“It is impossible for the Nation to compensate for the services of a fighting man. There is no pay scale that is high enough to buy the services of a single soldier during even a few minutes of the agony of combat, the physical miseries of the campaign, or of the extreme personal inconvenience of leaving his home to go out to the most unpleasant and dangerous spots on earth to serve his Nation.” (The Winning of the War in Europe and the Pacific: Biennial Report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945 to the Secretary of War, p. 110)
When George C, Marshall was appointed Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939, America’s military had outdated weapons and untrained men. During nearly twenty years of peacetime, it was difficult to convince the government to spend money on the military, especially when world events did not involve America. Marshall thought a strong military was essential at all times and embarked on a major plan to build and modernize the army. As Marshall expanded America’s military at a rapid pace, supplies ran low, mistreatment ran high, and soldiers began to complain. Marshall had a keen insight into his young men and what was affecting them–he was aware that the National Guardsmen, who had stability and well-paying jobs as civilians, were being treated like grunts while in training and growing resentful. On a tour of Fort Benning, he was angry to find cold soldiers with little shelter, lack of supplies, and no place to even open their mail, later stating: “Get these blankets and stoves and every other damn thing that’s needed out tonight, not tomorrow morning, and not two weeks from now…we are going to take care of the troops first, last, and all the time.” He knew what his men needed – clean facilities, recreational space, well-fitting uniforms, time away from the barracks, training manuals, and especially, competent leaders. He acted on all complaints and demanded that problems be solved immediately.
Marshall possessed the ability to identify with his soldiers and to sense that brewing discontent would cause a devastating loss of morale. Lack of morale would affect the soldier’s attitude, commitment, and the support of the American public. He stated: “Morale is a state of mind. It is a steadfastness and courage and hope. It is confidence and zeal and loyalty…It is staying power, the spirit which endures to the end–the will to win. With it all things are possible; without it everything else–planning, preparation, production–count for naught.” (Speech at Trinity College, June 15, 1941)
Inspired by the words and actions of George C. Marshall, the Marshall Museum is using a $1000 grant from our local Wal-Mart to collaborate with Lexington’s Care-Box Project. The Care-Box Project, started by Collette Barry-Rec in 2004, aims to let our local troops know they are supported, appreciated, and missed. At tomorrow’s Marshall Museum Holiday Open House, from 10am-noon, the public is invited to assist in assembling care packages for the service men and women from the Rockbridge County area who are still deployed around the world. Kids may pick soldiers to make cards and ornaments for, and those items will be included in the box. More information is available at: 540-463-7103 or visit: https://marshallfoundation.org/newsroom/news/marshall-museum-open-house/