MARSHALL: Hero for Our Times by Leonard Mosley
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MARSHALL: Hero for Our Times

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This is not the authoritative, considered biography of the illustrious soldier/diplomat that's been lacking--but Mosely (Lindbergh, Dulles) has, for better or worse, extracted every shred of drama from the life of ""a grave and stolid character like Marshall."" The book has enough subplots for a TV mini-series. Marshall, a schoolboy ""dunce,"" was piqued by his older brother's contempt for his chances at VMI--hence, his urge to succeed. There, he caught the eye of the local belle (who had turned down brother Stuart), and married her. (Stuart scoffed; end, for Geo., of Stuart,) On their wedding night she told him that she had a heart condition; ""could never risk having children."" (Apparently the 26-year marriage was never consummated--but he remained adoring, and never let on.) In France with the AEF, he wound up on Pershing's staff, thus incurring the emnity of prima-donna field commander MacArthur--who'd later, as Chief of Staff, block George's peacetime promotion. (In WW II, Geo. would be his sore-tried, more magnanimous superior.) His early encounters with FDR's flippancy wrankled; but he did bend, pragmatically, to the political winds. (And FDR would never again call him ""George."") Along with the plethora of relationships--frosty (Navy chief King, British counterpart Brooke) and cordial (Stalin, HST)--there are some boffo set pieces--like Pearl Harbor: ""a great American goof"" which climaxes here with a Western Union messenger (when the Army signal system broke down) repeatedly delayed ""because he happened to be Japanese."" Mosley, in his first overt criticism, scores Marshall for negligence too. Another criticism, well put, is of Marshall's failure to back de Gaulle against Churchill and FDR: ""Normally he was extremely understanding with soldiers who were arrogant, boorish, or worse, as long as he was convinced they were first-rate soldiers."" But Mosley can also be petty--per, for pages, the tough time his stepsons had in service because of his self-righteousness. Then, with the Marshall-or-not-for-Supremo decision, comes a resounding second act curtain: FDR, aware that Marshall is to proud to ask, maneuvers him out of ""the dream of a lifetime."" And that's the checkered sum of it: sometimes cheap, sometimes acute--but seldom diminishing. . . and never less than involving.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1982
Publisher: Hearst