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Secretary of War’s Remarks to General Marshall on V-E Day
Memorandum for Colonel McCarthy from Colonel Kyle1
May 8, 1945 Washington, D.C.
Following are the remarks as near as I can recall as stated by Mr. Stimson:
“I want to acknowledge my great personal debt to you, sir, in common with the whole country. No one who is thinking of himself can rise to true heights. You have never thought of yourself. Seldom can a man put aside such a thing as being the Commanding General of the greatest field army in our history. This decision was made by you for wholly unselfish reasons.2 But you have made your position as Chief of Staff a greater one. I have never seen a task of such magnitude performed by man.
It is rare in late life to make new friends; at my age it is a slow process but there is no one for whom I have such deep respect and I think greater affection.
I have seen a great many soldiers in my lifetime and you, sir, are the finest soldier I have ever known.
It is fortunate for this country that we have you in this position because this war cuts deeper into the eternal verities than any other.
We have reached the milepost at the first half of this war. I may not live to see the end of the war with Japan but I pray that you do.”3
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed memorandum.
1. On May 8, 1945 (V-E Day), Secretary of War Stimson called General Marshall into his office, where the leaders of the General Staff had gathered. “Then placing Marshall in the center,” Stimson wrote, “I told him in a few words of the debt of gratitude which I felt we all owed to him for the victory announced this day and my own strong personal feelings for his unselfishness, integrity, and ability. He responded with about two sentences and the thing was over, but no meeting was ever held where the sentiment was more unanimous.” (May 8, 1945, Yale/H. L. Stimson Papers [Diary, 51: 106-7].)
“The Secretary had forbidden us to have his remarks recorded,” stated Colonel Frank McCarthy. Three days after the event, Colonel William H. Kyle, Secretary Stimson’s aide, presented the following memorandum to McCarthy. (McCarthy Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, May 24, 1945; Kyle Memorandum for Colonel McCarthy, May 11, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
2. Stimson was referring to General Marshall’s meeting with President Roosevelt in Cairo in December 1943, when the question of who would be designated Supreme Allied Commander of the European theater (and commander of OVERLORD) was decided. See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-165 [4: 195].
3. “Mr. Secretary you have paid me the finest tribute I could ever receive,” replied Marshall. “You have been a buttress of integrity and resolute determination behind me. I am deeply grateful.” (General Marshall’s Reply [undated], attached to Kyle Memorandum for Colonel McCarthy, May 11, 1945, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)
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. 5, “The Finest Soldier,” January 1, 1945-January 7, 1947 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 171.