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 worked in a number of positions in the US Army, focusing on training and teaching modern, mechanized warfare. Between WWI and World War II, he was a key planner and writer in the War Department, spent three years in China, and taught at the Army War College. From June 1932 to June 1933 he was the Commanding Officer at Fort Screven, Savannah Beach, Georgia, now named Tybee Island. In 1934, then-Col. Marshall directed the publication of Infantry in Battle, a book that codified the lessons of World War I. Infantry in Battle is still used as an officer's training manual in the Infantry Officer's Course, and was the training manual for most of the infantry officers and leaders of World War II.
Marshall was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1936. He commanded the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington from 1936-1938. Nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to be Army Chief of Staff, Marshall was promoted to full General and sworn in on September 1, 1939, the day German forces invaded Poland, which began World War II. He would hold this post until the end of the war in 1945.
On December 16, 1944, Marshall became the first American general to be promoted to 5 star rank, the newly created General of the Army. He was the second American to be promoted to a 5 star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to Fleet Admiral the previous day. This position is the American equivalent rank to Field Marshal.
During World War II, Marshall was instrumental in getting the U.S. Army and Army Air Forces reorganized and ready for combat. Marshall wrote the document that would become the central strategy for all Allied operations in Europe. It was assumed that Marshall would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, but Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander due to many reasons. First, it was due to his success in working with Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with his refusal to lobby for the position. At the time, the President told him: "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington." Secondly, when rumors started that this top job would go to Marshall, there was an uproar from the American public - they saw it as a demotion for Marshall since he would leave his position as Chief of Staff of the Army. Lastly, if Marshall became the Supreme Commander, he would lose his seat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff.
Throughout the remainder of World War II, Marshall coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific. He was characterized as the organizer of Allied victory by Winston Churchill. Time Magazine named Marshall Man of the Year in 1944. Marshall resigned his post of Chief of Staff in 1945, but did not retire, as regulations stipulate that Generals of the Army remain on active duty for life.
In December 1945, Truman sent Marshall to China to broker a coalition government between the Communists under Mao Zedong and America's Nationalist allies under Chiang Kai-shek. Marshall had no leverage over the Communists, but threatened to withdraw American aid essential to the Nationalists. Both sides rejected his proposals and the Chinese Civil War escalated, with the Communists winning in 1949. His mission a failure, he returned to the United States in January 1947. As Secretary of State in 1947-48, Marshall seems to have disagreed with strong opinions in The Pentagon and State department that Chiang's success was vital to American interests, insisting that U.S. troops not become involved.
On his return in early 1947, Truman appointed Marshall Secretary of State. He became the spokesman for the State Department's ambitious plans to rebuild Europe. On June 5, 1947 in a speech at Harvard University, he outlined the American plan. The European Recovery Program, as it was formally known, became known as the Marshall Plan. Clark Clifford had suggested to Truman that the plan be called the Truman Plan, but Truman immediately dismissed that idea and insisted that it be called the Marshall Plan. The Marshall plan would help Europe quickly rebuild and modernize its economy along American lines. The Soviet Union forbade its satellites to participate.
Marshall was again named TIME's Man of the Year in 1948, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. As Secretary of State, Marshall strongly opposed recognizing the State of Israel, telling President Truman, "If you (recognize the state of Israel) and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you." In 1949, he resigned from the State Department and was named president of the American National Red Cross.
On June 14, 1951, as the Korean war stalemated in heavy fighting between American and Chinese forces, Republican Senator Joe McCarthy attacked. He charged that Marshall was directly responsible for the "loss of China," as China turned from friend to foe. McCarthy said the only way to explain why the U.S. "fell from our position as the most powerful Nation on earth at the end of World War II to a position of declared weakness by our leadership" was because of "a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man." McCarthy said that "If Marshall were merely stupid, the laws of probability would dictate that part of his decisions would serve this country's interest." McCarthy argued that General Albert Coady Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged; "only in treason can we find why evil genius thwarted and frustrated it. McCarthy suggested that Marshall was old and feeble and easily duped; he did not charge Marshall with treason. Specifically McCarthy alleged:
Public opinion became bitterly divided along party lines on Marshall's record. In 1952, Eisenhower while campaigning for president denounced the Truman administration's failures in Korea, campaigned alongside McCarthy, and refused to defend Marshall's policies.
In 1953 Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the Marshall Plan. He is the only United States Army general ever to receive this honor.
Marshall died on Friday October 16, 1959. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
|No pin insignia in 1902||Second Lieutenant, United States Army: February 2, 1902|
|First Lieutenant, United States Army: March 7, 1907|
|Captain, United States Army: July 1, 1916|
|Major, National Army: August 5, 1917|
|Lieutenant Colonel, National Army: January 5, 1918|
|Colonel, National Army: August 27, 1918|
|Major, Regular Army (reverted to peacetime rank): July 1, 1920|
|Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: August 21, 1923|
|Colonel, Regular Army: September 1, 1933|
|Brigadier General, Regular Army: October 1, 1936|
|Major General, Regular Army: September 1, 1939|
|General, Regular Army, for service as Army Chief of Staff: September 1, 1939|
|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|
|Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Philippine Campaign Medal|
|World War I Victory Medal with four battle clasps|
|Army of Occupation of Germany Medal|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal|