General Marshall and Private Martin: Two Perspectives on D-Day

D-Day veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin will recount his exploits as a member of the 101st Airborne Division during the D-Day invasion of France in June 1944. VMI Lt. Col. Brad Coleman will frame the discussion by presenting the view from Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall’s office.

Their presentation “General Marshall and Private Martin: Two Perspectives on D-Day” begins at 1:00 pm on June 17 in the Pogue Auditorium at the Marshall Foundation in Lexington.

On June 6, 1944, one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history took place on the beaches of Normandy, France. This operation was made possible as a result of the efforts of Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, who had strongly advocated for a cross-channel attack as the most effective strategy for defeating Nazi Germany.

Private Martin was one of the more than 350,000 Allied servicemen who contributed to the operation’s success when he landed with the 101st Airborne Division behind Utah Beach in the early hours of June 6th. This unique program will offer new insights into D-Day from the perspective of its chief architect as well as a soldier who experienced it firsthand.

Martin joined the now famous 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa in July 1942. He parachuted into Normandy on June 6, 1944, jumped into Holland during Operation Market Garden and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. Martin is one of the last remaining “Toccoa Originals” of 1942 (made famous by the HBO mini-series, “Band of Brothers”) who is still traveling, meeting the public and carrying forward an eyewitness account of his unit’s experiences.

Lt. Col. Bradley Coleman is director of the John Adams Center for Military History at the Virginia Military Institute. He teaches in the history department and recently developed a course on George C. Marshall, who was a VMI graduate.

Reservations for this event are required by calling Leigh McFaddin at 540-463-7103, ext. 138 or by email to Seating will be first come, first served. Members and students will be admitted free; non-members will pay $15 at the door.

Guests are invited to see the new exhibition, “Six Degrees of Marshall,” in the Lower Gallery that evening. The exhibition uses an infographic to connect Marshall to people and programs important to both world wars.

The individuals who led in World War II—Marshall, Patton, MacArthur, Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman, among others—were involved in World War I. Their direct involvement in the first war informed their leadership and the decisions they made in the second. Marshall evolved from a battle planner and logistics genius into a global military strategist drawing on the knowledge and experience of coalition warfare and fighting on a global scale. As chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War II, he operated both at the head of the US military and behind the scenes, establishing his reputation as the “organizer of victory” and as an indispensable man of World War II.

The exhibition Six Degrees of Marshall not only maps out Marshall’s connections to individuals who shaped him but those he selected to lead during World War II. The exhibition also features artifacts on loan from the MacArthur Memorial, General George S. Patton’s engraved pistol from the Virginia Military Institute Museum, a D-Day map carried ashore by Gen. Leonard Gerow, and World War I artifacts from the Marshall Museum’s own collection.

This event is a part of the Marshall Legacy Series and is being presented with sponsorship from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
The George C. Marshall Legacy Series interprets General Marshall’s legacy during a four-year series of exhibitions, speakers and programs centered on key themes or episodes from General Marshall’s career.