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By General of the Army Omar N. Bradley
We are always in need of leaders-in government, in military service, in business, and, in fact, in all walks of life. The question is often asked, Are leaders born as leaders or are they developed? I believe it is a little of both, but certainly development and training have great influence on the final product. Usually there is one great influencing factor, or maybe more, that makes a great leader.
In the case of General Marshall, I believe his mother played a determining part in developing in her son his ideals of integrity, fair play, ambition, and a desire to succeed. Later, the influence of his training at the Virginia Military Institute brought out and helped develop his qualities of leadership.
The author has forcefully described these influences in this volume, Education of a General.
I first worked under General Marshall as a member of the faculty of the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, when he was Assistant Commandant in charge of training. When he became Chief of Staff I served for about a year and a half in his office as an assistant secretary of the General Staff before being appointed Commandant of the Infantry School. My last close collaboration with General Marshall came in the 1950-1951 period when he was Secretary of Defense and I was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As a result of my association with General Marshall during the period of preparation for World War II and my knowledge of his accomplishments during the war, and afterward, I consider him the man who contributed more to our efforts from 1939 to 1951 than any other individual. He was my ideal of the best type of officer.
Because of my esteem for the General’s great contributions to
the Army and to his country, I accepted in 1959 the presidency of the George C. Marshall Research Foundation, which had been organized six years earlier for the purpose of building and endowing a Marshall Research Library in which to house his papers and memorabilia.
One aim of the George C. Marshall Research Foundation was the writing of a biography based on the General’s personal and official papers and on interviews with him and his associates. The project was made possible through the backing and support of three presidents, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, and of many friends and admirers of the wartime Chief of Staff.
After refusing many lucrative offers for his memoirs, General Marshall, in 1953, at the suggestion of President Truman, decided to give his papers to a research library at Lexington, Virginia. President Truman directed the General Services Administrator, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense to cooperate in this project by making available to the biographer records pertaining to General Marshall. President Eisenhower and President Kennedy in turn have given this project their full support. The initial research was made possible by a personal gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who early expressed his interest in the program of the Marshall Foundation.
Among the stipulations laid down by General Marshall as a basis for his cooperation were: (1) that the selection of the project director be made by the board of directors of the Foundation without reference to him for comment or concurrence and (2) that any funds accruing from sale of publications based on his statements or his personal papers should remain with the Foundation. The author was selected to conduct the interviews on the basis of his experience as a combat historian in World War II and later as a member of the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army. The interviews with General
Marshall were made in 1956 and 1957. These recollections, while incomplete, have supplied invaluable material on his childhood and on his early life as a soldier. Fresh in his mind after fifty years were the impressions he gained from visiting the sites of the French and Indian War battles fought within a few miles
of his birthplace in Pennsylvania, and the impact made by the examples of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. His vivid stories re-creating his experiences as a young lieutenant in the Philippines in 1902, on a mapping expedition in Texas in 1904, as a staff officer in World War I, and as a regimental officer during civil war in China help us understand the history of his times as well as his own development as a soldier.
The author has also drawn heavily on the files of the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the memories and private papers of General Marshall’s associates, for the expansion of the General’s personal narrative. Reports, sketch maps, maneuver outlines, battle plans, and correspondence furnished a rich store
of material for this biography. As a result, we get new light on such leaders as former Secretary of War Baker, General Pershing, General Dawes, General Craig, Secretary of War Woodring, Harry Hopkins, and President Roosevelt. Especially interesting is the new material on the Army’s role in the development of
the Civilian Conservation Corps, the facts concerning the so-called Marshall-MacArthur feud, the background of General Marshall’s selection as Chief of Staff, and the early relationship between General Marshall and President Roosevelt.
In graphic language drawn from General Marshall’s written and spoken comments we learn of our lack of preparations for World War I and the prodigious task the Army faced in getting units ready for battle in France. His first-hand analyses give new perspective to the battles of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne
and to the controversial race for Sedan. Through the pages of this book we follow the ups and downs of the Army in the period between wars and sense the frustrations and disappointments faced by many officers in that era. General Marshall, we find, was one of those who continued to build the best units he could for
the day when they might be needed. The book should be an inspiration not only for young soldiers but for men in any field who may at times believe that their work is unappreciated and that there is no purpose in continuing to do their best.
As a soldier during part of the period here discussed, and as a long-time associate of General Marshall, I have been forcibly impressed by the significant information on the Army in the
years 1900-1939 and the perceptive insight into the training and character of General Marshall shown in this book. It will be a revelation for every soldier and every student of the period. For all who admire General Marshall, it is this book which best tells his story.
Education of a General catches the true spirit of General Marshall. His soldierly firmness, his intelligence, and his humanity show through the pages. The author makes clear that the General, far from being a cold, impersonal individual, showed friendliness and great consideration for others. Numerous anecdotes illustrate his paternal feeling for those who served under him and the great devotion which he gave to members of his family. Far from confining itself to a recital of soldierly activities, the book is concerned with the personal life of the man. As a result, the reader can glimpse a picture of General Marshall previously known to only a few intimate friends.
As a result of General Marshall’s reluctance to write his memoirs, and scarcity of material for a biography, we have lacked up to now an adequate study of him. This comprehensive and authoritative account admirably fills that gap for his formative years. It is expected that the forthcoming volumes on the war years and the postwar years will do the same for the later periods of his life.