Early Life: 1880 to 1901
- December 31, 1880: Born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania (40 miles SSE of Pittsburgh). Lived at his home, 1880 to 1901.
- September 1897 to June 1901: Attended the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia. Civil Engineering major, 1899 to 1901; Kappa Alpha fraternity, 1901. First Captain (i.e. cadet commander), 1900 to 1901, Varsity football (left tackle) 1900. Marshall always ranked first in military discipline and about midway academically. He graduated 15th of 34 in the Class of ’01. “What I learned at VMI was self-control, discipline, so that it was ground in. I learned also the problem of managing men.” — GCM
- Life as a cadet at VMI (MP 3 File – 6 MB)
- September 1901: Examined for Army commission, Governors Island, New York.
- September 1901 to January 1902: Commandant of Students, Danville Military Academy, Danville, Virginia.
Young Officer: 1902 to 1917
- February 1902: Commissioned Second Lieutenant of Infantry on 3 February 1902; Married Elizabeth Coles of Lexington; reported to Fort Myer, Virginia; ordered to join his regiment (30th Infantry) in the Phillipines.
- May 1902 to November 1903: Philippine Islands.
- December 1903 to August 1906: Fort Reno, Oklahoma Territory; served at various times as engineering officer, ordnance officer, post quartermaster, and post commissary officer.
- August 1906 to August 1908: Honor graduate of the Infantry-Cavalry School in 1907, graduated first in his class from Army Staff College in 1908, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Promoted to First Lieutenant.
- August 1908 to January 1911: Instructor in the Department of Military Engineering at Fort Leavenworth Army Service Schools. Worked with various National Guard units in the summer, 1907 to 1911.
- January 1911 to June 1913: Assignments with 24th Infantry; Madison Barracks, New York; San Antonio, Texas; with the Organized Militia of Massachusetts; and with the 4th Infantry; Fort. Logan H. Roots, Arkansas, Fort Snelling, Minnesota and Fort Crockett, Texas.
- June 1913 to May 1916: Duty with the 13th Infantry; Chief of Staff of Field Detachment 1 on maneuvers, Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Hunter Liggett at Fort William McKinley and Headquarters Philippine Department, Manila, Philippine Islands.
- May 1916 to June 1917: Aide-de-Camp to Major General J. Franklin Bell and Assistant to the Department Adjutant, Headquarters, Western Department, San Francisco, California; Staff Officer, Headquarters, Eastern Department, Governors Island, New York.
Mid-Career: 1917 to 1938
- July 1917: Promoted to Captain.
- June 1917 to July 1918: Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations), and then G-3, 1st Division, American Expeditionary Force (AEF), France. Served on the St. Mihiel, Picardy, and Cantigny fronts. Won high praise for his planning of the Cantigny operation (May 1918).
- July 1918 to April 1919: Assistant G-3, American Expeditionary Force (AEF) Headquarters. Won high praise for his planning for the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives; Chief of Staff, Eight Army Corps.
- May 1919 to July 1924: Aide-de-Camp to General John J. Pershing, Washington, D.C. Promoted to Major, July 1920; to Lieutenant Colonel, August 1923.
- August 1924 to September 1927: Executive, and later Commanding Officer, 15th Infantry, Tientsin, China.
- September 1927 to November 1927: Instructor, Army War College, Washington, D.C.; Mrs. Elizabeth Coles Marshall dies, September 15, 1927.
- November 1927 to June 1932: Instructor at the Army War College, Washington, D.C.; Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. Married Mrs. Katherine Tupper Brown, October, 1930.
- His instructors and students included future generals Omar N. Bradley, Joseph W. Stillwell, J. Lawton Collins, Walter B. Smith, Charles L. Bolte, and Matthew B. Ridgway
- July 1932 to June 1933: Commanding Officer, 8th Infantry, Fort Screven, Georgia.
- July 1933 to October 1933: Commanding Officer, Fort Moultrie and District “I”, Civilian Conservation Corps. Promoted to Colonel, September, 1933.
- November 1933 to August 1936: Senior Instructor, Illinois National Guard (33rd Division), Chicago, Illinois.
- August 1936 to July 1938: Promoted to Brigadier General, Commanding General, 5th Brigade, Vancouver Barracks, Washington (state); supervised Civilian Conservation Corps work in the Northwest.
