Rachel Thompson described some not-so-obvious aspects of General Marshall’s life to create vignettes that highlighted her talk in December about her biography, Marshall: A Statesman Shaped in the Crucible of War. A reception and book signing followed.
During her talk, “George C. Marshall: the Man behind the Uniform and the Three-Piece Suit,” she shared stories of Marshall who during the toughest years of his service to the country—two world wars and their aftermath—maintained a remarkably close connection with family and friends.
For example, she described how General Marshall dealt with his own loss and that of surviving family of those who died in combat in World War II. She detailed the death of colleague and protégé Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair when a USAAF bomb landed in his foxhole near Saint-Lô during Operation Cobra as part of the Battle of Normandy. His son, Col. Douglas McNair, chief of staff of the 77th Infantry Division, was killed two weeks later by a sniper on Guam. The death of Allen Tupper Brown, General Marshall’s stepson, in Italy in 1944 was personally devastating. In each instance, Thompson recounts, General Marshall became personally involved in expressing condolences and sorrow and was genuinely upset at the loss of someone close to him or close to someone else who mattered to him. Marshall knew first hand the terrible cost of war.
In addition Thompson discussed Marshall’s relationship with family, specifically his mother and brother, each of whom influenced and motivated him. Further she cited Marshall’s deep respect for soldiers in battle for whom the creation of the new Bronze Star award was a personal challenge he undertook and won against long odds. She concluded by observing that Marshall “was a kind, thoughtful and caring man who experienced two deep loves and losses” and after 50 years of service was “at ease” with a long and sometimes difficult life.
Signed copies of her book are available in the Museum Shop, in person or online.