and nations. Education of a General is also a picture of America's end of innocence, her altered course toward world power, away from isolation, and the part played by a great American in shaping his country for her new role in world affairs.

30 review for George C. Marshall: Education of a General: 1880-1939

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Ask most people to name the greatest American general of the Second World War and you’re likely to hear such famous names as Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, or Douglas MacArthur. Only occasionally might someone propose the name George Catlett Marshall, despite his outsized role in the conflict. From September 1939 until November 1945, Marshall served as the military head of the United States Army, in which role he built up and directed a massive ground and air force that waged war across the g Ask most people to name the greatest American general of the Second World War and you’re likely to hear such famous names as Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, or Douglas MacArthur. Only occasionally might someone propose the name George Catlett Marshall, despite his outsized role in the conflict. From September 1939 until November 1945, Marshall served as the military head of the United States Army, in which role he built up and directed a massive ground and air force that waged war across the globe. Yet Marshall’s role has long been overshadowed by those of the commanders on the battlefield, whose achievements were only possible because of Marshall’s organizational abilities and strategic guidance. How Marshall came to occupy such an important position at such a crucial time in history is the focus of the first volume of Forrest Pogue’s tetralogy about the general and statesman. A former member of the U.S. Army’s historical division and the author of The Supreme Command, the volume in their famous “green book” series on the supreme command in Europe during the war, Pogue was invited to write Marshall’s official biography and was granted unrestricted access to both the general and his papers. These he combined with additional archival research to provide a comprehensive look at his subject’s life and career. Pogue begins with Marshall’s upbringing in western Pennsylvania. The son of a businessman, Marshall enjoyed a comfortable childhood until a poor investment on his father’s part left his family in straitened financial circumstances. While drawn to soldiering, the challenges of gaining an appointment to West Point led young Marshall instead to enroll at the Virginia Military Institute. Upon graduation, Marshall was commissioned into an army recently engorged by the Spanish American War with new officers, making for an extremely competitive contest for promotion. Nevertheless, Marshall rose gradually through the ranks. As Pogue makes clear, this was due to Marshall’s hard work and diligent application to his tasks. The young lieutenant soon demonstrated capabilities far beyond his rank, impressing both his peers and his superiors. After service in the Philippines Marshall returned to the United States, where he distinguished himself as both a student and an instructor in the Army’s emerging professional educational system. For Marshall, however, this proved a double-edged sword for his career prospects, as his gifts as a staff officer denied him the opportunities to serve in the line that were invaluable for an officer’s promotion prospects. As a result, Marshall found himself still a captain after the First World War, while many of his peers sported eagles or even stars on their shoulders. Yet Marshall benefited enormously from the support of his former commander, General John Pershing. Chosen as Pershing’s aide during the general’s postwar service as chief of staff, Marshall enjoyed Pershing’s patronage and connections as he rose steadily in rank through a shrunken military establishment. During the 1930s Marshall’s service both as a regional commander within the Civilian Conservation Corps and as Deputy Chief of Staff commended him in the eyes of President Franklin Roosevelt, resulting in his appointment as chief of staff on the eve of the momentous outbreak of war in Europe. Thanks to his access to both Marshall and his documentary legacy, Pogue provides his readers with a thorough account of his pre-Second World War military career. Though rich in detail, the text never drags thanks to Pogue’s deft writing and his ability to supply the exact right amount of explanatory context. Yet while Pogue provides an invaluable of Marshall’s activities, he falls short in terms of analysis, as he refrains from analyzing Marshall’s ideas about tactics or doctrine or strategic thinking. While this reflects in part a paucity of writing on Marshall’s part, his failure to supplement this with his interviews with Marshall represents a missed opportunity, one that Pogue himself never compensates for by offering his own suppositions based on the historical record. It’s an unfortunate omission in what will likely be the most detailed study of Marshall’s development, and limits the achievement of what is otherwise a valuable study of an underappreciated American military leader.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    If you read of all the famous battlefield commanders of WWII, but do not study General Marshall, you are missing a key understanding of how America began WWII. Very few people understood how unprepared the United States was for a global conflict, one that America would lead. From his beginnings as Army Chief of Staff in 1938/1939 to the beginning of War for us in 1941, he implemented a program of war preparation and laid the foundations of our current military establishment. The author has done g If you read of all the famous battlefield commanders of WWII, but do not study General Marshall, you are missing a key understanding of how America began WWII. Very few people understood how unprepared the United States was for a global conflict, one that America would lead. From his beginnings as Army Chief of Staff in 1938/1939 to the beginning of War for us in 1941, he implemented a program of war preparation and laid the foundations of our current military establishment. The author has done great job of describing how the boy became a general. I wish I had read this text earlier and recommend this to one to all.