General George C. Marshall’s retirement as chief of staff of the U.S. Army following the conclusion of World War II marked the last time, as a military officer, that he led and oversaw soldiers engaged in direct combat. As a civilian serving as secretary of state, Marshall played a critical role in blocking Soviet expansion into Western Europe by skillfully employing the economic superiority of the United States through the Marshall Plan. When Marshall was appointed secretary of defense, he was in the unique position of serving in a civilian capacity while also overseeing the entire U. S. armed forces.
Marshall saw parallels between the new, complex global problems of the Cold War and his past experiences as both a military and civilian leader, and he relied on the approaches he had successfully employed in the past when deciding on the best response to current challenges. Despite only playing a direct role at the beginning of the Cold War, the actions that Marshall took and the views he expressed had a substantial influence on U.S. foreign policy throughout the decades-long conflict.
“It is unlikely that one hundred million Russians will succeed in holding down permanently, in addition to their own minorities, some ninety millions of Europeans with a higher cultural level and with long experience in resistance to foreign rule.” – Resume of the World Situation, November 7, 1947
Marshall Legacy Series Exhibit
Our latest exhibit, The Cold War is on display through June 2019 in our lower gallery.