“Warfare today is a thing of swift movement—of rapid concentrations. It requires the building up of enormous fire power against successive objectives with breathtaking speed. It is not a game for the unimaginative plodder.” — Gen. George C. Marshall addressing graduates of first Army Officer Candidate School in September 1941
Speed and Fury explores the technological advances in vehicles and other equipment produced during World War II that substantially increased the speed of warfare. Airplanes and tanks were used in World War I, but their effectiveness and their role in military operations were greatly expanded in World War II. The war was also responsible for the development of the Jeep, a vehicle that Marshall helped bring from obscurity to one of the most effective and iconic vehicles of the war. New developments in communications including walkie-talkies vastly increased the speed with which information could be transmitted and how orders would be communicated. The advances in equipment and technology available to the Army influenced strategy and tactics.
The Jeep, one of the iconic images of World War II, may have not been produced if it had not been for General Marshall. Secretary of the Army General Staff, Walter Bedell Smith, came into Marshall’s office to tell him about the excellence of a vehicle the inventor was having difficulty convincing the Quartermaster Corps, Field Artillery, and Air Corps to take an interest in. Marshall told Smith to order 15 Jeeps for testing and then had to order the commanders of these branches to perform the tests. Shortly afterwards the commander of the Tank Corps asked for 38,000 Jeeps, and demand continued to increase. By the end of World War II, more than 650,000 Jeeps had been produced, and the Jeep remained in use by the Army during the Korean and Vietnam wars. The modern replacement is the Humvee, another iconic vehicle.
During World War I, George C. Marshall witnessed airplanes carrying guns, dropping bombs, and performing reconnaissance. At the time the coordination of air operations with troop movements was minimal. As the number and type of airplanes increased, the Army used airplanes to support the operations of the army fighting on the ground.
Marshall recognized the tremendous value that airplanes could provide and was an early supporter of developing a robust air program. Marshall’s contributions helped the United States build a vast air force with unparalleled strength in World War II.
Early in World War II, the strength of the U.S. mechanized forces was limited. Most of the tanks were fast but not well armed or armored. After the fall of France in 1940, the U.S. General Staff studied the tactics of a superior German tank corps and devised new strategies. In early 1941, General George C. Marshall developed a theory of a mobile “tank destroyer” force, which would become units equipped with fast and well-armed combat vehicles. These units would also permit regular tanks to fulfill their original role: exploiting breakthroughs in the front lines and causing chaos in the rear areas. Support from Marshall and others resulted in the formation of the Tank Destroyer Center at Fort Meade. The combat debut of the new vehicle took place in December 1941 against Japanese forces in the Philippines. After design changes were incorporated, the new tank destroyer was standardized under the designation “M3 GMC.” It was used in North Africa during Operation “Torch” as well as in the Pacific theater where its cannon was used as a “bunker-buster.”