George Marshall - History

George Marshall - History

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George Marshall

1880- 1959

American General

George Marshall was born on December 31, 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Marshall attended the Virginia Military Academy or VMI . He was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1902. Marshall rose rapidly through the hierarchy of the army elite. In 1938, he became chief of the War Plans Division and in the spring of 1939, Marshall was appointed Army Chief of Staff.

Marshall was involved in all aspects of war planning and participated in all of the war conferences. He worked closely with President Franklin Roosevelt and there was reportedly great mutual respect between them. Marshall went on to become Secretary of State under Truman. As Secretary, he was acclaimed for his "Marshall Plan" to aid Western Europe in its recovery from World War II.

The Lynching of George Marshall Clark in Milwaukee

The ongoing commemoration of the 1967 open housing marches reminds us of the more recent challenges African-Americans have faced in Milwaukee, but they have encountered difficulties from Milwaukee’s earliest days. One of the lowest points occurred while the nation was engaged in a struggle that ultimately freed African-Americans from bondage.

Milwaukee’s pre-Civil War black population was never large. By 1850, 101 called Milwaukee home. Some settled there because of the city’s reputation (though not necessarily deserved) as a center of abolitionist sentiment and as an active station on the “Underground Railroad,” helping refugee slaves escape to the North. [1] Additionally, blacks moved to Milwaukee because work was readily available. A flood of Irish and German immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s transformed the fledgling community into a booming frontier city. The relatively fluid conditions enabled blacks to secure jobs as carpenters, joiners and masons, and some worked as barbers. But for the most part, economic discrimination and exploitation relegated blacks to domestic jobs or the most menial tasks. Still, several in Milwaukee owned modest amounts of property—especially west of the Milwaukee River and in the lower reaches of the Third Ward on the east side—and their children attended school with white children. [2]

Conditions, however, deteriorated in the 1850s. Racial and economic tensions between blacks and Irish increased as the latter, mostly poor, unskilled laborers, inundated the Third Ward and competed with blacks for jobs. Tension and copious amounts of liquor—the area had Milwaukee’s highest concentration of saloons—fueled physical confrontations, helping the district become known as the “Bloody Third.” [3] Antipathy overflowed into the political realm. The Irish were staunch Democrats, and during state constitutional debates in the 1840s, the party of immigrants pushed for liberal suffrage that allowed immigrants to vote but limited the privilege to white males. Attempts in the 1850s to extend the vote to blacks likewise failed, even with the rise of the Republican party. The Republicans were a conglomerate of political affiliations coalesced around opposition to the spread of slavery. However, the attitudes of most Republicans toward blacks differed little from Democrats. The state legislature even considered, but did not pass, a bill in 1858 to restrict further immigration of free blacks into Wisconsin. [4]

The federal government also undermined African-Americans’ peace and security when Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850. This law placed stringent fines upon officials who failed to arrest runaway slaves and citizens who helped fugitive slaves escape. In addition, suspected slaves could not request a trial by jury or even testify on their own behalf. Milwaukee’s black community was alarmed. At a hastily called gathering, former slave Joseph Barquet urged others to “point our brethren to the north star. The eagle no longer protects him under the shadow of her wings. Let him go and throw himself under the tender clutches of the British lion [in Canada].” [5] The March 1854 capture of fugitive slave Joshua Glover in nearby Racine made the threat of slave catchers uncomfortably real. To avoid trouble from outraged Racine residents, the U.S. Marshal brought Glover to Milwaukee, hoping he could be transported out of the city quietly. But word quickly spread, and a mob attacked the county jail and freed Glover. He was spirited away to Waukesha and eventually to Canada. Milwaukee’s black community viewed the episode as a warning that any of them could be snatched away by slave catchers at any time. Some panicked and fled to safety in Canada. But the community endured. [6]

James P. Shelton and George Marshall Clark were among the few African-Americans to make Milwaukee their new home in the 1850s. Born in Virginia in 1832, Shelton settled in Milwaukee around 1857 and worked as a carpenter and waiter in Francis Anderson’s confectionary shop. Clark was born in Pennsylvania in 1838, the son of George H. Clark. The elder Clark relocated to Milwaukee in 1847 and established himself as a successful barber and respected leader of the black community. George followed his father to Milwaukee around 1858 and likewise tried to make a go of it as a barber, but according to an antagonistic newspaper, he was “an ugly, dissipated and worthless fellow.” At the very least, Shelton and Clark were acquaintances, and more than likely, they became friends. According to the 1860 census, both lived at the same residence at Third Street and Cedar (now Kilbourn Avenue). [7]

On Friday evening, September 6, 1861, Shelton and Clark were walking along Milwaukee Street just south of the corner at Michigan Street when they came upon Darby Carney and his friend John Brady, a farmer from Muskego. Carney operated the Emmett House, a saloon popular with the Third Ward’s Irish. He also was a noted troublemaker and fighter with a hair-trigger temper. Between 1853 and 1859 he had been arrested and/or fined five times for disorderly conduct, once for assault, once for trying to free prisoners from police custody, and once for shooting another man. [8] Words were exchanged, and in response to a comment by Carney, Shelton replied, “I know you. God damn you Carney. I can whip you or any Irishman or any white man in Milwaukee.” A fight ensued during which Shelton pulled a knife and slashed Carney across his abdomen and stabbed Brady in the shoulder. Accounts of the cause of the altercation vary. One indicates Shelton and Clark were escorting two white women, and when they passed Carney, he made a derogatory remark about white women with “d— niggers.”

