Forms of address in George Marshall's correspondence
George Marshall was rather formal in his relationships – he asked President Roosevelt to call him “General,” and once commented that he saved all his feelings for his wife, Katherine.
In his correspondence, Marshall could be very formal as well. Even over his long years of association with Gen. John Pershing, Marshall always addressed letters “Dear General,” and closed them “Faithfully yours, G.C. Marshall.” Perhaps that was his usual address to very senior officers, as a June 1938 letter to Army Chief of Staff Malin Craig was addressed the same. In a humorous departure, some 1939 letters to Craig are simply addressed “Dear Chief.”
Marshall generally addressed other Army officers by last name – Marshall never called him “Ike,” only “Eisenhower.” He also addressed former commanding officers by last name – Gen. Roy Keehn of the Illinois National Guard was “Keehn,” and Gen. Fox Conner, who Marshall served under during World War I was addressed as “Conner.”
Occasionally, Marshall would address a fellow officer by first name. A letter to Maj. Frank Hayne, with whom Marshall served (and hunted) with in China in the mid-1920s, was addressed as “My dear Frank.”
As good a friend as Marshall was with Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Marshall’s correspondence was always addressed as “Dill.” The same with Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, for whom correspondence was addressed “Arnold,” although he served on the Joint Chiefs with Marshall and hunted and fished with him.
Letters to Frank McCarthy who had been with the General Headquarters Secretariat, and with whom the Marshalls were very close, were always “Dear Frank,” and one letter written between travel for the American Red Cross was signed “Hastily and affectionately.”
Family was always addressed fondly. Letters to Lily, and later to Katherine were addressed “Dearest.” Letters to Katherine’s daughter were “Dear Molly,” and closed “With my love and affectionate regards.” To Katherine’s sons, letters were closed “Affectionately.” To longtime friend Rose Page Wilson, Marshall closed his letters “All my love, affectionately.” Letters to Marshall’s sister Marie were closed “With my love.” Correspondence to Marshall’s brother Stuart was “My dear Stuart,” and closed “Your affectionate brother,” somewhat surprising as the brothers’ relationship was distant.
In a letter to Harry Truman in April 1943, Marshall addressed it to “My dear Senator Truman,” and closed it formally, “Faithfully yours, G.C. Marshall.” In a less formal manner, a February 1944 letter to Presidential aide Harry Hopkins is surprising addressed simply, “Dear Harry.”
Marshall was no doubt a man of his time in how he addressed his correspondence, but it’s also a glimpse into how he felt about those to whom he wrote.
Melissa has been at GCMF since fall 2019, and previously was an academic librarian specializing in history. She and her husband, John, have three grown children, and live in Rockbridge County with three large rescue dogs. Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.