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This was a book I hadn't intended to read until I discovered it on my bookshelf just before starting a new book I had recently ordered on China (The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947. I must have picked it up many years ago when I used to comb New England's antique/junk farms and bookshops looking for books on China. Turned out it was the first of three books written on George C. Marshall that begins with his family history and ends when the US is on the brink of WWII wh This was a book I hadn't intended to read until I discovered it on my bookshelf just before starting a new book I had recently ordered on China (The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947. I must have picked it up many years ago when I used to comb New England's antique/junk farms and bookshops looking for books on China. Turned out it was the first of three books written on George C. Marshall that begins with his family history and ends when the US is on the brink of WWII when Marshall was newly appointed as Chief of Staff ("the immediate adviser of the Secretary of War on all matters relating to the Military establishment", p. 331). When I discovered, in the Index, that Marshall had been appointed to a position in Tianjin, China for three years (1924-27), I decided to read it before turning to the Kurtz-Phelan text. That was a good decision, for while I didn't learn much about China from Marshall's spell there, I learned a lot about a period I knew very little about and moreover, enough history of the US Army to now understand some significant elements of American history: (a) the meaning and rationale behind the American Constitution's Second Amendment, (b) the reasons behind America's reluctance to enter both World War I and II, and (c) bits and pieces of my own family history. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Until the Spanish-American War (April-August 1898), the US did not have what we would consider 'an army' but rather depended on the various state militia, volunteers, very loosely organised in each state who would take up arms whenever required. The need for a more permanent 'army' came after the Spanish-American War, when the acquisition of the Philippines as an American protectorate necessitated American forces to police their new territory (i.e. to put down those Filipino patriots who having outed the Spanish wanted to out the US). "Every Secretary of War...recognized that the militia--not the regular army [e.g. the men who maintained the border and fought the 'Indian wars']--would constitute the bulk of the nation's defense forces at the outset of any war....It would be the practice for that greater army of citizens which [would] take up arms in case of war" (p. 104). Marshall, as a young officer, fought for a more permanent professional army but both Congress and the President were hesitant in the building of an army so it wasn't until an "outrageous attack by Francisco Villa on American soldiers and civilians of Columbus, New Mexico ... showed up the thinness of the nation's border defenses, concurrent [with] violations of the US' neutral rights at sea by both Britain and Germany raised larger questions of [the US'] ability to maintain our sovereignty" that Congress passed the National Defense Act on June 3, 1916. "That act resolved the crucial and acrimonious debate over whether the United States in the twentieth century could continue to depend for defense primarily on the state militias." (p. 133) At that point, a compromise was made that "set the national defense on a tripod: to the regular Army which was to be gradually expanded, and the National Guard which in case of war was to be drafted into the federal service, [and] an organized reserve to consist of an Officer Reserve Corps and an enlisted reserve." (p. 134) With the disbanding of state militias, in my mind, the Second Amendment should be considered obsolete. We no longer have militias, much less well-regulated militias. But instead it continues to be used to argue the case that anyone with an ID and a few dollars should be able to buy a gun--and Americans sadly pay for it with countless unnecessary (and often accidental) deaths every day. But to return to the main thread: America's unpreparedness and late entry into World War I, came only when it had had sufficient time to recruit and train the bare minimum of recruits (including my grandfather, a farm boy from Wisconsin) to answer France's and Great Britain's desperate pleas for American assistance. But post-war, the US wanted to forget about wars only to have history repeat itself twenty years later. Although the Army had fought for the maintenance of a regular army post-WWI, "years of neglect ... vitiated the 1920 concept of a small regular Army capable of rapid and orderly expansion in case of need. The concept had been buried so deep ... by the cold air on Capital Hill ... that there was no real preparedness" (p. 333). So despite intimations of world war, the United States once again decided to depend on physical isolation and the shield of legal neutrality" (p. 313). President Roosevelt's decision to help Britain and France build air strength was a saving grace. "He believed that a heavy striking force of aircraft ... would help hold Hitler in check, or if war came, to defeat him without United States participation." (p. 322) And when war came anyway, it was the Army Air Force that helped win the war. One topic missing in this volume was that of the 1918 World Flu Pandemic. Reading this in the time of the corona virus made it even more strange, given that it was army camps and staging posts that are now known to have spread the flu so swiftly globally. As for Marshall the man, he accomplished far more in life than was expected of him during his youth, and became in time one of the most highly-regarded army officers. He was a man of honour and integrity who didn't mince words, but wasn't rude or arrogant either. He didn't call others by their first name, nor wanted others to call him by his. One feels in reading about him that one would have benefited greatly from being one of 'his men' as he was demanding but also fair and just. Marshall never wrote an autobiography and a "journal he kept in World War I was later destroyed on the grounds that he may have been unfair to some of the men discussed therein." In his opinion, "soldiers should not write memoirs" (p. xiii).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Dockrill

