New Book Explores General’s Stint As Secretary Of Defense

New Book Explores General’s Stint As Secretary Of Defense

Everyone who lives in or near Lexington knows who Gen. George Marshall is.

But if you did not know that the general of the Army, who became secretary of state and author of the Marshall Plan, also served as secretary of defense at the end of his career, you would not be alone. For most people, his story ends with the Marshall Plan, and there has not been a biography dedicated to George Marshall in his final official role until now. Wayne Thompson, a long-time resident of Lexington, taught politics at the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. He was invited to write the first book exclusively devoted to Marshall’s last official assignment as secretary of defense and given access to the Marshall Foundation’s papers and records. Over the next several years of hard work, this study came together and the published book will be released in September.

Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson

The story begins in January 1949, when the 68-year-old Gen. George C. Marshall stepped down as secretary of state, exhausted from a decade of service with only three weeks of time away from the jobs. His first retirement, in November 1945, lasted exactly one day before he was called back into service by President Truman and sent to China.

Truman called on Marshall in January 1947 to become secretary of state and he returned home to become the key actor in U.S. foreign policy. For two years he worked on reshaping Europe with what became known as the Marshall Plan.

In January 1949, he returned to his home in Leesburg for a second attempt at retirement. President Truman called on Marshall again in October to serve as chairman of the American Red Cross. He accepted the position, put his traveling shoes back on, and crisscrossed America, totaling 35,000 miles on planes, trains and automobiles in one year. Before that year was over, on the 4th of July, Truman made a personal visit to Marshall at his Leesburg home to ask him to consider serving his country again. Marshall did not agree to a new post right away.

The Korean conflict erupted in June 1950, a year after the U.S. had withdrawn its troops. It was the first time the brand-new United Nations would defend a member nation. President Truman appointed General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, then commander of the Allied occupation forces in Japan, to lead an allied army made up of troops sent from 17 nations to defend South Korea.

The opportunity to retire continued to evade George Marshall. In September 1950, General Marshall, as he was called by everyone, left his office at the American Red Cross and was driven across the Potomac River to the Pentagon to be sworn into his new post as secretary of defense.

“A General’s Last Call” is underwritten and produced by Mariner Publishing, a division of Mainer Media, in Buena Vista. Over the years, the company has published or republished five other biographic works on Marshall for the George C Marshall Foundation. “A General’s Last Call” is available to pre-order from Mariner Media.


Source: The News-Gazette Arts & Entertainment

Originally published August 12, 2020.