August 25, 2022

Gen. Marshall Never Cared to Pose

Photos of George Marshall

Several visitors have mentioned that it seems George Marshall never smiled in photos. He didn’t enjoy posing for the camera from his early years; he didn’t smile for portraits even as a cadet at VMI.

Cadet George Marshall as part of the VMI 1901-1902 football team.


His dislike of portrait photography may be why his four-star portrait is a photoshop of his one-star portrait.

Gen. Marshall’s 4-star portrait


Gen. Marshall’s one-star portrait


Let’s face it, his years as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army were grim – fighting a two-theater war spanning the globe. When he visited training posts, he focused on the soldiers; the seriousness of the situation reflected in his face.

Gen. Marshall visiting airborne soldiers at Fort Benning, GA, March 1943.


Gen. Marshall viewing the firing of 155mm howitzers of the 600th Field Artillery with Gen. William Colburn and Lt. Col. Marcus Ray in Italy, February 1945.


In the many conferences he attended, Marshall was working for peace in Europe. Plenary sessions were fraught with difficulties and doubtless exhausting.

Gen. Marshall at a plenary session at the Yalta Conference, Crimea, in February 1945.


An Army Signal Corps photographer noted later that “the General was rather modest about having his picture taken and never cared to pose.”

Marshall did smile, though, and sometimes the camera caught it. His smiles seem to be connected to certain people and activities.

Most of his smiles were connected to his family – Katherine, her children and the grandchildren.

Katherine and Prime Minister Winston Churchill wag their fingers at each other while Marshall looks on, smiling fondly at Katherine.


Marshall with grandchildren Jim and Kitty Winn, 1945.


He especially enjoyed spending time with children, and they always brought out a smile.

Gen. Marshall receives flowers from children in Europe.


Some smiles were the result of activities such as fishing and gardening.

Gen. Marshall grabs a quick fishing trip in Quebec while traveling home from England in 1943.


Marshall thinning the daffodils at his home in Leesburg, VA.


A few smiles were displayed talking with people he apparently enjoyed working with.

Gen. Marshall with Secretary of War Henry Stimson on Stimson’s retirement.


Secretary of Defense Marshall laughing with Secretary of State Dean Acheson at a luncheon, Oct. 1950.


And then there’s this cheese-eating grin from the Secretary of State while testifying to a Senate budget committee. I would love to know what conversation preceded this!

Secretary of State Marshall testifying at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee March 1948.


Before becoming director of library and archives at the George C. Marshall Foundation, Melissa 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. Melissa is known as the happiest librarian in the world! Keep up with her @MelissasLibrary.