Another alleges Shelton and Clark came upon two white women and made some insulting remarks to which Darby and Brady took offense however, subsequent descriptions—including those by Brady and Carney themselves—do not mention any women involved. But it was clear both men had been drinking. As Shelton and Clark made their escape, they attacked a third individual who was lighting street lamps. The two tried to lose themselves in the crowd at Dan Rice’s circus, but police eventually found and arrested both in the early morning hours of September 7 and brought them to the county jail (located on what is now the north side of Cathedral Square). [9]

After suffering his wound, Carney staggered home. His wife called for a priest and Dr. Thomas Hatchard. When Hatchard arrived around 9:00 p.m., he found intestines protruding from Carney’s wound. Hatchard put the intestines back and sewed the wound shut, but it was clear the injury was fatal. Carney lingered all through Saturday, dying at 10:30 that evening. Before his death, he named Shelton as his attacker. As Carney lay in bed, a crowd gathered outside his house and made plans that if Carney died, they would march to the jail and remove Shelton and Clark. A fire alarm would be the signal. Policeman John McCarty was there and overheard the plan. He warned some of them not to go through with it. Nevertheless, word of Carney’s demise spread rapidly, and soon the ringing bell at Engine House No. 6 on Detroit Street (now E. St. Paul) alerted angry onlookers to act on the plan. Others reinforced the procession as it moved toward the courthouse until the crowd numbered as many as 300.

Police Chief William Beck saw the group approach the jail at 12:30 a.m. he ordered William Kendrick, the jailor, to lock Clark and Shelton in a large room in the back and then lock the door leading to the cells. Beck went outside to confront the mob. One of the leaders, John McCormick, told the chief they had come for the two prisoners, but Beck refused to turn them over. McCormick replied, “Well, we’ll see.” Some in the crowd threatened to “go right over” Beck, and others demanded he step aside or get hurt. Beck told the gathering that the “men who hurt your friend Carney we have them arrested and propose to keep them” and that they should let the law take its course. The crowd erupted, and someone grabbed Beck, pushing him aside. A flying object struck Beck in the head and knocked him senseless. The crowd poured into the jail, and one of the mob pointed a pistol at Kendrick through the inner door, demanding he open it. He refused. Not wanting to harm a policeman, the crowd found a piece of timber and hammered in the door.

They forcibly seized keys to the cells and back door of the jail from the assistant jailers, opening it so cohorts could enter. Hearing the mob in the corridor, Shelton quickly moved into an empty cell that adjoined the back room and closed the door, leaving Clark alone. The crowd seized Clark, beat him severely, grabbed his arms and legs, and carried him into the hall. Kendrick would later testify that he saw blood spattered on the wall as well as a pool of blood where the crowd was standing. With the mob focused on Clark, Shelton escaped out the back door.

The crowd moved in fits and spurts as it dragged the unfortunate Clark down Jackson Street, debating all the while whether they had the right man. Some threatened to hang him regardless others argued that they should take Clark to Engine House No. 6 and keep him until the next day. At least three Milwaukee residents urged the mob to be sure they had the right man before they took his life. Dr. Hatchard warned the group to be careful, pointing out that another lawless mob had crucified “our Savior.” Someone came up to Hatchard and said, “shut up you d—d preacher, or we’ll call the boys and tar and feather you.” Members of the mob made their way to a street light at Huron (now E. Clybourn) and Water streets to see if they could positively identify the captive, but his face was so bloodied and swollen, they could not. They questioned Clark, who denied he was the guilty party. He said his name was George Marshall and that he was in jail for stealing. Still unsure what to do with him, the crowd eventually took Clark to the engine house.

Once there, several men trundled Clark to an upstairs room and put him through a “trial.” Clark again claimed he was in jail for picking a man’s pocket. After about an hour, James O’Brien allegedly burst into the engine house and exclaimed Clark was indeed the right person. He was brought down from upstairs and dragged outside with a rope around his neck and through his mouth. As the crowd moved along Huron, some of Clark’s captors repeatedly kicked and punched him. One hit him on the head with a club. They took him to a pile driver at the foot of Buffalo Street between Main (now Broadway) and Water streets. The rope was tossed over a cross piece, and four men pulled Clark into the air. He raised his arms either as a plea for his life or as a last desperate attempt to remove the rope, but someone yanked his arms down. He struggled for about 20 minutes before he perished. As the crowd thinned, some suggested they let Clark hang until morning, but an onlooker said it was not “Christian like to let a man hang so long.” [10] Around 2:30 a.m., two policemen cut Clark down and took his body to the police station.

The Milwaukee News reported that “intense excitement prevails throughout the city. Thousands have already visited the gallows and deadhouse, carrying away pieces of the rope, &c.” [11] The Milwaukee Sentinel condemned the fiendish mob for torturing and murdering Clark, adding “A pleasant picture to present to the world this morning, truly!” The Sentinel—a supporter of the Republican party—added political fuel to the flames by declaring there was a “dreadful truth” underlying this “foul blot” upon the city and that was that “city authorities are impotent to protect us from a mob.” It laid blame squarely upon the weakness of Democrats Mayor James Brown and Sheriff Charles Larkin as well as the police department for giving strength to the “ruffians and lawbreakers.” Plans for the lynching were not so secret that the police knew nothing about it but “not a straw was laid in their way, except by one individual [Chief Beck], whose zeal in the preservation of order brings him always a harvest of blows or abuse.” [12]

The city’s Democratic newspaper, the Milwaukee News, vigorously defended the mayor and sheriff. It printed a letter from a reader that crystallized the editors’ stance. The letter charged that Clark’s hanging was the fruits of the treachery of “abolition fanatics” who appealed to a “higher law” when it freed Joshua Glover from the county jail in 1854. The mob that killed Clark, the writer stated, did the same. This was the result of an “irrepressible conflict” between the black and white races, making it impossible for them to live together “except in the relation of master and slave.” [13]

This prevailing attitude and Clark’s death had a chilling effect on Milwaukee’s black community, and out of fear of the mob, many decided to leave. They had reason to worry. On Sunday night, about a dozen blacks were on board the steamer Michigan waiting to depart when a crowd of 200-300 Irishmen came down to the wharf in search of Shelton. The captain had the passengers come up on deck to be inspected by the crowd. At this point, someone shouted, “Be Jasus, let us kill all the d—d nagers, and then we’ll be sure to get the right one.” Fortunately, no trouble occurred as Shelton was not among the passengers. Instead, he had fled to the farm of African-American Richard Moore, about four miles south of Waukesha. Shelton was re-captured there on September 9 and brought back to the county jail.

