George Marshall served as Army Chief of Staff, Special Representative of the President to China, Secretary of State, President of the American Red Cross, and Secretary of Defense, and these public jobs meant he didn’t often get to celebrate his birthday on Dec. 31 at home with his family.
In 1925, Lt. Col. Marshall was serving near Tientsin, China, on his birthday. In a letter to friend Brig. Gen. John McAuley Palmer, Marshall writes, “Today is my 45th birthday. I’m no longer of the ‘Young Turk’ party. Isn’t that sad after the bombast and assurance of our Leavenworth days of Army reformation.”
In 1940, Marshall was at Quarters 1 at Fort Myer, where he enjoyed “a riding party breakfast with which we were celebrating the event, though why celebrate my increasing yearage is really a question,” he wrote to friend Ruth Adams.
Gen. Marshall at his surprise party in 1942. Although the photo may not show it, he was pleased with the celebration.
In 1942, he was surprised at lunchtime with a party attended by members of Marshall’s immediate staff, chief subordinates, Secretary Stimson, Assistant Secretary McCloy, and Field Marshal Dill. Secretary Stimson gave a toast: “I feel, General Marshall, that you are one of the most selfless public officials whom I have ever known. In spite of your deep feelings and affections you have always been able to consider first the requirements of the job and to disregard all other considerations.”
In 1946, he was in China on his birthday, and celebrated with Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Katherine had already departed for home by way of the territory of Hawaii, where Marshall would soon meet her.
Marshall being given presents by Chinese children at his birthday dinner.
Marshall visiting with attendees to his birthday dinner. Chiang Kai-shek is far right on the sofa.
After finally getting to retire, Marshall was able to celebrate his birthday at the home in Pinehurst, NC, where he and Katherine spent their winters.
Looking dapper as Marshall escorts Katherine on his 75th birthday.
Katherine presenting Marshall with a box full of cards, letters, and telegrams from well-wishers.
Enjoying some of those birthday greetings. Granddaughter Ellene Winn stands in the background.
Present at the celebration, front: Allene Tupper Lacy (Katherine’s sister), Katherine, George, granddaughter Ellene Winn. Back: son-in-law Col. James Winn, daughter Molly Brown Winn, granddaughter Kitty Winn, grandson Jim Winn, and Sgt. William Heffner, Marshall’s orderly.
Marshall’s birthday cake, complete with candles.
Wait! You can’t cut the cake until …
you blow out the candles!
It wasn’t just family celebrating, though, as demonstrated by this Army band from nearby Fort Bragg playing for Marshall’s birthday at his North Carolina home.
Happy birthday, General Marshall!
Photos and quotes from the George C. Marshall Foundation collections.
Melissa has been at GCMF since last fall, 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 @life_melissas.