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Speech to the Salvation Army1
February 26, 1940 New York, New York
Miracles of this world seem to be associated exclusively with the remote past, but tonight we have an opportunity to congratulate the Salvation Army upon the accomplishment of a modern miracle. Sixty years ago a single official of this great Army of peace and mercy landed in New York, armed with a beneficent purpose and firm determination to invade America, to spread the influence of the Salvation Army the length and breadth of this country. The proportions of this plan seemed beyond the realm of possibility. Nevertheless, they have been realized.
I believe there has always existed among professional soldiers a special regard for men and women of the Salvation Army. We understand and can fully appreciate their standards of loyalty and discipline, and their complete devotion to duty. They have a special claim upon the affections of the veterans of the American Expeditionary Forces of 1917 and 1918. On behalf of those veterans of the Army in general, I salute and congratulate the Salvation Army on its sixtieth American birthday.
My initial contact with that Army occurred on an evening in July of 1917 in my billet in Gondrecourt, France. Its first representative to join the American Expeditionary Forces spent the evening with me, talking over the possibilities of serving our troops.2
I recall that he described conditions in England and the work the Salvation Army was engaged in with the British Army;—the difficulties encountered, and what had been accomplished. He told me what his people hoped to do for the American troops. How well they succeeded is too generally known to require further reference by me.
The American soldier has a keen eye for both sham and sincerity. The soldier in France instantly recognized physical and mental courage when he saw it, and he reacted quickly to the calm, untheatrical acceptance of danger, of discomfort and fatigue which distinguished all ranks of the Salvation Army. The contribution of this devoted band of workers to the morale of our soldiers at the front will never be forgotten.
A few years after the war, I accompanied General Pershing to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and there for the first time had the honor and the good fortune to meet your great leader Evangeline Booth. I heard her deliver a powerful and moving address.3 Her charm of personality, her intensity of benevolent purpose, and her outstanding ability as a leader of people, marked her apart as one of the great figures of this country and of the world at large.
I have been reminded that Miss Booth’s father was approached in Paris by a General of the French Army who said to him—“General Booth, you are not an Englishman—you belong to humanity,” and I am rather proud that a member of the military profession is credited with such discernment. What was true of the father has been equally true of the daughter. The citation with which our Government awarded her The Distinguished Service Medal does only partial justice to her great contribution of those war years. Evangeline Booth today represents the pinnacle of womanhood, among those whose contribution to humanity is of supreme importance to this distracted world.
I have been referring to the Salvation Army in war, but there are crises in peace as well as in war. We have been passing through a crisis where lack of food, of clothing, and of shelter were the enemies. As the government mobilized to meet these formidable opponents it found the Salvation Army, as usual, in the front line struggling against the tragedies and disabilities of the poor and needy.
The blue and red uniform is no mere decoration. Its wearers ask for no individual reward for their labors. They accept the unselfish satisfaction of a life devoted to the service of others. They subject themselves to rigid military discipline. They receive orders and carry them out unquestioningly. Some years ago during an emergency in this city the Salvation Army was suddenly called upon to feed a large number of hungry men. Within four hours eight large stations had been established in widely separated localities and were dispensing food. That is efficiency which soldiers can understand and admire.
Every official of our armed forces recognizes the tremendous moral value represented by the thousands of trained and devoted Salvation Army officers and soldiers deployed in more than 1,800 centers throughout this country. This benevolent army is a loyal and invaluable part of our system of National Defense. As a factor for maintaining morale, it is a great and positive asset to the National Defense.
May the Salvationists of this country continue in their cultivation of the gentle arts of peace, but since they are practical men and women they doubtless agree with Dean Inge’s forceful remark that it does little good for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism unless the wolves are also voting that way. Today we are forced to think in terms of total war—the process of marshaling every mental, moral and material resource within a nation to meet a threat to national existence, in forms of government. We face a tragic world, but like a silver lining to the dark clouds is the concept of lasting peace, when men’s minds will be directed to homes and firesides, to farms and industry; to the time when nations will be striving to improve the lot of their citizens within their own resources, and not at the expense of neighbors. Among those few groups qualified, by conviction and faith, to keep alive this cherished hope of total peace, the Salvation Army stands preeminent. To me, it is a genuine rallying point for democracy at home. For it commands the whole-hearted support of men and women who stand at opposite poles on almost every other question in life. It has proved its devotion to the needs and sufferings of men and women of all nations, of all colors and creeds, and on every occasion both in peace and in time of war.
There is a military etiquette which governs the formal salute of one army to another, and in my opinion the Salvation Army and its great commander rate the full twenty-one guns of international respect.
And now, by way of supplement to the formal remarks which I have just read, may I add a rather personal conclusion: for almost three hours this afternoon I was before the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, answering questions regarding proposals for the expenditure of hundreds of millions for National Defense; I came directly from the Committee Room to the train and to New York and to this dinner, and I would like to make the comment, that although it was very much my business and my great responsibility to urge the expenditure of large sums of money to guarantee our national security in this chaotic world, yet for that very reason, it is now a profound relief and a great satisfaction to me to participate in this gathering to honor and assist this other army, which has for its sole purpose that which appeals to the heart and generous instincts of all mankind.
General Booth, I envy you your beneficent mission.4
Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Speeches, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Typed draft.
1. Marshall delivered this address at a Hotel Pierre banquet marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Salvation Army in London by William Booth, the sixtieth anniversary of the arrival of the Army’s first commissioned officer in the United States, and the opening of the Army’s $375,000 Diamond Jubilee fund raising drive.
2. Marshall was in Gondrecourt as Operations officer of the First Division between July 14,1917,and January 18, 1918. (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-085-#1-112 [1: 109-29].) He probably met Salvation Army Lieutenant Colonel William S. Barker, who had General John J. Pershing’s permission to establish facilities in the First Division’s military district. Barker’s account of his mission is in The War Cry, October 26, 1918, pp. 8-9.
3. Evangeline Booth, Pershing, and Marshall were in Pittsburgh for a Salvation Army fund raising meeting on Sunday, October 31, 1920. General Booth’s comments on the meeting and her synopsis of the remarks made are in The War Cry, November 6, 1920, pp. 9, 14.
4. Marshall may have written this sentence and the previous paragraph while on the train to New York City. The handwritten version is on the back of a letter from Salvation Army Colonel John J. Allan to Marshall, February 23, 1940, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, General].)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland, Sharon Ritenour Stevens, and Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr. (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 2, “We Cannot Delay,” July 1, 1939-December 6, 1941 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 169-171.