To prevent a repeat of the previous night’s riot, Sheriff Larkin requested and received militia units to guard the jail. The News reported that the soldiers’ cordoned off several blocks around the jail, and the cannons and campfires gave the appearance of a “grand camp ground.” [14]

On September 30, Shelton’s trial on 2nd-degree murder charges commenced. That same day, Milwaukee’s Board of Aldermen—no doubt wanting to whitewash the scene of the horrible crime—instructed police to remove the pile driver on Buffalo. The trial proceedings took nearly a week. Defense Attorney J.V.V. Platto called several witnesses who vouched for Shelton’s good character. Furthermore, the Sentinel commented that Platto’s shrewd cross-examinations “very materially” weakened the prospect of a conviction. On October 7, the jury found Shelton not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense. The verdict was not well received by Carney’s friends, and Sheriff Larkin and Platto quickly smuggled Shelton out of the city to Watertown, where he boarded a train for Chicago. [15]

The episode was not over. A few days later, the coroner’s inquest issued warrants for several people involved in the riot. Police arrested six men, causing a good deal of excitement in the Third Ward. On October 29, a grand jury indicted Thomas Nichols and Dennis Delvry for murdering Clark and indicted John McCormick, James O’Brien, John Divine and Patrick McLaughlin because they “did incite, move, procure, aid, counsel, hire and command” Nichols and Delaney to commit the crime. Judge Arthur MacArthur opened the trial on November 14. District Attorney Joshua Starks tried to convince the jury that the defendants had conspired to incite a riot and commit murder. A parade of witnesses, including many Irishmen and public officials, provided conflicting accounts of the riot and the defendants’ roles. As a result, the jury notified the court on November 23 that it had failed to reach a verdict and was dismissed by the judge. The defendants demanded a new trial. Eventually, a new trial was held in late January 1862. This time, they were found not guilty. [16]

Fortunately, George Clark’s lynching was the only such occurrence in Milwaukee’s history, but the entire tragic episode was more than a mob outburst. It reflected the political, economic and social divisions tearing the nation apart on Civil War battlefields. Indeed, it was a microcosm of the violent undercurrents within America, as well as racial and ethnic tensions and the ambivalent attitudes about blacks and their place within American society. Though this “foul blot” has faded from our collective memory, many of the issues behind it have not been resolved.

Marshall and Family History Month

George Catlett Marshall, Jr. was born on December 31, 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He was the fourth child of George C. Marshall, Sr. and Laura Bradford Marshall. (Their third born had died as an infant.) His siblings were Stuart Bradford (b. 1875) and Marie Louise (b.1876).

For researchers interested in the genealogy of Marshall and his family the Marshall Foundation Archive has several collections, including those of George Catlett Marshall and Katherine Tupper Marshall. Researchers may also be interested in the archival holdings of Marshall’s siblings, Stuart B. Marshall (the family historian) and Marie Marshall Singer. An online family tree may be found on

Information about George C. Marshall’s own thoughts on his family may also be found in Forrest Pogue’s book Interviews and Reminiscences. During the interviews with Pogue, Marshall remembered his childhood warmly and expressed deep affection for his parents. George Sr. was an active church and community member with a love of history. He would tell George, Jr. stories while fishing, or read books aloud to the family in the evenings. He instilled in George a love of the past, and of reading.

Marshall told interviewer Forrest Pogue that his mother was “not only a woman of character and determination, but of great understanding….She was both gentle and firm, very understanding, and had a keen but quiet sense of humor, which made her my confidant in practically all my boyish escapades and difficulties.” His mother died in 1928.

The George C. Marshall Museum Collection does not have many objects from Marshall’s childhood, but there are several items which belonged to his mother. In 1963, Marshall Foundation Librarian Eugenia Lejeune traveled to Pennsylvania to meet with Robert Smith, Executor of the Estate of Marie Marshall Singer, George’s older sister. Lejeune accepted a trunk filled with the items of Laura Bradford Marshall, their mother. The trunk contained Laura’s dresses, mourning clothing (George, Sr. died in 1909), accessories such as a 25th wedding anniversary silver hand mirror, veils, shawls, and Laura’s family silver. The trunk also contained the ornate christening gowns of Stuart, Marie, and George, George’s baby cap, and one small boot. It is when pairing historical objects with the personal narration of Marshall’s life that one can begin to imagine his childhood and the values that shaped him.

Today in History: Born on June 21

William Sydney Smith, British seaman during the Napoleonic Wars.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, African-American painter.

Arnold Lucius Gesell, psychologist and pediatrician.

Rockwell Kent, artist, book illustrator.

Reinhold Niebuhr, Protestant theologian.

Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher and existentialist.

Albert Hirschfeld, illustrator.

Mary McCarthy, American novelist (Memories of Catholic Girlhood, The Group).