    This first entry into the famous George C. Marshall tetralogy by Forrest C. Pogue was a nice treat for what is come. As someone who has read books on Eisenhower, many on Douglas MacArthur, but have yet to read Patton, I have always been curious about the stoic military strategist known as Marshall. The book covers his life from his endearingly average childhood of being troublemakers with his friends while also trying to earn pocket money by selling vegetables. While also sharing the traits of m This first entry into the famous George C. Marshall tetralogy by Forrest C. Pogue was a nice treat for what is come. As someone who has read books on Eisenhower, many on Douglas MacArthur, but have yet to read Patton, I have always been curious about the stoic military strategist known as Marshall. The book covers his life from his endearingly average childhood of being troublemakers with his friends while also trying to earn pocket money by selling vegetables. While also sharing the traits of many a military legend of hating to be the brunt of a joke or being made a fool of. One example Marshall reminesced of was when he told of having made a raft in the river with his friends when a few of the local girls came by and began to irritate and tease Marshall, and naturally he was not willing to be the fool in any situation so he took out the cork that was keeping the water out of the raft, sinking it and forcing the girls to swim ashore. Pogue did an excellent job of humanizing Marshall and giving him a sense of both his sentimentality and value of his childhood friends, especially when he had come back from the far East in Manchua to his hometown after 7 years and seeing how much his hometown had changed and visiting the grave of his childhood friend and seeing his friends now gold dog laying upon the grave and providing the dog with comfort. Pogue also did a great job of hero worshiping Marshall which could have been a very slippery slope, but instead he made light of the fact that while Marshall may not have been the brightest guy in the room, he was extremely self disciplined and extremely competitive, never being content until he was the top 5 in his class at Levenworth. I definitely will be looking forward to the next entry into Pogue's series on Marshall and would recommend to anyone looking to learn more about the man, as the reading itself was very smooth and easy and not too academic.

