The Marshall Papers
World War II and the early Cold War period of the 1940s are particularly popular with students and scholars. Because of the roles played by their subject, the Marshall Papers are particularly valuable sources for the study of political and military decisions made during this era. George C. Marshall was Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army (and its air forces) between September 1, 1939, and November 20, 1945; Special Ambassador seeking to mediate the civil war in China (November 27, 1945–January 7, 1947); Secretary of State (January 20, 1947–January 20, 1949); and Secretary of Defense (September 20, 1950–September 15, 1951).
Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1953, in part for his 1947–48 work of initiating and convincing Americans to fund the “Marshall Plan” (European Recovery Program, 1948–52). This program, which many scholars consider one of America’s most successful foreign policy initiatives, periodically resurfaces when latter-day politicians propose a Marshall Plan to solve some new problem. For example, when President George W. Bush proposed a Marshall Plan for Iraq, the papers editors were bombarded with requests from reporters for information about the 1948-51 program.
The growing movement in primary and secondary education to highlight positive role models and to emphasize public service and ethical leadership has resulted in growing interest in Marshall among teachers at those levels. Marshall is often considered an unalloyed hero, and teachers desire to know more about him.
Three distinguished historians have given their opinions of the importance of the Marshall Papers project. Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., wrote: “This is a project of major significance, for George Marshall was one of the most significant figures in the history of the twentieth century. These volumes will help to give a clear picture of the man, his style and personality, his unique traits and idiosyncrasies.” Norman C. Graebner observed that “the Marshall Papers comprise basic material that any student of recent American military or diplomatic history must use." And Russell F. Weigley commented: “As the single most influential American military chieftain of the Second World War and the usually dominant member of the wartime Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marshall contributed more than any other man to the transformation of the United States Army from the force still shaped by its Indian-fighting days to a powerful military instrument bearing global responsibilities. . . . This collection will be a rich source for scholars.”