The George C. Marshall Papers

FORTY YEARS afterward, Marshall still vividly remembered his first days on French soil. "By a fortunate coincidence I was the second man ashore. I was just behind General Sibert on our first expedition when we landed at St. Nazaire. When we finally got permission to go ashore that evening, some of the officers, and walk about the town, it was very depressing. They had just gotten the news of the terrible losses on the Somme when the Germans had thrown back this offensive. Every woman seemed to be in mourning, and everyone seemed to be on the verge of tears. The one thing we noticed most of all was there was no enthusiasm at all over our arrival. The Canadians had come and were going to settle the war in a month or two and nothing happened. Now the Americans had come and were going to settle the war right off and nothing happened. The whole thing was a very depressing affair. The surroundings, everything about it, our first taste of the effect of the war, particularly on the rear areas, left a lasting impression on my mind and a deep sympathy for the French and, I think, an understanding such as other officers in high staff positions [who] had not gone through this affair did not comprehend, and [who] were rather intolerant of the French in some of their peculiarities. . . . I might say that everything in the way of large war measures was a peculiarity to us." (Marshall Interviews, pp. 191-92.) [star ]