  5. 5 out of 5

    CHAD FOSTER

    This book covers the formative period of General George Marshall’s professional and personal life. Therefore, it is likely the most important of Forrest Pogue’s multi-volume biography of Marshall. From this book the reader gains some understanding of the experiences shaped the General’s thinking and leadership. Like Eisenhower, Marshall did not lead front line combat troops in war. He made his reputation as a staff officer under Pershing in World War I. Although he did command in various location This book covers the formative period of General George Marshall’s professional and personal life. Therefore, it is likely the most important of Forrest Pogue’s multi-volume biography of Marshall. From this book the reader gains some understanding of the experiences shaped the General’s thinking and leadership. Like Eisenhower, Marshall did not lead front line combat troops in war. He made his reputation as a staff officer under Pershing in World War I. Although he did command in various locations abroad, such as China and the Philippines, his greatest contribution in the inter-war years was as an instructor at the Infantry School at Fort Benning. In that capacity, he emphasized adaptability, creativity, and personal accountability. The modern equivalent of his practices at Fort Benning are tactical decision exercises and free-play force-on-force maneuvers. Perhaps the most fascinating insight I gained from this volume was how Marshall’s experience with FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. While in charge of various CCC camps, he learned the intricacies and delicacies of dealing with American civilians who, as volunteers, could not be led through coercion or purely hierarchical authority. Marshall was a master of getting to the “why” and inspiring those he led to do things because they decided they should. Marshall is an amazing figure. This book is an incredible experience and a must-read for those in the military (of any rank) and anyone else who is interested in the theory and practice of leadership.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Eric Atkisson

    I've been wanting to read Pogue's four-volume biography of Marshall for years, and judging from this first volume in the series, it was worth the wait. I had a hard time putting it down. Pogue was an exceptional historian and writer well suited to the task of creating this official biography of one of America's greatest generals and statesmen. I've been wanting to read Pogue's four-volume biography of Marshall for years, and judging from this first volume in the series, it was worth the wait. I had a hard time putting it down. Pogue was an exceptional historian and writer well suited to the task of creating this official biography of one of America's greatest generals and statesmen.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ed Boring

