Marshall was a United States military leader, chief of staff during World War Two and later secretary of state, whose policies financing the post-war reconstruction of Europe came to be known as the Marshall Plan.
George Catlett Marshall was born on 31 December 1880 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1902 and began a career in the US Army. In World War One he served on the staff of General John J Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces sent to France in 1917. He continued to serve as an aide to Pershing on his return to the US. In the interwar years, he served with the US Army in China and taught in various army organisations.
On the day Germany invaded Poland, 1 September 1939, President Franklin D Roosevelt appointed Marshall army chief of staff. Marshall held this post until 1945. He oversaw the expansion of the US armed forces from a pre-war strength of under 200,000 to one of over eight million at its wartime peak. Marshall's task, ultimately, was to ensure that the army received vital supplies and was given strategic direction. Winston Churchill called Marshall the 'organiser of victory'.
After the war's end, in December 1945, President Harry Truman sent Marshall to China as the special ambassador of the US in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a civil war developing between nationalist and Communist forces there. In 1947, Truman recalled Marshall to the US to serve as secretary of state. Marshall gave his name to the policy, officially entitled the European Recovery Programme (ERP), to provide US aid for the economic revitalisation of war-devastated Europe. In total, the ERP paid out nearly $13 billion dollars in aid for Europe, laying the foundations for European post-war recovery.
Marshall was also influential in the negotiations and planning that culminated in 1949 in the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which had twelve founder members. This mutual defence alliance, whereby an attack on any one of its members was deemed an attack upon them all, tied the security interests of Europe to those of the United States during the entire Cold War era.
Marshall retired from his post in early 1949 and became president of the American Red Cross. He was recalled to government service when President Harry S Truman appointed him secretary of defence in 1950, but he served only for a year. In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the economic rehabilitation of Europe. He died on 16 October 1959.
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