The George C. Marshall Papers

The Papers of George Catlett Marshall
Young Officer, January 1901--December 1917

George Catlett Marshall

George C. Marshall (1880-1959) rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army from 1902 until 1945, crowning his career as Chief of Staff (1939-45). The documents in this mini-edition illustrate his early career and show his development as student, teacher, and planner as well as his relations with America's citizen-soldiers and his role in the development of the American Expeditionary Forces in France in 1917.
Larry I. Bland, Editor
Sharon Ritenour Stevens, Associate Editor

Sponsors and Supporters

The George C. Marshall Foundation
The National Historical Publications and Records Commission
The Johns Hopkins University Press

Historical Introduction

Who was George C. Marshall?

This American soldier-statesman was born on December 31, 1880, into a family of Virginia and Kentucky lineage in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where his father manufactured coking coal for the iron and steel industry. The Uniontown Marshalls were distantly related to John Marshall, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He had an older brother, Stuart (1875-1956), and a sister, Marie (1876-1962).
Young Marshall was not a particularly good student in school, but he was particularly interested in history, and he developed the ability to interpret American society and specific problems he faced in a broad historical context. In later years, when asked to which political party he belonged, Marshall generally responded: My mother was a Republican; my father was a Democrat; and I'm an Episcopalian.
Marshall attended the Virginia Military Institute, graduating in 1901 as the highest-ranking cadet. He entered the U.S. Army in February 1902. For the next fifteen years, he served in various of the posts in the U.S. and the Philippines. Between 1906 and 1910, he attended army schools at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and also taught there. He was a member of the small group of U.S. Army officers trained in modern warfare prior to World War I.
He went to France in the summer of 1917 as the director of training and planning for the First Infantry Division. In mid-1918, he was promoted to American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, where he was a key planner of American operations. In 1919 he became an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing. Between 1920 and 1924, while Pershing was army chief of staff, Marshall was an important planner and writer in the War Department in Washington, D.C.
Following a tour of duty (1924-27) with the Fifteenth Infantry in Tientsin, China, Marshall was assigned to teach at the Army War College, but when his wife died, he was moved to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, to become head of instruction. There he reformed army infantry officer training to prepare for a war of mechanization, air power, and rapid movement. He briefly (1932-33)commanded posts at Fort Screven, Georgia, and Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, where one of his key duties was creating and running Civilian Conservation Corps camps. Between 1933 and 1936, he was in Chicago as senior instructor to the Illinois National Guard. He was promoted to brigadier general in October 1936 and given command of Vancouver Barracks, Washington, and its CCC district (1936-38).
Marshall returned to Washington to become head of the War Department's War Plans Division and then deputy chief of staff (1938-39), prior to being selected by Franklin D. Roosevelt to be army chief of staff (1939-45). Highly regarded by his peers, leaders of the Roosevelt administration, and members of Congress, Marshall was in charge of getting the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps ready for war (1939-41), reorganizing the army (1942), and leading it throughout the war. He was the most important member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and, according to Winston Churchill, the organizer of Allied victory.
Marshall "retired" in November 1945, but President Truman immediately asked him to go to China to attempt to mediate a settlement between the Nationalists and Communists. In January 1947 he was named secretary of state. In that role, his name is most commonly associated with the "Marshall Plan," for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1953. In 1949 he resigned from the State Department and was soon named president of the American National Red Cross, hardly a sinecure, given the organization's troubles at the time. In September 1951, three months after the outbreak of the Korean War, Truman asked him to become secretary of defense, a job he held for a year. Marshall died at Walter Reed Hospital on October 16, 1959, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The Mini-Edition: George C. Marshall's Early Career, 1897-1917

The first twenty years of Marshall's life away from Uniontown coincided with important social and economic transitions in America. Observers at the time and since have often proclaimed that the Spanish-American War constituted America's debut as a world power. As the brief conflict demonstrated, however, the U.S. Army was not prepared, intellectually, organizationally, or in materiél terms, for this new role.
The years between 1901 and 1917 witnessed the initiation of numerous efforts to correct the army's perceived faults. Marshall benefitted in several ways from these efforts.For example, the increase in the army's size somewhat eased Marshall's path into the professional army, despite his neither having graduated from the U.S. Military Academy or being a volunteer in the recent war. Improvements in the army's school system--and his successes at the Leavenworth schools were crucial to his career--laid the foundation for the development of the well-trained mid-level leadership cadre that prevented U.S. participation in the World War from being a disaster. Moreover, increases in the size, training, and funding of the National Guard permitted Marshall to learn from Guardsmen while teaching them and gave him valuable connections with and insights into the nation's citizen-soldier component.
The eighty annotated documents (plus editorial notes) of this mini-edition provide a view of Marshall's early life and the development of his army career. Marshall's oral history interviews, done in 1955-56 for his authorized biographer, Forrest C. Pogue, are indispensable in the annotation for this period and give insights into his thinking and development as a leader. Numerous documents on various aspects of the National Guard are important examples of Marshall's attitude toward the citizen-soldier and his own development as a trainer.
Documents from Marshall's 1906-10 assignments at Fort Leavenworth are rare, but an October 2, 1935, letter reminiscing about a teacher there who had a profound impact upon Marshall's thinking is included in the pages covering 1908-9. Several documents from Marshall's 1913-16 assignment in the Philippines illustrate Marshall's growth in stature in the army (particularly when he led the attackers in the 1914 maneuvers) and his continued interest in professional education (as demonstrated in his lengthy 1914 report on a visit to the Manchurian battlefields of the Russo-Japanese War).
Bright young officers were sometimes retained by senior generals as aides in order to permit them to exercise authority (in the general's name) far beyond their rank in the promotion-by-seniority army. The mini-edition includes documents from 1916 and 1917, when Major General J. Franklin Bell made Marshall his aide in order to help with army mobilization, first in the Western Department and then in the Department of the East.
In June 1917, Marshall was selected by the commanding general of the First Infantry Division to be the training and operations officer. In France, he witnessed the problems attendant upon an unprepared force entering the third year of a generally static war. His perceptions, considerably different from those of officers who arrived later, when the Germans were weaker and the Americans better armed and trained, provided Marshall with important lessons about preparedness and mobilization that would be important to him as army chief of staff in 1939-41. Two November 1917 documents describe the results of the first German raid on an American position.