Marshall and Family History

In 2001, Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) introduced a resolution to Congress that designated October as Family History Month. He stated “by searching for our roots, we come closer together as a human family.” The Foundation holds quite a few collections that relate to the Marshall family and its history. A few are highlighted below:

Stuart B. Marshall Collection
Stuart was the older brother of George C. Marshall and the family historian. This collection reflects his interests and contains correspondence, postcards, clippings, and publications he authored about famous historical figures. It also includes histories for the following families: Bradford, Catlett, Marshall, Stuart and Taliaferro.

Marie Marshall Singer Collection
Marie was the older sister of George C. Marshall. Her collection contains information on the Marshall family and George C. Marshall. Included are clippings, reports, itineraries, menus, correspondence, promissory notes, postcards, tax receipts, and a Marshall family genealogy.

George Catlett Marshall and Katherine Tupper Marshall Collection
The collection consists of three distinct series of records: the George Catlett Marshall Collection, the Marshall Correspondence Collection, and the Katherine T. Marshall Collection.. The types of documents that appear in this collection include correspondence, official documents, textual records, bound volumes, subject files, photographs and newspaper clippings. The personal correspondence in the Marshall Correspondence Collection contains letters that Marshall exchanged with his step-children Allen, Clifton, and Molly, as well as his second wife Katherine. These letters reveal that Marshall was no different from any other father and husband in offering advice to his children when they had questions and missing his wife when frequently traveling for work. Photographs and newspaper clippings relating to family members and family activities appear throughout the collection.

George C. Marshall: Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue
George C. Marshall provides an amusing and insightful glimpse into his childhood and family life in the first recorded interview that he completed for his authorized biographer Dr. Forrest C. Pogue.

The Gospel According to Marshall

LONG BEFORE HE BECAME ASSISTANT COMMANDANT OF THE U.S. ARMY INFANTRY SCHOOL at Fort Benning, George C. Marshall had recognized the need to reform how the school trained officers for future conflicts. After serving as a key planner of American operations in World War I, including the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he had become an aide to General John J. Pershing, who established boards to evaluate the lessons the various branches of the American Expeditionary Forces learned while fighting in Europe. Once stateside, Marshall went to work, sifting through the boards’ reports and the AEF’s records. As he reviewed the documents, the tragic wastefulness of the American war effort—green recruits thrown into combat with insufficient training—came into focus. Summarizing what he had found for the January 1921 issue of Infantry Journal , Marshall warned, “It is possible that officers who participated only in the last phase of the war may draw somewhat erroneous conclusions from their battle experiences.” Marshall went on to point out that quick thinking and timely action were more important than proper order formats. “Many orders, models in their form, failed to reach the troops in time to affect their actions,” he wrote, “and many apparently crude and fragmentary instructions did reach front-line commanders in time to enable the purpose of the higher command to be carried out on the battlefield.”

Lieutenant Colonel George C. Marshall was appalled by what he saw as “an absurd system” at the infantry school. (George C. Marshall Foundation)

Marshall’s conviction was reinforced by his experiences in Tientsin, China, where he served from 1924 to 1927 as the executive officer of the 15th Infantry Regiment. During one training exercise Marshall observed a young officer who was supposed to envelop an enemy’s flank become paralyzed because he couldn’t draft a written order for his 70 men based on a sketch of the terrain given to him. Marshall was astonished to learn that the officer had graduated first in his class from the infantry school at Fort Benning. “The man was no fool, but he had been taught an absurd system,” Marshall would recall some years later. “I then and there formed an intense desire to get my hands on Benning.”

After completing his tour at Tientsin in 1927, Marshall became an instructor at the U.S. Army War College in Washington, D.C., an assignment he had previously turned down five times. Soon after he started teaching there, however, his wife, Lily, died unexpectedly following a thyroid operation. Marshall was overcome with grief. “Twenty-six years of most intimate companionship, something I have known since I was a mere boy,” he said in a letter to Pershing, “leaves me lost in my best efforts to adjust myself to future prospects in life.” In the void left by Lily’s death he suddenly found his situation unbearable. “At a War College desk,” he confided to a friend, “I thought I would explode.”

Fortunately, the army rallied to its own. Chief of Staff Charles F. Summerall, under whom Marshall had served in the closing days of World War I, offered him some options: He could remain where he was he could transfer to Governor’s Island, New York, to serve as chief of staff for a corps area or he could become the assistant commandant of the infantry school at Fort Benning. Marshall chose Benning and by early November was on his way to Georgia.

WHEN MARSHALL BECAME ITS ASSISTANT COMMANDANT ON NOVEMBER 10, 1927, the infantry school at Fort Benning was only nine years old. An amalgamation of the small arms, machine-gun, and old Fort Sill infantry schools, it had been created to address deficiencies in U.S. infantry tactics that the war had exposed.

Brigadier General Campbell King, the school’s commandant, was responsible for the entire post, and he gave Marshall considerable latitude in overhauling the infantry school’s academic course. Marshall wanted to disseminate the ideas Pershing had developed during the war, particularly the concept of combat built on firepower and maneuverability. “Picture the opening campaign of a war,” Marshall said in one of his lectures:

It is a cloud of uncertainties, haste, rapid movements, congestion on the roads, strange terrain, lack of ammunition and supplies at the right place at the right moment, failures of communications, terrific tests of endurance, and misunderstandings in direct proportion to the inexperience of the officers and the aggressive action of the enemy. Add to this a minimum of preliminary information on the enemy and of his dispositions, poor maps, and a speed of movement or an alteration of the situation, resulting from fast flying planes, fast moving tanks, armored cars, and motor transportation in general. There you have warfare of movement such as swept over Belgium or Northern France in 1914, but at far greater speed. That, gentlemen, is what you are supposed to be preparing for.

