George Marshall: A Biography

  • by Debi Unger, Irwin Unger
  • Narrated by Johnny Heller
  • 15 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A major historical biography of George C. Marshall - the general who ran the U.S. campaign during the Second World War, the Secretary of State who oversaw the successful rebuilding of post-war Europe, and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize - and the first to offer a complete picture of his life.
While Eisenhower Patton, Bradley, Montgomery, MacArthur, Nimitz, and Leahy waged battles in Europe and the Pacific, one military leader actually ran World War II for America, overseeing personnel and logistics: Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939 to 1945, George C. Marshall.
This interpretive biography of George C. Marshall follows his life from his childhood in Western Pennsylvania and his military training at the Virginia Military Institute to his role during and after World War II and his death in 1959 at the age of seventy-eight. It brings to light the virtuous historical role models who inspired him, including George Washington and Robert E. Lee, and his relationships with the Washington political establishment, military brass, and foreign leaders, from Harry Truman to Chiang Kai-shek. It explores Marshall’s successes and failures during World War II, and his contributions through two critical years of the emerging Cold War - including the transformative Marshall Plan, which saved Western Europe from Soviet domination, and the failed attempt to unite China’s nationalists and communists.
Based on breathtaking research and filled with rich detail, George Marshall is sure to be hailed as the definitive work on one of the most influential figures in American history.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Disappointing

Winston Churchill called George Marshall the organizer of victory in World War II. President Harry Truman said George Marshall made the greatest contribution to the country over the preceding thirty years. Yet we rarely hear or read much about him. “George Marshall: A Biography” was begun some years ago by the historian Stanly Hirshson. After his death in 2003, Debi and Irwin Unger took up the project. The book is based mainly on previously published sources and says relatively little about Marshall’s personal life and the book breaks no new ground. Marshall presented a difficult problem for biographers. Marshall did not write his memories nor did he leave a trail of revealing letters or diaries.

George Marshall was a descendant of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. George Marshall was born in Pennsylvania in 1880. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. He was posted to the Philippines, and then when reassigned to the States he worked at the Infantry and Calvary School at Fort Leavenworth Kansas. In World War I Marshall served as an aid to General John Pershing, planning battles and trying with Pershing to make the case for universal military training. George Marshall was Army Chief of Staff during World War II, transforming a week military to the world’s strongest. The Unger’s reveal how he turned what was an Army of 200,000 ill-trained, ill equipped men in 1939 into one of 8.5 million six years later. It was a huge bureaucratic task and it was done while identifying and elevating men like Eisenhower, Patton, Clark and Bradley through the ranks, dealing with Congress and the British, and not least, strategizing about how to defeat the Japanese and Nazi simultaneously. The authors write that Marshall’s management process was to identify talented men in the War Department and empower them. In other words he was an excellent delegator. Marshall appointed Eisenhower to preside over the Allies and to command D-Day. Marshall was Secretary of State (1947-1949) and fought to sway the acceptance of the Marshall Plan and fought with Congress to enact it. Marshall promoted and encouraged the careers at State of George Kennan and Dean Acheson. Marshall acted brilliantly as Secretary of State and Ambassador to China. He was Secretary of Defense in 1950 and retired to private life in 1951. Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 the same year Churchill won it for Literature.

The book is not a balanced account. The unexceptional portrait that emerges from the pages of the book consistently under rates or misrepresent Marshall’s motives and the challenges he had to overcome. The Unger strike a revisionist view of Marshall. The Unger’s persistently seem to be looking for any negative flaw in Marshall and if they could not find one, they overlooked or misrepresented Marshal’s motivation and actions to undermine him. Marshall’s integrity outweighed even his military, strategic and diplomatic skill but the authors overlooked this. Forrest C. Pogue’s biography in 1963 and Ed Cray’s “General of the Army” 1990 remain the standard account of Marshall.

What I look for in a biography is a balanced, unbiased reporting of the facts; I except the author to have done due diligence in researching for documentation and to gather verify information from more than one source before reporting it as a fact in the book. I cannot recommend this book unless one already has studied World War Two and the post war period and has a firm understanding of the history of the period and the role Marshall played. Johnny Heller narrated the book.

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- Jean

Excellent

Before reading this book I knew very little about Marshall other than the post war plan for rebuilding Europe that bears his name. The book, in my opinion, appeared to be very even handed in how it considered his contributions and in some instances his short comings. It really is amazing how many critical issues that arose just before, during and in the aftermath of WW2 that Marshall played a pivotal role.

Probably will be considered one of the greatest administrators in American Military History, yet he never led troops in battle. He wanted to lead D-Day but was told he was too valuable as Chief of Staff and couldn't be spared. So they settled on one of his favored subordinates - Eisenhower. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book was in the very different perspectives on strategy that the British and American Military leadership had. The British were very dubious of opening up a Northern European front and the American leadership saw little value in the Italian campaign.

His Post War performance, which he was probably most know for, has results that were considered good and also some that were not so good. The success of rebuilding western Europe was balanced with what seemed at the time to be a major failure in China and his lack of control of MacArthur.

Some of the characteristics that made him who he was, were fascinating. He believed strongly in identifying good subordinate leaders and delegating to them as much latitude as could be given. Also seems to have been an extremely hard worker, but one who left work when it was quitting time.

Narration took a little getting used to but was in my opinion very good. If you love WW2 history, I would strongly recommend this book - fascinating description of a Great American.
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- Mark

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-21-2014
  • Publisher: HarperAudio