From the Collections-Key to the City of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Welcome to “From the Collections,” a new series on Featured Artifacts that highlight the many fascinating objects in the George C. Marshall Foundation Collections. Through the years, the Foundation has been a trusted steward of history; our collections department is home to thousands of artifacts from not only George C. Marshall but others who played a pivotal rule in our history.

Some of the these items are on display for our visitors to see, while others are currently housed in storage. In weekly installments, “From the Collections” will tell the stories of some of these items, from our oldest to our newest additions.

Please continue to check back weekly to see what new and exciting objects we share. 

After dealing with intense pain and discomfort for most of the year, George C. Marshall had an enlarged right kidney removed at Walter Reed Hospital on December 7, 1948. A large mass on the kidney had been determined to be benign. He was released three weeks later and President Truman suggested he continue his recovery in the warmth and sunshine of Puerto Rico. Truman made sure the Marshalls had private and comfortable lodging at the naval base in the capital city of San Juan, on the Atlantic coast. Before the couple’s departure, and purposely coinciding with Truman’s inauguration on January 20, 1949, Marshall submitted a brief but formal note of resignation as Secretary of State.

The Marshalls enjoyed the well-deserved vacation. In a letter to General Marshall S. Carter, George wrote “Mrs. Marshall, who was in much more need of rest and relaxation than I, has improved very much and delights in the climate, sea bathing, and the comforts of the establishment you arranged for us.” In a later letter to Lt. General Walton Harris Walker, Marshall wrote that “the balmy climate and warm sunshine did a lot for both of us.”

George spent most of his time sitting in the sun or resting in bed, still in considerable pain from his surgery. During the vacation Katherine was the guest of honor at a large reception at San Juan’s City Hall attended by almost 200 Army and Navy wives. It was at this event she was presented with the Key to the City of San Juan by Mayor Felisa Rincon de Gautier.

Upon arrival back in the United States, newspapers noted that Marshall “looks more like his old self,” and “sturdy.” Marshall would not take too long of a break, and by October he became the President of the American Red Cross.