Under the previous system at Benning, officers were trained to address hypothetical situations with much more information about the enemy and terrain than would be available on a real battlefield. But as Marshall saw it, an officer “must be prepared to take prompt and decisive action in spite of the scarcity or total absence of reliable information. He must learn that in war, the abnormal is normal and that uncertainty is certain.”

Marshall plunged enthusiastically into his new assignment. He constantly tossed the unexpected at the student officers. One morning he required each of them to sketch a map of the route they had followed to the classroom, identifying both natural and manmade features of the terrain. Another time, after a 17-mile horseback ride, Marshall ordered the student officers to dismount and draw a map of the terrain they’d covered. In both cases he was trying to drive home the point that a troop leader should be constantly attuned to the relevant military details of any situation in which he might suddenly be required to make a command decision. General Matthew Ridgway, who studied at Benning under Marshall and went on to fight with distinction in World War II and later serve as the U.S. Army’s chief of staff, recalled that such exercises created a “mental conditioning more important to a combat officer than any number of learned techniques.”

Marshall further believed that nearly everything at Benning was too complicated. “We must develop a technique and methods so simple and so brief,” he argued, “that the citizen officer of good common sense can readily grasp the idea.” He deemphasized paperwork and detailed orders so that battalions or smaller units could seize opportunities as they arose, and he insisted that orders and intelligence assessments not exceed one page. Moreover, he stressed that a workable decision arrived at quickly was better than a perfect one arrived at too late. Indeed, he said, “the real problem is usually when to make a decision and not what the decision should be.”

First, however, Marshall had to get the 80 instructors under him on board for what he called “an almost complete revamping of the instruction.” Striving to simplify, he demanded that his instructors “expunge the bunk.” Before Marshall’s arrival, instructors merely read canned lectures that had been approved in advance by a committee to guarantee conformity with approved doctrine. Marshall forbade not only the reading of lectures but, in time, even the use of notes. “I found it was many times more effective when a man talked off the cuff,” he said.

ALMOST IMMEDIATELY MARSHALL ALSO DID AWAY WITH THE COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF SCHOOL’S EMPHASIS on rigid adherence to the predetermined “school solution” to tactical problems. “Any student’s solution to a problem that ran radically counter to the approved school solution, and yet showed independent creative thinking,” he said, “would be published to the class.” Marshall’s against-the-grain approach trickled down to other instructors. When Joseph Stilwell—who’d previously taught at West Point and would go on to achieve fame as a general in World War II—took over the infantry school’s tactical section, he declared himself open to any “screwball idea.” General J. Lawton Collins, an instructor in weapons and tactics at the school from 1927 to 1931, noted that Marshall’s edict, not to mention his example, helped to create “the spirit at Benning, which was a marvelous thing, because if anybody had any new ideas he was willing to try them.”

In keeping with his philosophy that “junior officers don’t fight at their desks,” Marshall saw to it that 80 percent of the instruction was carried out in the field. He ended rehearsed tactical demonstrations and replaced them with unscripted field maneuvers. He was present at most of them. To simulate the confusion of a real battlefield, Stilwell and other instructors often provided poor maps or no maps for problems and maneuvers, constantly emphasizing thoughtful and original responses to the unexpected. As Ridgway recalled in his memoirs: “Many a time…a map would be thrust before me. ‘You are here,’ I was told. ‘The enemy is here. The tactical situation is thus and so (it was always bad). Your battalion commander has been killed. You are now in command. What do you do?”

While some instructors eagerly embraced Marshall’s ideas, many were reluctant to change. He quickly replaced those who would not—or could not—adapt. Yet if Marshall earned a reputation for ruthlessness with regard to personnel, he also made a significant effort to identify talented young officers and groom them for the highest levels of command. According to Omar Bradley, the legendary army officer who would become the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, these men shared Marshall’s “keen analytic intelligence, outspokenness, [and] ingenuity. In sum, they were, like Marshall, highly creative.”

This was especially true of Stilwell, who had served with Marshall in Tientsin. Marshall wanted Stilwell to be the head of the school’s tactical section so badly that he held the position open for a year until Stilwell was available. Marshall said he possessed “a genius for instruction” and called him “one of the exceptionally brilliant and cultured men of the army.” When Stilwell encountered stupidity or incompetence, he was unforgiving. After he delivered a particularly caustic critique of a field exercise, a student officer drew a caricature of Stilwell, featuring his scowling face on a bottle of vinegar, that was pinned on a bulletin board at the infantry school. Stilwell asked if he could keep the original drawing and sent copies of it to all his friends, who soon took to calling him “Vinegar Joe.”

Marshall continued his search for talented subordinates even in his final year at the infantry school. In December 1931, Captain Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, a veteran of combat in France, delivered a briefing in the advanced course on his experiences in the Aisne-Marne Campaign, which he said typified “the partially trained American army of 1918…and the troops which American officers may expect to command in the early stages of any future war.” In the 20 minutes allotted he provided a cogent and gripping narrative of events, from which he drew two clear lessons: The unexpected is the rule in war, and success depended entirely on small-unit initiative. Marshall happened to slip into the classroom as Smith began his talk, and the captain’s presentation and conclusions perfectly echoed his views. Marshall returned to his office and told another officer, “There is a man who would make a wonderful instructor,” not knowing that Bradley’s official request for Smith to join his weapons section was already on his desk.

