George C. Marshall, who distinguished himself with his service in France during World War I but is better-known as the commander of United States forces during the Second World War and the author of the Marshall Plan, is born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on this day in 1880.
Marshall, who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, was first commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1902 and served in the Philippines and other locations before eventually being promoted to captain in the summer of 1918, after the U.S. entry into World War I. He served with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France as an operations officer of the First Division and participated in the battles of Cantigny, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.
After the war, Marshall served as a top aide to General John J. Pershing and continued to move up the ranks. He earned his full general status in 1939 and became chief of staff and the country’s top military leader during World War II, when he centralized the leadership of the military in the chief-of-staff’s office and was generally recognized as one of the principal architects of the winning Allied strategy.
Marshall retired from military life after the war, but began an active career in diplomacy, serving as secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman for two years beginning in January 1947. In the spring of 1947, in a speech at Harvard University, Marshall outlined a plan for U.S. economic aid to a devastated Europe, stating that It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. The famous Marshall Plan, as it became known, offered an unprecedented amount of aid to Europe to assist in its post-war reconstruction. In 1953, Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of this work. He died six years later.