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Speech at Uniontown Homecoming1
September 9, 1939 Uniontown, Pennsylvania
. . . The life of a man reflects the impressions of youthful surroundings, and this has been my personal experience. My first great emotional reaction came, I believe, with the parade of old Company C of the 10th Pennsylvania regiment of infantry, on its return with the honors of war from a campaign in the far-off Philippine Islands.2 Few of us had ever heard of the Philippines until that year. We had heard of manila rope, but we did not know where Manila was; and when this fine old regiment left Western Pennsylvania for San Francisco, to sail across the broad Pacific and carry the flag ashore in distant Manila, it had a broadening effect, geographically, on the inhabitants of Fayette County. Later on, in the spring of 1899, when the cables arrived describing the fighting in which some young men well-known to us were mentioned for conspicuous courage and others were reported as casualties, local interest grew intense. I have sometimes thought that the impressions of that period, and particularly of that parade, had a determining effect on my choice of a profession.
It was a wonderful scene, that parade. The bricks of Main Street were painted red, white, and blue, and triumphal arches erected in every block—there was even an arch of coke constructed by the Frick Company. And when the head of the procession finally appeared, the individual excitement surpassed, as I recall, even that of the splendid so called Victory parades of 1919 in Paris and London, in which I participated as an Aide to General Pershing.
No man of Company C could make a purchase in this community. The town was his. He had but to command and his desires were gratified—a medal for every soldier and a sword for each officer. And there was a final jubilation at the Fair Grounds. It was a grand American small town demonstration of pride in its young men and of wholesome enthusiasm over their achievements. Years later most of us realized that it was much more than that. It reflected the introduction of America into the affairs of the world beyond the seas. . . .
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. This speech was delivered when Marshall visited Uniontown shortly after his promotion to army chief of staff on September 1, 1939. Marshall wrote on the file copy of this speech: “Only a portion of this—approximately was used.” About twenty percent of this speech is printed here. The omitted parts include a brief introduction as well as recollections of his early career, his poor scholastic record, the historical importance of the Uniontown area in early American history, and the problems of the current (1939) world situation.
2. The Uniontown parade was on August 29, 1899.
Recommended Citation: The Papers 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. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 8-9.