Marshall’s recruitment efforts, however, were not always so successful. In 1930 he traveled to Washington at Pershing’s request to review the manuscript for the general’s World War I memoirs, which were published the following year. Marshall was impressed by a young major on the staff of the American Battlefield Monuments Commission who had helped Pershing revise the manuscript. On returning to Benning, Marshall sent the officer an offer to join the infantry school’s faculty. Yet because he already had orders for a coveted assignment with the General Staff, Dwight D. Eisenhower politely declined Marshall’s invitation.

Marshall expertly mentored the officers under him at Benning. Bradley, Stilwell, Collins, Charles Bolte, and Bradford Chynoweth were among the instructors Marshall would summon to his quarters for discussions on the art of leading men in battle. Marshall or Major Gilbert R. Cook would assign a book or study—frequently on a nonmilitary subject such as psychology, sociology, or economics—and one or two of the group would deliver a report on the work’s relevance to contemporary military problems. Indeed, in his memoirs, Bradley stated that “no man had a greater influence on me personally or professionally.”

King appreciated Marshall’s reforms and his leadership. Because army regulations required that officers below the general officer rank serve in troop-leading positions at least one in every five years, King issued a special order on April 25, 1931, designating Marshall the 24th Infantry’s executive officer “for duty with troops, in addition to his other duties.” But the assignment was on paper only—a bureaucratic evasion intended to retain Marshall’s services at the infantry school beyond June 30, 1931.

AT THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR IN JUNE 1932, MARSHALL WAS REASSIGNED TO FORT SCREVEN, GEORGIA. It was, he told Pershing in a letter, “an unimportant station in the Army’s scheme of things.” But he had made his mark at Benning, where his reforms manifested themselves in at least two tangible ways.

First, his thinking was embodied in the manual of small-unit lessons that Benning’s tactical section produced. Marshall had directed the officers in the advanced course to undertake a study of the AEF’s operations in France to develop new tactics for infantry combat. The lessons were eventually published in 1934 as Infantry in Battle . The book was a critical success. British military theorist Basil Liddell Hart called it “the most valuable instructional military textbook…published in many years.” The infantry school’s classic reference was translated into German, Spanish, and Russian and remains in print today.

More significant than any of the manuals, supply techniques, or tactics that emerged from the infantry school during these years, however, were the extended consequences of the education of the officers who would occupy senior command and staff positions in World War II. Some 150 future generals attended the infantry school during Marshall’s tenure, and another 50 served on the faculty. And so was born the legend of the “Marshall Men.” Equally important, as Bradley put it, “was the imaginative training Marshall imparted to the countless hundreds of junior officers who passed through the school during his time and who would lead—often brilliantly—the regiments and battalions under the command of those generals.”

Although Marshall refused to take credit for the “Benning Revolution,” as the period of change he ushered in at the infantry school came to be known, his contemporaries had no such reluctance. “He would tell you what he wanted and then you would do it,” Major General Edwin F. Harding, who edited Infantry in Battle , recalled many years later. “There was something about him that made you do it, and of course you wanted to do it the way he wanted—which is the trait of a commanding officer.” Bradley simply said that Marshall “was the most impressive man I ever knew.”

Less than a decade after leaving the infantry school and Benning, Marshall would be asked to recruit, train, and deploy an army more than twice as large as any force in American military history against enemies that had already conquered most of Europe and Asia. President Harry S. Truman would say of Marshall’s role as U.S. Army chief of staff during World War II: “Millions of Americans gave their country outstanding service….George C. Marshall gave it victory.” Although Truman’s statement is true, the reality is that by bringing about the Benning Revolution, Marshall began shaping the American war effort and contributing to the Allied victory more than a decade before the first shots were fired in Europe. MHQ

Benjamin Runkle is the author of Generals in the Making: How Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Their Peers Became the Commanders Who Won World War II, 1919–1941 (Stackpole Books, 2019).

This article appears in the Autumn 2019 issue (Vol. 32, No. 1) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Behind the Lines | The Gospel According to Marshall

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Films of the 1940s

In 1940 Marshall directed The Ghost Breakers, the first of a series of popular comedies he made with Bob Hope. The film, which was set in a haunted house in Cuba, had Paulette Goddard as his romantic interest and Noble Johnson as a sinister zombie. Next came the western When the Daltons Rode (1940), an account of the legendary outlaw brothers. Stewart teamed with Goddard on the comedy Pot o’ Gold (1941), notable only because Stewart once claimed it was his worst picture. Texas (1941) was much better, with William Holden and Glenn Ford portraying former Confederate soldiers who head west, where both fall in love with a rancher’s daughter (Trevor).

After signing with Paramount, Marshall made The Forest Rangers (1942), with Fred MacMurray as a ranger who is searching for an arsonist and Susan Hayward and Goddard as the women who love him. Also released that year was the musical comedy Star Spangled Rhythm, featuring an all-star cast that included Hope, Bing Crosby, Veronica Lake, Ray Milland, and Dorothy Lamour. True to Life (1943) was a comedy in which a radio writer (Dick Powell) moves in with the family of a waitress (Mary Martin) to get material for his show.

And the Angels Sing (1944) offered Lamour and Betty Hutton as singing sisters who are discovered by a bandleader (MacMurray). And Murder, He Says (1945) demonstrated MacMurray’s flair for slapstick he starred as a pollster who is sent to a small town in the Ozarks to search for a missing colleague and finds a family of killers. The dark comedy developed a cult following. Hutton then starred as the titular Incendiary Blonde (1945), a biopic about Prohibition-era entertainer Texas Guinan. Marshall’s other film from 1945 was the comedy Hold That Blonde, with Lake as a jewel thief who is courted by a millionaire kleptomaniac (Eddie Bracken).