    Excellent reading about a key historical US figure.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Thomas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Incredible to read of the development of possibly our nation's greatest soldier. George Marshall often seems to fade into the background when studying WWII; however, Pogue draws a vivid portrait of this man who rose from almost failing to receive a commission upon graduating at VMI all the way to being promoted to Chief of Staff in front of 34 other men based on seniority. I found his teaching at Fort Benning-- "He sought therefore, to teach the art of improvisation, to extricate tactical princi Incredible to read of the development of possibly our nation's greatest soldier. George Marshall often seems to fade into the background when studying WWII; however, Pogue draws a vivid portrait of this man who rose from almost failing to receive a commission upon graduating at VMI all the way to being promoted to Chief of Staff in front of 34 other men based on seniority. I found his teaching at Fort Benning-- "He sought therefore, to teach the art of improvisation, to extricate tactical principles from the procedural formulas in which they had become fixed by schoolmen," his attitude towards formality and honesty-- "As Roosevelt talked "most of them agreed with him entirely... [and] He finally came around to me... I remember he called me 'George' (I don't think he ever did it again... I wasn't very enthusiastic over such a misrepresentation of our intimacy...) 'Don't you think so George?' I replied, "I am sorry, Mr. President, but I don't agree with that at all,"" and finally what he believed about himself-- "My Strength with the Army has rested on the well-known fact that I attended strictly to business and enlisted no influence of any sort at any time." to be extremely insightful and interesting parts of this story that Pogue brings to light. Although I felt at times Pogue went away from Marshall's personal career completely and went deeper into setting up the background of what was going on in the world than was necessary I still felt that this book is a great read anyone interested in the military, the keys to successful leadership, or the history of one of the most influential American generals. I will read again and certainly recommend to others.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I've wanted to read this for quite some time, and was fortunate enough to find a good quality copy of Volume 1 at the Half Price Books outlet for $3. It was worth every penny and then some, although I'm now challenged to scour every possible outlet to try and find the remaining three volumes. Pogue's writing is that of a journalistic historian, and reads with an easy, educated, and information-packed flow reminiscent of William Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. This first volume cov I've wanted to read this for quite some time, and was fortunate enough to find a good quality copy of Volume 1 at the Half Price Books outlet for $3. It was worth every penny and then some, although I'm now challenged to scour every possible outlet to try and find the remaining three volumes. Pogue's writing is that of a journalistic historian, and reads with an easy, educated, and information-packed flow reminiscent of William Shirer in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. This first volume covers a long span of time (1880-1939), but provides a wealth of information on Marshall's youth and his early experiences in the Army. I was left with a peculiar sense of frustration as a man of such staggering leadership and organizational quality was passed over time and time again for promotion in an antiquated seniority system. In hindsight, however, one wonders that, had his talents been escalated up the chain earlier, might we have had a different leader in charge of Army affairs during the Second World War and, if so, how might the outcome have changed? I tend not to exhibit a lot of overly patriotic hero-worship, but I can truly say that George Marshall is quite high on the list of leaders I admire and, as a corporate manager, aspire to emulate more and more. I enthusiastically await my future purchase of Volume 2 so that I can continue the saga. I highly recommend Marshall's hard-to-find WWI account, "Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918" as a companion to this piece. It provides additional clarity and color to Pogue's chapters on the Great War.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    Original thoughts from April 2013: Glad I read this biography of George C. Marshall up to the time he was named U.S. Army Chief of Staff in 1939. Originally, I thought of searching for the other three volumes, but now I'm not so sure, as the author's style is pretty deadly. At least it's clear and understandable . . . just a bit boring. 1/31/15 --just finished volume II and have changed my mind about reading the rest of the series. Vol. II was good and I'm about to start on Vol. III. 4/5/15 -- Jus Original thoughts from April 2013: Glad I read this biography of George C. Marshall up to the time he was named U.S. Army Chief of Staff in 1939. Originally, I thought of searching for the other three volumes, but now I'm not so sure, as the author's style is pretty deadly. At least it's clear and understandable . . . just a bit boring. 1/31/15 --just finished volume II and have changed my mind about reading the rest of the series. Vol. II was good and I'm about to start on Vol. III. 4/5/15 -- Just finished Vol. III and very glad I kept going. VERY valuable book. Will get volume four one of these days. 1/6/20 — Purchased Vol. IV last year and read in conjunction with “The Wise Men” (another excellent book). Finished Marshall today; he deserved such comprehensive treatment and I’m glad I read the entire series. See individual reviews of volumes II through IV.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    A slow, but very thorough analysis of the first 59 years of Marshall's life, a period that prepared him for the challenges of the job of Army Chief of Staff in WWII. This book may be of interest to aspiring business leaders as well as military history students. Pogue's Marshall is not just the hardworking and honorable character most of us are slightly familiar with, but a dynamic and diplomatic officer as well. A slow, but very thorough analysis of the first 59 years of Marshall's life, a period that prepared him for the challenges of the job of Army Chief of Staff in WWII. This book may be of interest to aspiring business leaders as well as military history students. Pogue's Marshall is not just the hardworking and honorable character most of us are slightly familiar with, but a dynamic and diplomatic officer as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Like Eisenhower and Bradley, Marshall was born to a family of very modest means. The US policy of sponsoring young men into the military academies based on merit (mostly) resulted in a cadre of exceptional leaders when we really needed them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dirk Heinz

    Great Bio of a very underrated man. I have vols 3 and 4 but vol 2 is priced out of my league. Guess I get to skip the early war.

  14. 4 out of 5

    SkipO

  15. 4 out of 5

    Al Jones

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Heinsohn

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pepe Sanchez

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul S. Teague

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Marshall

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey D.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Hammond

  23. 4 out of 5

    Burnsie63

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brett

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Kelsh

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian Mccarthy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  28. 5 out of 5

    Darby Holladay

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Munn

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Stanton

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