A biography of George Marshall (1880-1959) focusing on the general’s overall decency rather than his strategic brilliance.
Having inherited this project after the death of historian Hirshson, the Ungers (The Guggenheims, 2005, etc.) make a valiant attempt to cover Marshall’s accomplished military career and his years as President Franklin Roosevelt’s chief of staff and President Harry Truman’s secretary of state. A graduate of Virginia Military Institute and a protégé of Gen. John Pershing, with early postings in the Philippines and China, Marshall, laconic and humorless, could never garner the kind of position as commander of troops that would have ensured a glorious career. He was most effective at training officers in the late 1920s, organizing Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corp in preparation for his move to Washington to take up a position with the War Plans Division and eventually become chief of staff. This indeed is what the authors believe he should best be remembered for: “creating the American World War II army virtually out of nothing.” As Roosevelt’s wartime right arm, Marshall pushed for the “Europe First” agenda and was deemed too valuable at home to spare as supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, yet Marshall’s “complacency” about Japan’s threats on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack lent his right-wing critics fodder for the rest of his life. The Ungers find him naïve in dealing with the Chinese when sent to negotiate a truce between the Nationalists and the Communists in late 1945; they do not credit him with coming up with the so-called Marshall Plan to help Europe get back on its feet, for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. However, Marshall always remained a devoted and dutiful officer.
A yeoman’s effort in service of an admirable subject in need of more good studies about him.