After such light fare, Marshall made The Blue Dahlia (1946), a classic film noir written by Raymond Chandler. It featured Paramount’s top box-office team of Alan Ladd and Lake he portrayed a World War II veteran suspected of killing his unfaithful wife (Doris Dowling), while she was cast as the woman who helps him evade the police until he can find the actual killer. Also popular was Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), an adaptation of a romance by Booth Tarkington. It starred Hope as a barber who, in order to avoid the guillotine, agrees to pose as an aristocrat who is to marry a Spanish princess Joan Caulfield played his chambermaid girlfriend.

Marshall returned to biopics with The Perils of Pauline (1947), which featured Hutton as silent film star Pearl White. Variety Girl (1947) was a collection of skits featuring Hope, Crosby, and numerous other Paramount headliners plus cameos by directors Cecil B. DeMille, Mitchell Leisen, and Marshall himself. Hazard (1948) was a minor romantic comedy starring Goddard as a gambler who agrees to marry in order to clear her debt but then changes her mind. In Tap Roots (1948), a Civil War drama set in Mississippi, Susan Hayward starred as an abolitionist’s daughter, Van Heflin was a newspaper publisher who courts her, and Boris Karloff played a Native American. Marshall’s adaptation of the popular radio series My Friend Irma (1949) was memorable for marking the first onscreen pairing of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, who became a hugely popular comedy team.

George Preston Marshall and the dustbin of history

The Washington Redskins have clearly woken up to the fact that their founder and former owner George Preston Marshall was a racist. They are trying to wipe out all evidence of his existence.

After the city suddenly decided it was worth the cost of getting rid of the monument to Marshall in front of RFK Stadium, the team announced it was removing Marshall’s name from the first level of Ghost Town Field and instead naming it for the late Bobby Mitchell, the Black superstar Marshall traded for when he was forced by federal authorities integrate the team — the last team in the NFL to do so.

Now the Redskins are removing Marshall’s name from the Ring of Fame at the stadium and also taking it off the team’s history wall at Redskins Park.

Why stop there? Let’s dig him up and have Dan Snyder toss the bones into the Atlantic from his yacht in a Zoom-televised ceremony.

Where is George Preston Marshall buried? Romney, West Virginia. The name of the cemetery? Indian Mound Cemetery.

Yes, that’s right — Indian Mound Cemetery. Fate sure is funny sometimes.

All that remains of Marshall is the name that is now, in the moment of these times, more reviled than ever. Change that, and you can call them the Washington Wokes.

Not so fast, though. New coach Ron Rivera — the new cultural leader of the organization — told Chicago radio station 670 The Score that “it’s all about the moment and the timing” when it comes to changing the team name. He said it was a “discussion for another time.”

Or, as enlightened defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio might say, “Kiss My Ax.”

I find it hard to envision a more timely moment than now to make the change. But for the moment, the name — like whatever is left of George Preston Marshall in the ground in West Virginia — remains.

For how long, who knows? How long before he is wiped totally from existence? Until then, here are perhaps some final words about the man who founded the most beloved sports franchise in the nation’s capital.

He was a racist, we know that, and his memory is deserving of all the scorn that comes his way. But let’s remember he wasn’t the only racist NFL owner. They were all racists back in the 1930s and 1940s, keeping black players out of the league until Paul Brown forced the integration of pro football in the rival All-America Football Conference.

Marshall was the only one with a fan base where racism was effectively a marketing tool — the South. Until the Atlanta Falcons came along in 1965, the Redskins were the team of the South and sold themselves that way.

Of course, racism was also deep in Marshall’s heart and it nearly destroyed the franchise he built after moving to Washington from Boston in 1937.

In researching two books I’ve written about the team, I had a chance to interview a number of players and others who worked for Marshall.

Bernie Nordlinger, Marshall’s attorney right from the start in 1937, told me his old boss was a “dynamic man,” but agreed that some found him arrogant —even unpleasant.

“He was an intensely loyal man. Very few people who stayed around Marshall left him, because he was so darn interesting. He was volatile. He was a wild man in that sense … there were so many times I wanted to quit him because he made me angry. But there were so many other times that he made up for it.”

He was volatile, all right. Marshall fought with players and coaches. Joe Tereshinski, a tight end who played for Washington from 1947 to 1954, told a story about a season finale against the Chicago Cardinals when Pete Stout, a fullback playing linebacker in this game, struggled to cover the Cardinals receivers. Washington was down 21-0 at halftime:

“We were sitting there munching on oranges at halftime, and everyone is downcast. Marshall comes in, wearing his fur coat. He was fuming. He got on all of us. And then he got on Pete Stout. ‘And you, Pete Stout … ‘ and Marshall used a cuss word. … Pete jumped up and grabbed Marshall by the throat. ‘Mr. Marshall. I am playing out of position and doing the best that I can covering this man. We’ve got guys hurt and I was asked to play that position. … My father never talked to me that way and I won’t let you.’ He finally released Mr. Marshall, who was turning very red. … He (Marshall) jumped on a footlocker and yelled to the team, ‘Now that’s the kind of fight I want from you fellows.”

Then there was his fight with Curly Lambeau over a six pack of beer. Before the Redskins ever convinced Green Bay Packers icon Vince Lombardi to coach the Redskins, Marshall had convinced Packers legend and six-time NFL champion coach Curly Lambeau to lead the Redskins in 1952.

Lambeau, after a 4-8 season, got a winning 6-5-1 out of the team in 1953. Then during a preseason Western tour, Marshall fired Lambeau over a six-pack of beer that Lambeau allowed a player to bring to the hotel. “It got pretty nasty in that hotel between Curly and Marshall,” said Gene Pepper, a lineman who played for the Redskins in the early 1950s. “At one point Curly grabbed Marshall and put him up against the wall and said, ‘You can’t talk to me like that you son of a bitch. I don’t have to take that from you.’ I thought, ‘Here comes another coach.’ He was gone after that. George was a reformed alcoholic and hated drinking.”

