General George C. Marshall

Government Official, General (1880–1959)
Gen. George Marshall

Gen. George Marshall



George C. Marshall Jr. was born on December 31, 1880, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he served in both world wars, rising to the post of U.S. Army chief of staff. After the war, he served as the secretary of state and crafted the “Marshall Plan” for European recovery. In 1953, Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize. He died in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1959.

Younger Years

George Catlett Marshall Jr. was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on December 31, 1880. The youngest of three children, he was initially a disappointment to his parents with his mischievous behavior and poor performance in school. When he entered the Virginia Military Institute in 1897, however, he vowed to succeed. His first year at the school was at a difficult one, but Marshall was determined to learn military rules and follow orders. By the end of the first year, he was at the top of his class.

Early Military Career

Marshall graduated from VMI in 1901. The following year, he married Elizabeth (Lily) Carter Coles and set out for 18 months of duty in the Philippines as a second lieutenant of infantry. When Marshall returned, he continued to demonstrate his sharp leadership and problem solving skills, graduating with honors from the Infantry-Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth in 1907 and the Army Staff College in 1908. In 1917, when the United States became involved in World War I, Marshall was chosen to act as chief of operations for the first army division sent to France. While there, he served under General John J. Pershing and was a key planner of operations, including the battles of Aisne-Marne and Meuse-Argonne. After the war, Marshall served for five years as Pershing’s aide-de-camp and another five years as assistant commandant at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Army Chief of Staff in World War II

On September 1, 1939, the day the world went to war again, George Marshall was sworn in as chief of staff for the U.S. Army. At that time there were fewer than 200,000 U.S. officers and soldiers. In less than four years, Marshall had built the army into a well-trained and well-equipped force of 8,300,000. He also directed personnel training and the development of new weapons and equipment. During the early part of the war, Marshall attended international conferences around the globe, gathering support for the Allies and coordinating the war effort. He helped plan Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe, which many expected he would lead, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt his diplomacy and planning skills were more needed in Washington, D.C., and he tapped General Dwight D. Eisenhower to lead the operation instead.

Post-War Career

In November 1945, at the war’s end, Marshall resigned his military post, but just days later, President Harry Truman persuaded him to serve as his special representative to mediate the Chinese civil war. Marshall was unable to find a solution, however, and when China later fell to communism in 1949, Marshall would find himself the target of vicious attacks by anticommunists like Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Despite Marshall’s failure to resolve the Chinese conflict, President Truman appointed him secretary of state in 1947. The European economy was in shambles after World War II, and there was great political instability. Marshall believed that the United States’ interests could be best served with an economically strong and stable Europe. In June of 1947, Marshall proposed a sweeping economic recovery program, later known as the Marshall Plan, which would remove trade barriers, modernize industry and make Europe prosperous again. The plan was a success, and in 1953, Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

When the Korean War broke out in 1951, President Truman again tapped Marshall, this time as his secretary of defense. Due to ill health, Marshall only served one year before retiring completely from public life in September 1951. He died in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1959, at age 79.

Marshall Blamed for UFO Coverup

Kecksburg, which was the location of something mysterious — some would say something extraterrestrial — 40 years ago, isn’t Southwestern Pennsylvania’ s only connection to unidentified flying objects.

Uniontown native Gen. George C. Marshall was chief of staff of the Army during World War II, secretary of defense and secretary of state in President Harry Truman’s administration and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of a Europe devastated by the war.

Some extraterrestrial experts believe that he was also part of a government coverup of alien visitors, although he couldn’t be blamed for the handling of the purported Kecksburg landing since it happened six years after his death

Larry Bland, the editor of the Marshall papers at the George C. Marshall Foundation Library in Lexington, Va., said there has been a stream of UFOlogists visiting the library to authenticate Marshall’s signature on various documents.

But Bland doesn’t believe there’s anything to a UFO coverup, and he said that Marshall’s signature could have been added to the bottom of some documents with the aid of scissors and a copying machine.

Marshall does have a connection to outer space in NASA’a Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Ala. But Bland said the center was named after him because it was originally an Army facility and it was opened at about the time of his death, not because he had any particular interest in outer space.

There are a number of reminders of Marshall in Uniontown, including the George C. Marshall Highway bypass around the city, a park and a memorial plaza at Uniontown’s Five Corners intersection at Main and Fayette streets and Mt. Vernon Avenue.

The latest likeness is a mural of the general draping the side of a city building and calling attention to Joe Hardy’s Marshall Plan II for the revitalization of Uniontown.

Local statuary of Uniotown’s favorite son includes a bust, a “monumental-scale” bronze of Marshall on horseback and another of him seated on a park bench across from the memorial plaza.

There are no plans as of now for a statue of Marshall looking into the sky for a flying saucer.

Dates of rank

No pin insignia in 1901 Second Lieutenant, United States Army: February 2, 1902
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant, United States Army: March 7, 1907
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, United States Army: July 1, 1916
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, National Army: August 5, 1917
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: January 5, 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, National Army: August 27, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army (reverted to peacetime rank): June 30, 1920
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army : July 1, 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: August 21, 1923
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: September 1, 1933
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: October 1, 1936
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Regular Army: September 1, 1939
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Regular Army, for service as Army Chief of Staff: September 1, 1939
US-O11 insignia.svg General of the Army, Army of the United States: December 16, 1944
General of the Army rank made permanent in the Regular Army: April 11, 1946

Awards and decorations


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