4-604 Remarks Before Pennsylvania Society, December 9, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 9, 1944

Subject: World War II

Remarks Before Pennsylvania Society1

December 9, 1944 New York, New York

I am deeply moved by the honor conferred by the award of the Gold Medal of the Pennsylvania Society. I need hardly say in this company that there is a special pride which goes with the fortunate accident of being born in Pennsylvania. However far afield the career of a man may take him in this world, it is the respect of his home people that means most to him. To earn your approval is a very great honor, indeed, and one that is highly appreciated.

The life of a soldier leaves little opportunity to call any place home for long. Since I left Fayette County in the fall of 1897 to enter Virginia Military Institute, I have seldom had the opportunity to break bread in Pennsylvania. My school vacations were few and brief, entirely confined in those days to July and August when my family as a rule was away from home. On graduation I accepted a position in Virginia and shortly thereafter was commissioned in the Army and sailed immediately for the Philippines. Thereafter for many years my duties and stations were invariably west of the Mississippi and my first and only post in the East prior to the first World War was in New England. No military assignment has ever given me the good fortune of a station in Pennsylvania. Yet I venture to say that there is no one here tonight who has a stronger feeling of pride in its beauty and richness and power.

During my boyhood there were a number of things with which I was familiar that left an indelible impression on my mind. The countryside where I lived had all the beauty of rich, rolling country and nearby mountains. I was always fond of the open field and spent a great deal of my free time fishing and hunting, and it was here and not in school—I regret to say—that I first came into contact with history which later led me into careful searches after the facts of great events which impinged on the soil of Pennsylvania and which deeply affected the history of the world.

The pheasant or grouse we hunted in those days frequented the glades in the forests and mountains and it was along the trace of the Braddock Trail that I often hunted for these birds. My fishing took me to the vicinity of Jumonville’s grave, where the shot fired by Washington’s small reconnaissance party set the flame which swept all over the continent of Europe in a prolonged war, which thus had its beginning in the remote forest of southwestern Pennsylvania. The spring where Nemacolin was supposed to have met Washington was along the route of my expeditions in the vicinity of Dunbar’s camp, a bald knob where Colonel Dunbar of Braddock’s command ignominiously buried his ammunition and retired to Philadelphia, leaving the western frontier at the mercy of the French and Indians.2 All of these associations stimulated my interest, first, as a boy, in what actually had happened and later, as a man, in just why it happened and what might have been done to change to better advantage the course of human progress in this turbulent world.

My school teachers bored me to death with dates and dry facts, even regarding as fascinating and unique a character as Benjamin Franklin. It was not until years later that I became aware of the character and courage of William Penn in defying the trend of his times and risking the vengeance of the King in his, Penn’s efforts to raise the standard and opportunities of life for all men. Aside from the fact that Benjamin Franklin wandered through the streets of Philadelphia a poor boy and later gained wealth by frugality and industry and finally world fame by his scientific investigations, highlighted by his kite and key in the thunderstorm, aside from the casual interest this aroused in my mind, I absorbed little or nothing at that time of the lessons to be learned. I was more bored than impressed.

In these present days I find much food for reflection and lessons for my guidance in the methods and role of Franklin during the critical periods of the Colonies and the newly created United States of America. His life gives some excellent illustrations of how to meet some of the many problems of unity of command, of convincing citizens of the necessity for organizing in time of peace for the home defense. His diplomatic experiences furnish many guides that might be extremely useful to our representatives today, particularly when in the stress of circumstances one’s judgment is apt to be warped either by lack of perspective for the moment or temper arising from the profound irritations of such occasions.

The wilderness of Pennsylvania was the University which in a large measure qualified Washington for his great role in the years to come. During the most formative years of his life he received a beautifully rounded education in the art and problems of command and leadership, in the difficulties, the negotiations and the seeming impossibilities, at times, of securing desperately needed support from the authorities and the people whom he represented. It is possible I think, that we might never have had a Washington to lead the Colonies into the crystallization of this Government without the gruelling experiences he passed through as a very young man which involved almost every problem of a commander, including even the surrender of his forces.

Incidentally, I have long felt that much more could be done for the preparation of our young people to be intelligent citizens in a democracy such as ours, if the teachers of history in our grammar and high schools—and possibly our colleges—devoted more time to cause and effect than to dates and the dry chronology of events.3 Certainly they bored me to death in my youth, though I must admit I was very easily bored on all school subjects, but I do think I could easily have been fascinated by the events and meaning of the history of southwestern Pennsylvania during those days when the power of England and France was at stake and the future of the United States of America was our goal.

I should much prefer to talk tonight exclusively about the Pennsylvania I knew as a boy and some of the daring deeds and complex tragedies of those days, but I have been asked to make some comments on the progress of the war which I shall endeavor to do, but of necessity very briefly:

* * * * * *

As we approach the climax of the war in Europe there has been a tendency to assume that our current operations in the Pacific have reached the size of a full-scale offensive against the Japanese. There was a time when it was frequently said and with considerable feeling that only a trickle of supplies was being sent into the Pacific. There was much of criticism at the time because of our alleged failure to initiate important operations in the Far East, and it now seems to me that when we are engaged in a formidable campaign, the fact that this has been planned and has been carried on over a considerable period is being somewhat overlooked.

