"When I put Washington and Marshall side by side, and look at them against the background of the national leadership now in office," Lance Morrow writes, "it is easy to think that I am looking at the first American grown-up and the last." We are just now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the day when Marshall stood under the elms at a Harvard commencement and called for an economic-aid plan to help the Old World, reduced to rubble by World War II, pull itself up by its own bootstraps with some $13 billion in incentives from Uncle Sam. That was the birth of the Marshall Plan, then-Secretary of State Marshall's farsighted contribution to peace and postwar political stability; he not only thought it up but was the man whose stature and probity helped get Congressional approval for it all.
But apart from that, as Morrow points out, George Marshall was an extraordinary man, now "fourth-fifths forgotten" as a soldier simply because Franklin Roosevelt could not afford to have someone with his understanding of the world military situation and adeptness at dealing with Congress away from Washington. FDR named Dwight Eisenhower to be Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, the 1944 Allied assault on Hitler's Europe. Everyone expected Marshall to get the job; Roosevelt offered him his choice, but characteristically, he said simply that he would serve wherever the President wanted. He was the general, though, who had understood, long before Hitler's attack on Poland in September 1939, that world war was inevitable and would be on a scale then unimaginable to most military men.
A brilliant military strategist, Marshall became, writes Morrow, "the first genius of bureaucratic warfare, a Napoleon riding a desk." He also became, says Morrow, "a paradigm of a certain American virtue, now all but extinct."