6-142 Speech to the American Society of London, November 27, 1947

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: November 27, 1947

Subject: Postwar

November 27, 1947
London, England

My last Thanksgiving dinner was in China. Today it is London. A year hence I hope in Leesburg, Virginia, with a peaceful world to contemplate.

Twenty-eight years ago I lunched with the America Society here in London. I was an inconspicuous guest, a follower of Pershing. The only special attention I received was from a waiter who poured a pink sauce down the front of my best uniform blouse. I came through clean today. Not only that but you have specially honored me with your hospitality and an invitation to speak.

I first saw London almost 40 years ago. But after that first visit I did not return until the great victory parade of 1919. In April 1942 I arrived with Harry Hopkins to make the initial proposal for the Channel crossing operation. That was a difficult mission. We were not only on the defensive around the world, but I had only American prospects to offer and naturally my faith was greater for the maturity of those prospects than was possible for my British associates.

However pessimistic the war situation, which was then tragic and filled with foreboding, like all Americans I felt confident in our ability to create an adequate military force far more rapidly and far more powerful than was deemed possible by the rest of the world, friend or foe.

I returned again in July of that year for another reckoning and it was then decided to have a go at North Africa. Tobruk had fallen, the Japs were pushing into the Coral Sea en route to Australia, the Russian armies were being hurled back with appalling losses. We had a gloomy prospect. Yet within a few weeks we wrested the initiative from the Japanese at Guadalcanal, and a few weeks later came in rapid succession the great victory at El Alamein and the landings along the African coast. Stalingrad was another few weeks beyond and the world suddenly realized that the tide had fully turned. The enemy was now desperately guessing as to what was to come next. His best guesses, his most pessimistic calculations fell far short of the awful facts that were to come.

While I traveled to many parts of the world after the summer of 1942, I did not see London again until the week of the landing in Normandy two years after the decision resulting from my first war visit.

Now I am back again engaged in another and quite different effort to secure peace for the world. I think we were more patient in the war years to achieve our objectives than we are today. Peace and understanding, the latter essential to the former, are the great desires of the world today. Peace and understanding. They should not be so difficult to achieve when the common people everywhere without exception, I believe, are sick unto death of any thought of war. I am now in the business of trying to eliminate war as a possibility, not merely as a probability. Yet people are fearful again of war, to such lengths have the propagandists gone.

We must make a supreme effort to sweep aside such maunderings and rise above our difficulties in a spiritual conquest of our present weakness and human frailties. We must create a strong belief that we can live together in peace and understanding.

We have economic troubles, ideological troubles, racial troubles, but our greatest trouble I believe is a spiritual let down which is a not unnatural result of the horrors suffered in the war and the want and despair that follows.

I would not be surprised if we find that a spiritual rejuvenation in the United Kingdom flowed directly from the wonderful demonstration of loyalty, respect and devotion incident to the wedding of the young Princess Elizabeth.2

This is a day of Thanksgiving for Americans founded on a celebrated incident in the struggles of our earliest colonists. A day of thanksgiving! Now what specifically should we be thankful for as Americans. Well, I am very thankful that I am an American with due respect and admiration for our British hosts. But I am more thankful in these critical days that the American people are showing a great and very generous realization of responsibility to the world inherent in the fortunate situation of our country, its material resources and, far above and beyond those factors, the fact that we have developed great economic strength, great freedoms and great opportunities for every citizen to lift himself and his family well above the levels of life in which so many hundreds of millions of the peoples of the world endure.

I have confidence that the American people will not be deterred by criticism, name calling or any form or degree of misrepresentation from doing their invariable generous best to help the other fellow. That’s in the American tradition. It’s the finest trait of our people. We may humanly err in our procedure at times. The Lord knows, and we are well advised, that we are far from perfect. But we do our best, I think, in every important test and the American people can be depended upon to do their very best in the present great emergency.

GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers (Secretary of State, Speeches)

1. US Ambassador Lewis W. Douglas presided over the gathering of 310 persons that included British Foreign Secretary Bevin. The Food Ministry issued a special license permitting the meal’s departure from austerity. (New York Times, November 28, 1947, p. 20.)

2. The twenty-one-year-old Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Heiress Presumptive, married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey in London. Before the wedding Philip was created HRH [His Royal Highness] the Duke of Edinburgh.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Mark A. Stoler, Sharon Ritenour Stevens and Daniel D. Holt (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 2013- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 6, “The Whole World Hangs in the Balance,” January 8, 1947-September 30, 1949 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 275-277.