Chief of Staff: 1939 to 1945
- July 1938 to July 1939: Assistant Chief of Staff War Plans Division; Deputy Chief of Staff and Acting Chief of Staff of the War Department, Washington, D.C.; Chief of the Military Mission to Brazil (May to June 1939).
- September 1, 1939: Sworn in as Chief of Staff of the Army.
- September 1939 to November 1945: Chief of Staff of the Army in the grade of General.
- August 1941: Attends Atlantic Charter Conference in Newfoundland, Canada with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
- December 1941 to January 1942: Attends ARCADIA Conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Washington D.C.
- April and July 1942: In Britain for discussions. Marshall opposed to landings in North Africa, preferring cross-channel attack.
- January 1943: Attends Casablanca Conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt
- November and December 1943 attends Teheran Conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- June 1944: Visits Normandy beachhead and Great Britain.
- December 1944: Promoted to “General of the Army” (5 stars).
- February 1945: Attends Yalta Conference in the USSR with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- July 1945: attends Potsdam Conference in Germany with President Harry S. Truman.
- November 18, 1945: Retires as Chief of Staff.
Diplomat: 1946 to 1948
- November 1945: Appointed Special Representative of the President to China with the personal rank of Ambassador.
- December 1945 to December 1946: In China for meetings with Nationalist and Communist Chinese officials in an attempt to mediate the civil war there.
- January 1947 to January 1949: Secretary of State.
- January 21, 1947 – Marshall sworn in as Secretary of State
- February 1947: Retired from active U. S. Army service, at his own request, after more than 45 years of active service.
- March to April 1947: Attended the fifth conference of the Allied Council of Foreign Ministers meetings in Moscow.
- Upon his return he introduced the Marshall Plan for aiding European nations.
- June 5, 1947: “Marshall Plan” speech at the Harvard University commencement.
- August to September 1947: Attends Inter-American Conference for Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- November to December 1947: Attends Council of Foreign Ministers meetings, London.
- March to April 1948: Attends Ninth International Congress of American States, Bogota.
- September 1948: Attends United Nations General Assembly meetings, Paris.
- January 1949: Resigns as Secretary of State.
Last Assignments: 1949 to 1959
Source: General Orders No. 39; Headquarters, Department of the Army,
Marshall’s Leadership Principles
These five principles defined George Marshall’s leadership qualities:
Candor – Speak honestly and responsibly
Commitment - Faithfully adhere to what is right
Courage – Be bold in speech and deed
Integrity – Speak and act with honor
Selflessness – Service above self-interest
Author and lecturer Jack Uldrich expanded the list in his captivating book, Soldier Statesman Peacemaker: Leadership Lessons from George C. Marshall, American Management Association, 2005.
- Doing the Right Thing: The Principle of Integrity
- Mastering the Situation: The Principle of Action
- Serving the Greater Good: The Principle of Selflessness
- Speaking your Mind: The Principle of Candor
- Laying the Groundwork: The Principle of Preparation
- Sharing the Knowledge: The Principle of Learning and Teaching
- Choosing and Rewarding the Right People: The Principle of Fairness
- Focusing on the Big Picture: The Principle of Vision
- Supporting the Troops: The Principle of Caring
Listen to Jack Uldrich describe Marshall’s Leadership Priciples.
Marshall’s Character defined him as an individual who could be trusted by colleagues, subordinates and superiors alike. His strong character is one reason why Congress supported his many requests for funding and superiors listened to his thoughtful, yet strong arguments.
Speaking before the Institute for Honor in 2005, Brig. Gen. Casey Brower said, “Optimism, stamina, love of one’s soldiers, determination, and loyalty were qualities for Marshall that distinguished successful officers from the common pack. They were the solid qualities on which a commander could depend, qualities that would make a large organization function effectively, qualities that would be the bedrock of readiness.”
“Finally, Marshall valued loyalty enormously as a leadership virtue,” he said. “The most successful officers, in his view, made ‘a point of extreme loyalty, in thought and deed, both to their superiors personally and to one’s efforts to execute their superior’s plans or policies.’ There could be no role for individual ego in a soldier’s respect for superior authority, Marshall counseled. Indeed, ‘The less you agree with the policies of your superiors, the more energy you must direct to their accomplishment,’” said Marshall.