George Preston Marshall was a racist. He was an alcoholic. He was a wild man. And someday, he will be forgotten. But not yet.

You can hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on The Kevin Sheehan Podcast and Wednesday afternoons on Chad Dukes Vs. The World on 106.7 The Fan.

Rising Through the Ranks

That same month, Marshall married Elizabeth Coles before reporting to Fort Myer for assignment. Posted to the 30th Infantry Regiment, Marshall received orders to travel to the Philippines. Following a year in the Pacific, he returned to the United States and passed through a variety of positions at Fort Reno, OK. Sent to the Infantry-Cavalry School in 1907, he graduated with honors. He continued his education the next year when he finished first in his class from Army Staff College. Promoted to the first lieutenant, Marshall spent the next several years serving in Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and the Philippines.

Redskins Cling to Team’s Name but Erase Former Owner’s

The Washington N.F.L. franchise spent this week removing a monument and remembrances honoring its former owner, George Preston Marshall, from team facilities and its website.

George Preston Marshall, the original owner of the N.F.L. team in Washington that was the last franchise to integrate its roster, will have his name removed from the team’s stadium and website.

The decision comes amid pressure on the team to acknowledge Marshall’s resistance to signing and drafting African-American players and his decision in 1933 to name the team the Redskins, which some Native Americans and others consider a racist term.

On Wednesday, Marshall’s name was removed from the Ring of Fame inside FedEx Field, the team’s stadium in Landover, Md. The team said it would rename the lower bowl of the venue for Bobby Mitchell, the franchise’s first African-American star player. Earlier in the week, Marshall was removed from the team’s “history wall” at its training facility in Ashburn, Va., and the team began “deleting him from all aspects of our website,” according to Sean DeBarbieri, a team spokesman.

The moves come less than a week after a memorial of Marshall, which had stood in front of R.F.K. Stadium, the team’s former home, was removed by a city agency after being defaced.

Amid nationwide protests against police brutality and systematic racism, statues and monuments of figures with racist pasts are being criticized, re-examined and sometimes removed. Sports teams, too, have reassessed their monuments, logos and honoring of past owners.

Outside Target Field in Minneapolis, home of the Minnesota Twins, a statue was removed last week of the team’s former owner Calvin Griffith, who had publicly made racist statements about black people in 1978 after moving the team there from Washington, D.C. The Texas Rangers, after consideration this week, said they have no plans to change their name or sever ties to the law enforcement agency with the same name, despite its history of violence toward Hispanic, Native American and black people.

In recent years, dozens of teams have dropped names and logos that referred to Native Americans, most notably the Cleveland Indians, which dropped its Chief Wahoo logo in 2018. This year’s Super Bowl brought new scrutiny to the so-called tomahawk chop used by the Kansas City Chiefs to celebrate. The team said it would work with Native Americans “to create awareness and understanding, as well as celebrate the rich traditions of multiple tribes with a historic connection to our region.”

The controversy over the Redskins’ name is perhaps the most fraught in American sports, yet the team’s current owner, Dan Snyder, has for years resisted calls to change it, arguing that the name represents tradition and is a term of respect. Though some Native American groups oppose the name, many fans of the team still support it.

“We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

In 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, stripped the team of federal protections for six of its trademarks. The decision was largely symbolic because the team could still use its name and enforce its trademarks, using common-law rights.

But in 2017, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government may not deny a trademark registration for potentially offensive names. Snyder celebrated the decision, which centered on an Asian-American band called the Slants that had lost its trademark protection.

The N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has said he grew up rooting for the team, defended Snyder in the past. An N.F.L. spokesman did not return a request for comment on whether the league still maintains that support.

But calls for the N.F.L. to remove the name have grown in recent weeks amid heightened scrutiny of racism in American society. This month, Goodell, in a mea culpa, admitted that the league had not listened to players who protested social injustice and police brutality against African-American people.

A nonprofit group called IllumiNative,whose stated goal is to challenge stereotypes about Native Nations, has urged Snyder to change the team’s name. Some political leaders in Washington have also pushed for a change in recent weeks. “I think it’s past time for the team to deal with what offends so many people,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington said.

City officials have said that until the name is changed they will not agree to the team building a new stadium and headquarters inside the city, where land is owned by the federal government and leased to the District. Snyder has been looking to replace FedEx Field, where the team has played since 1997.

The removal of Marshall’s name and image from the team’s stadium and its website may be a way to soothe critics pushing for the team to re-examine its history. Marshall bought the Boston Braves in 1932 and renamed the team the “Redskins” the following year. He moved the team to Washington in 1937 and was the last franchise owner in the league to sign a black player, doing so in 1962 only after the federal government threatened to revoke the team’s lease on its stadium. That change came a decade and a half after other N.F.L. teams began signing and drafting black players.

Despite the fight over the team’s name, the Redskins remain one of the most valuable franchises in sports. The team was worth $3.4 billion last year, up 10 percent from 2018, according to Forbes, and its value has continued to rise though it has won only one playoff game and two division titles in the past two decades.

Still, sports marketing experts say that Snyder now has a rare opportunity to embrace criticism while also making money by renaming the team, selling new merchandise and potentially attracting new fans and sponsors.

“The Redskins are on an island and the glaciers are melting,” said Paul Swangard, who teaches sports brand strategy at the University of Oregon. “But there are only a handful of teams across the pro sports landscape that find themselves with a financial opportunity but also the opportunity to do the right thing. So why not marry those two?"

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