4-226 Remarks by General Marshall at American Legion Dinner, February 3, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 3, 1944

Subject: World War II

Remarks by General Marshall at American Legion Dinner at the Mayflower Hotel1


February 3, 1944 Washington, D.C.

In the few minutes at my disposal tonight my remarks are addressed to you veterans who are familiar with the demands of battle and with the reactions of soldiers in campaign.

Last fall at Omaha I spoke to you of the gathering of our great reserves in preparation for a series of tremendous blows against the enemy all over the world.2 Today this is well under way and at the present moment the initial blows are being struck against Germany from the air, on the beachhead near Rome where very hard fighting is to be expected, against the Marshall Islands and in the western Pacific and out of the air over China. These are but preliminaries to the general onslaught which will step the Allied effort into high gear.

For the time being the heaviest concentration of ground and air forces will be in the European theater, though a steady stream of reinforcements flows into the Pacific. The great battles which are impending will decide the course of civilization. The energy and spirit of the assaults will determine the duration of the war and therefore the ultimate cost in casualties and war expenditures.

In the European theater American troops will for the first time face the full power of the German Army. I have no fears whatsoever regarding the ability of the American soldier to meet the situation. Our men are well trained. They are now well disciplined. Many of the soldiers are battle-tested veterans. No Army is better equipped. The troops are an inspiration to their commanders. I do not mean that we will not have troubles and reverses. These are inevitable in large operations, unless the hostile forces are disintegrating. We must expect desperate resistance by the German Army up to the moment the German people throw off the yoke of the Gestapo.

The destruction of German industrial cities is proceeding at a constantly increasing pace despite winter weather and heavy overcasts. Between the RAF night bombardment and the American daylight precision bombing, the people of Germany are experiencing the horrors of a war, for which they are responsible, to a degree never before approximated in modern times. Berlin, by far their largest city, is now a shambles. The destruction of other smaller targets will require much less time. More than 2,000 U. S. heavy bombers are now being directed against the heart of Germany, with appropriate diversions into Austria and the Balkans, and the number will steadily increase.

In the Pacific the Japanese have had unusually heavy air and ship losses during the last six months. In the past few days they have suffered an expert demonstration of the overwhelming air and sea power which is rapidly developing in the Pacific and the perfect teamwork of our landing parties.

The operation in the Marshalls is the first assault on the strongholds which the enemy has been constructing for the past twenty-five years. The fact that the operations have been quickly successful, and were carried out without heavy losses is an indication of what is to come as our forces in the south and southwest Pacific close in with our fleet on the Jap defenses.

In the United States the combat units have reached a high state of efficiency as they move to the base ports for shipment overseas.

In brief, the Allied avalanche is at last in motion, and it will gather headway with each succeeding month. What is now required is the ardent support of our forces by the people at home. I am not referring merely to the production of equipment or to the purchase of bonds, but rather to the need of a stern resolution on the part of the whole people of the United States to make every sacrifice that will contribute to the victory. The soldiers must feel that the home folk—east, west, on the plains and in the mountains—are completely united in their determination to see this thing throughout to an overwhelming victory in the shortest possible time.

I speak with an emphasis that I believe is pardonable in one who has a terrible responsibility for the lives of many men, because I feel that here at home we are not yet facing the realities of war, the savage, desperate conditions of the battlefronts. Vehement protests I am receiving against our use of flame fighters do not indicate an understanding of the meaning of our dead on the beaches at Tarawa. Objections to this or that restriction are inconsistent with the devoted sacrifices of our troops.

The recent release of the atrocities committed against our prisoners by the Japanese generates a storm of anger and protest. This is a natural reaction. The situation, however, demands a determination which will divorce the individual from his own selfish weaknesses and ulterior motives. Our soldiers must be keenly conscious that the full strength of the nation is behind them, they must not go into battle puzzled or embittered over disputes at home which adversely affect the war effort.3 Our small sacrifices should be personal even more than financial. They should be proof positive that we never forget for a moment that the soldier has been compelled to leave his family, to give up his business, and to hazard his life in our service.

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

Document Format: Typed draft.

1. Marshall’s remarks were broadcast over the radio.

2. See Marshall Notes for Talk to American Legion, September 21, 1943, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-112 [4: 131-34].

3. Concerning U.S. domestic problems, see Marshall Memorandum for Justice Byrnes, January 5, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-200 [4: 234-35].

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. 263-265.

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