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Editorial Note on Inspection Trip to France
October 8-14, 1944
Sunday, October 8, was perhaps the most trying day of Marshall’s French trip. From Bradley’s headquarters at Verdun, Marshall flew to Eindhoven, Holland, to visit Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery at Twenty-first British Army Group headquarters. Montgomery was of the opinion that Eisenhower’s failures as Supreme Allied Commander had deprived the Allies of the possibility of quickly defeating the Germans. When Marshall arrived, Montgomery recalled:
I had a long talk with him, alone in my office caravan. I told him that since Eisenhower had himself taken personal command of the land battle, being also Supreme Commander of all the forces (land, sea, and air), the armies had become separated nationally and not geographically. There was a lack of grip, and operational direction and control was lacking. Our operations had, in fact, become ragged and disjointed, and we had now got ourselves into a real mess. Marshall listened, but said little. It was clear that he entirely disagreed. (The Memoirs of Field-Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K G. [Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1958], p. 254.)
A dozen years later, Marshall told his official biographer that he
came pretty near to blowing off out of turn. . . . [Montgomery] was criticizing the fact that he had been relieved from command, from active command as he called it, . . . and I was under terrific urge to whittle him down. And then I thought, now this is Eisenhower’s business and not mine, and I had better not meddle, though it was very hard for me to restrain myself because I didn’t think there was any logic in what he said, but overwhelming egotism. (George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, 3rd. ed. [Lexington, Va.: George C. Marshall Research Foundation, 1991], p. 345.)
Marshall’s day did not improve. Leaving Montgomery’s headquarters, he flew to Luxeuil, where the French First Army, commanded by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, had just launched a major offensive into the High Vosges Mountains north of the Belfort Gap. At French Second Corps Headquarters, de Lattre recalls having taken advantage of Marshall’s visit “to acquaint him with the inadequacy of our supplies. General Marshall at once showed surprise at a complaint which he visibly had not expected, but he recognized it as being well founded and promised me that he would put the matter right.” (Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, The History of the French First Army [London: George Allen and Unwin, 1952], pp. 194-95.)
Marshall recalled the scene quite differently from the Frenchman. He was “outraged” that de Lattre was
criticizing Truscott very much, that he wasn’t getting the proper amount of supplies and all, coming up the trail towards the Vosges. The truth was there were no supplies to get. A division was supposed to have nine hundred tons a day, I think, and they were cut down. Patton was getting only three hundred tons and all action had ceased on the front because we couldn’t get supplies to them, particularly gasoline. And on top of that de Lattre was making this a triumphant march and they were delaying in villages after villages and cities, and they were not up to the place, you know, and he was very critical of Truscott in front of the French reporters. . . . I just stopped the thing right where it was and walked out. (Marshall Interviews, p. 333.)
The next day (October 9), Marshall visited Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott’s Sixth Corps headquarters. Truscott recalled that Marshall said that de Lattre “had launched into a bitter denunciation of me, saying the VI Corps had shown to advantage because I had stolen the gasoline allocated to French troops.” (Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., Command Missions: A Personal Story [New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1954], p. 439.)
After spending the night at Jacob Devers’s Sixth Army Group headquarters at Vittel, Marshall spent October 9 through 12 visiting corps and division headquarters all along the front from the Vosges to Holland. As his assistant Colonel Frank McCarthy recalled, Marshall’s party visited “all the US corps headquarters, and all but about six of the US division headquarters. In short, we saw just about every field general on the front, tasted a little action, and even got down as low as battery headquarters in some of the divisions.” (McCarthy to William McCarthy, November 19, 1944, GCMRL/F. McCarthy Papers [U.S. Army 1941-45].) Patton recorded in his diary on October 10: “I believe that General Marshall and General Handy were very well pleased with what they had seen. I have never seen General Marshall in such a good humor.” (Copy in GCMRL/F. McCarthy Papers [Patton Movie, Series 6].)
Marshall’s party returned to S.H.A.E.F. headquarters at Versailles on October 12, spent October 13 at Versailles, and departed for Newfoundland that evening. After a brief stop at Stephenville on October 14, Marshall left for Washington, reaching the city at 7:30 that evening.
Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 624-626.