It has always been the view of the Chiefs of Staff that this war must be accepted as a whole and not as two separate conflicts. We must therefore in our strategy plan for blows which would be most rewarding at the time to the overall result. In warfare your objective is the annihilation of the enemy’s military forces, and it is usually obligatory to eliminate the strongest or closest, especially if one enemy appears to be both of these, as is the case with Germany.

There were of course many factors which I have not time to discuss tonight, though it should be obvious to all that large scale offensives could not be undertaken in the Pacific until the Navy construction program had had time to reinforce our crippled Fleet.

While we were engaged in the most formidable offensive the world has ever seen, that in the European theater, we were quietly amassing the striking power to launch an invasion of the Philippines. The forces, military, air and naval, assembled for the assault on Leyte were second only to those of the Normandy operation and far exceeded them in actual naval power. As a matter of fact, the war in the Pacific is approximately 6 months ahead of schedule at the present time.

The problems of supply in the Pacific are even more staggering than those in Europe; approximately 3 ships are required to perform the task which one will do in the Atlantic and each operation has to be continually supported by far-flung units.

The total tonnage required in the present state of this global war is beyond ordinary comprehension. The amount of ammunition and equipment consumed in the tremendous scale of the fighting today is appalling, and the demands are daily on the increase.

When it comes to casualties we are daily confronted with the bitter human cost of this great struggle. We do not have the destroyed homes of England or daily casualties among our peaceful civil population as they do; but because of our expanding battlefront our military casualties are steadily increasing.

And right here I should like to make this point, the soundness of which seems to have been questioned in a recent printed discussion of the efficiency of the Army in France. It is our intention to utilize ammunition and planes and other materiel to the very limit of availability in order to reduce casualties. We intend to call on the American people for all the ammunition our artillery can fire if it will in any way reduce the casualties as well as expedite the progress of our offensives towards the final victory. Any other policy to my mind is unthinkable. That we should enjoy a high standard of living, high wages, and comforts here at home and begrudge ammunition in France to those men in the mud and sleet and rain, just could not be the desire of the American people. War is necessarily appalling and wasteful but we are determined that the waste in this case shall be in materiel and not in human lives so far as our Armies are concerned.

The great battles now in progress must be kept going, every front must be kept blazing until we break the Nazi control of the German Army and people. They must have no avoidable respite. They are doomed men, fighting for time, regardless of the effect on the lives of their people. They hope to hold us in check until the heavy weather of a north European winter makes lifesaving tank operations and air support largely impracticable. They must not be given an hour of relaxation, regardless of the difficulty of our problem. We must not permit our Armies to suffer the rapidly accumulating casualties which result from a stalemate with its daily attrition. Far better to accept heavy casualties for a brief period than the much greater total which inevitably accumulates from the daily attrition of prolonged periods of inactivity on a battlefront.

We are now facing another problem which will grow more difficult day by day and that is the demand in supplies for the people of those countries our advances free from Nazi domination. I can best illustrate the difficulty of the problem by telling you, and most confidentially, that we are short in shipping all over the world because of the vast forces that we must daily maintain overseas and the tremendous extent of active operations along almost 2000 miles of British, American and French front in Europe and in the Far East. At the same time we are under daily urgent demands for shipping to transport relief supplies and it so happened the other morning that the demand for Italy of a certain number of sailings per month exactly to a ship equalled the shortage in the Pacific of sailings in a month. I was at the time endeavoring to find some solution to the Pacific shortage in order that our scheduled operations could go ahead according to the agreed upon dates but here was another pressure to double that shortage for the people of Italy. The latter consideration will undoubtedly appeal to your humanitarian instincts which are typical of those of the American people, but when you translate the delay in the Pacific into the increased loss of American lives, not to mention billions, by the lengthening of the war, even more than the arithmetical delay because of the loss of momentum involved and the better opportunity for the Japanese to prepare for the next stroke, then what is your decision? Problems of this nature are pressing us every day and in increasing number and it must be always remembered that the man on the ground in the particular place sees his problem but probably does not translate its solution into the loss of American lives in some other part of the world.

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. An organization of prominent Pennsylvanians living in New York, the Pennsylvania Society presented Marshall with its Gold Medal at the meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. At the top of a copy of his speech, Marshall wrote “used in part only.”

2. In the spring of 1754, George Washington—at times assisted by an Iroquois chief the British called Half-King—led a 159-man Virginia expedition to secure the colony’s claim to the Forks of the Ohio (modern Pittsburgh), but they discovered that the French had already erected Fort Duquesne on the spot. Washington led a force which attacked a party of French soldiers; one of the ten Frenchmen killed was the group’s leader, Joseph Coulton, Sieur de Jumonville. In response, the French sent a force of 800 Frenchmen and 400 Indians to defeat Washington, who erected a small stockade called Fort Necessity, approximately ten miles southeast of the site of Marshall’s childhood home of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The battle developed on July 3, 1754, and Washington was soon forced to surrender. The next year, two regiments of British regulars plus some colonial militia were led by General Edward Braddock to capture Fort Duquesne; the force was ambushed and defeated near their goal on July 9, 1755. Braddock was wounded and died during the retreat; he is buried near the site of Fort Necessity. (James Thomas Flexner, Washington: The Indispensable Man [Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974], pp. 11, 15-17, 23-26.)

3. For example, see Marshall’s 1923 speech to the Headmasters Association and his 1939 speech to the joint meeting of the American Military Institute and the American Historical Association in Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-196 [1:219-22], and #2-094 [2: 123-27].

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. 687-692.

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