Noted scholar and author Dr. Steve Taaffe discussed last week the criteria General Marshall used to select Army combat commanders who led Allied forces in Europe and the Pacific during World War II.
No one understood more than General Marshall the adage that an army is no better than its commanders. He knew that superior logistics, intelligence, training, and resources could not compensate for inadequate leadership.
As the army’s chief of staff during World War II, Marshall faced the daunting task of choosing the officers to command the army’s army groups, field armies, and corps. He put considerable thought into the process by evaluating an officer’s background, education, age, and especially character before making his selections. Marshall relied on an individual’s character to determine in his mind that leader’s capacity to overcome adversity.
The result was a cadre of 38 men who led the army’s major combat units to victory. Although a few of them failed on the battlefield, the success of the vast majority is testimony to Marshall’s knack for identifying and assigning talented officers to the appropriate positions. His ability to do so not only contributed enormously to Allied victory but also provided the army’s post-war leadership.
Dr. Taaffe is a member of the history faculty at Stephen F. Austin State Univ. in Nacogdoches, Texas. He has written several books, including three about aspects of World War II. One of those books is Marshall and His Generals.