4-540 Editorial Note on Inspection Trip to France, October 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Subject: World War II

Editorial Note on Inspection Trip to France

October 1944

By early October 1944, Eisenhower had completed his reorganization of the European Theater of Operations and had moved his main headquarters from London to Versailles. Marshall intended to conduct an extensive inspection of the front that had expanded so greatly from the constricted Normandy sector he had seen during his brief visit in June. He persuaded James F. Byrnes, director of the Office of War Mobilization, to accompany him and to investigate the ship-unloading problems at the port of Cherbourg, which were slowing ammunition shipments to the front. Army Operations chief Thomas T. Handy and the chief of air operations, Major General Howard A. Craig, accompanied Marshall. (On the S.H.A.E.F. reorganization, see Pogue, Supreme Command, chap. 15, especially pp. 275-78; James F. Byrnes, All in One Lifetime [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1958], p. 244.)

Marshall’s party departed from Washington on the morning of October 5 in the new C-54 prepared for President Roosevelt—unofficially dubbed The Sacred Cow by its crew. The flight inaugurated, with considerable publicity, the Air Transport Command’s new scheduled New York-Paris air route. They first flew twelve hundred miles to Stephenville, Newfoundland. Following a ninety-minute refueling stop, they flew directly to Orly Airport near Paris, a distance of twenty-eight hundred miles. Marshall’s picture appeared in numerous newspapers in the United States because of the flight, which reporters and commentators said (incorrectly) was the first such nonstop aerial crossing from North America to the Continent since Charles A. Lindbergh’s famous 1927 journey. Marshall’s arrival, and his well-publicized reception by Eisenhower and Bradley, fueled press speculation about a great Allied winter offensive that was alleged to be in the planning stage. (“Photographic, Newspaper, and Radio Coverage of the Visit to the European Theater of Operations by General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, United States Army, October, 1944,” GCMRL/ G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Scrapbooks]. Forrest C. Pogue discusses Marshall’s trip in George C. Marshall: Organizer of Victory, 1943-1945 [New York: Viking Press, 1973], pp. 474-78.)

After a day in Paris to recover from the nineteen-hour trip and to hold discussions with Eisenhower, Marshall began an exhausting round of inspections by flying to Bradley’s Twelfth Army Group headquarters at Verdun. On the way he had the pilot fly low over the World War I Meuse-Argonne battlefields. Later that day (October 7), he drove by car through the area of the Saint-Mihiel salient battle and visited the billet he had at Souilly in the late summer of 1918. Returning to Verdun, he picked up Bradley and they went to Patton’s Third Army headquarters at Etain for lunch before returning to Verdun for the evening. The following document was dispatched from Bradley’s headquarters (Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-541 [4: 622-24]).

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. 621-622.

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