Aids to Reading the Documents

The Papers of George Catlett Marshall is a selected edition containing documents written, typed, dictated to a secretary, or (in the case of items drafted by a staff member) heavily edited by Marshall. The transcripts or texts of speeches or statements he made are considered documents by him. A few documents between second and third parties about Marshall have been included. Documents are normally presented in chronological order, but a few (e.g., reminiscences) have been included thematically.

Textual Conventions

All material in document headings is editorial, although the editors attempt to keep the form of address used in memorandums (e.g., Memorandum by the Examining Board, Memorandum for the A.C.S., G-3).
Capitalization, spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, contractions, and superscripts are normally retained. Underlined words are normally converted to italics. Text has justified left and right margins. Editorial headnotes begin with a large drop capital and end with a star.

Textual Devices

All material in square brackets has been supplied by the editors:
[roman] = additional or clarifying material;
[italics] = substitute material to be read in place of preceding
words or letters (e.g., "fixed up for these four [three] divisions").

Changes in This Mini-Edition

Document numbers have been added.
The format of the heading has been standardized to:
George C. Marshall to x, or
George C. Marshall Memorandum for The Adjutant General.
Salutations and complimentary closes, which were run into the text in order to save space in the print edition, have been returned to separate lines.
A key source, Marshall's oral history interviews, was edited and published in 1991, after the publication of volume 1 of the Marshall Papers (1981). All citations herein are made to and all text agrees with the published transcripts.
Certain errors in the published edition have been corrected.


American Expeditionary Forces
adjutant general (but not T.A.G.)
Army Regulation
field artillery
George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia
General Headquarters
holograph document (by Marshall)
Massachusetts Volunteer Militia
National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.
Office of the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
record group
typed document (by Marshall)
The Adjutant General, U.S. Army
U.S. Army Transport
U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York
Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia
Note: some of these abbrevations may appear without periods in document source citations--e.g., VMI/RG 2.

Selected Bibliography

Bland, Larry I. "Fully the Equal of the Best": George C. Marshall and the Virginia Military Institute. Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1996.
Bland, Larry I., ed. George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, 3d ed. Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Foundation, 1991.
Coffman, Edward M. The War to End all Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
Cooper, Jerry. The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
Cray, Ed. General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.
Cullum, George W., Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Since Its Establishment in 1802, vols. 6-8. Chocago: R. R. Donnelly & Sons, 1920-40.
Hewes, James E., Jr. From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900-1963. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1975.
Marshall, George C. Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
Pershing, John J. My Experiences in the World War. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1931.
Pogue, Forrest C. George C. Marshall, 4 vols. New York: Viking, 1963-87.
Stoler, Mark A. George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
U.S. Army, The Adjutant General's Office. Official Army Register. Washington, D.C.: GPO, annually.
U.S. Department of the Army, Office of Military History. United States Army in the World War, 1917-1919, 17 vols. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1948.
U.S. War Department, Report of the Secretary of War, [year]. Washington, D.C.: GPO, annually.
VMI Alumni Association, The Register of Former Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, sesquicentennial edition. Lexington, Va.: VMI Alumni Association, 1989.

The Marshall Papers Project and Its Work

The Marshall Papers project began in 1977 to do a selected book edition of General George C. Marshall's documents and letters. Since that time, the editors have completed four volumes of the papers and two ancillary volumes. There are three move papers volumes to be completed. Work is currently underway on volume 5 (1945-46). The editors have also published numerous lesser works relating to George Marshall's life and times.
The Papers of George Catlett Marshall (Johns Hopkins University Press)
vol. 1, "The Soldierly Spirit," December 1880-June 1939 (1981); 742 pages, 506 documents, 92 illustrations
vol. 2, "We Cannot Delay," July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (1986); 806 pages, 564 documents, 59 illustrations
vol. 3, "The Right Man for the Job," December 7, 1941-May 31, 1943 (1991); 840 pages, 632 documents, 54 illustrations
vol. 4, "Aggressive and Determined Leadership": June 1943-December 1944 (1996); 840 pages, 598 documents, 61 illustrations
George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue (1991, 1996), a key resource for research on General Marshall's background and ideas.
George C. Marshall's Mediation Mission to China, December 1945-January 1947 (1998), an edition of essays by U.S. and foreign scholars on this important episode.

Contacting the Papers of George Catlett Marshall


The Papers of George Catlett Marshall
George C. Marshall Foundation
P. O. Drawer 1600
Lexington, VA 24450-1600
Phone: 540-463-7103
Bland --ext. 232
Stevens--ext. 233
Fax: 540-464-5229
e-mail: Bland
Marshall Foundation web site: