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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, McArthur, Nimitz, and Leahy waged ba 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, McArthur, 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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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, McArthur, Nimitz, and Leahy waged ba 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, McArthur, 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.

30 review for George Marshall: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Forrest Pogue wrote a masterful four-volume biography of George Marshall. So, why write this book? Perhaps there is previously unknown material which sheds light on some aspect of the man. But no, that doesn't appear to be the case. Or maybe the authors are such great wordsmiths that the subject doesn't really matter, it's the writing that is worth the journey - think Edmund Morris. But no, the writing's pretty pedestrian. Maybe the authors have gone back to original documents, conducted their o Forrest Pogue wrote a masterful four-volume biography of George Marshall. So, why write this book? Perhaps there is previously unknown material which sheds light on some aspect of the man. But no, that doesn't appear to be the case. Or maybe the authors are such great wordsmiths that the subject doesn't really matter, it's the writing that is worth the journey - think Edmund Morris. But no, the writing's pretty pedestrian. Maybe the authors have gone back to original documents, conducted their own interviews, traveled the same landscape to provide some original insight - think Robert Caro. But that would be another 'no'. No, what we have here are two authors who have read other biographies of George Marshall and then shuffled some index cards. Just for example, they quote Pogue 18 times. Nevertheless, I understand that not everyone has the time or inclination to read a four-volume biography and a single-volume work can be important if it gets the general citizenry to read about a great man or a great time. But authors should try not to be execrable. This is when I quit: The U.S. Army as a whole did not get the cream of the manpower crop. Sailors and marines, largely volunteers, were, by and large, better specimens of manhood than soldiers. Within the army, in turn, the quality of the infantry soldier, measured by physique, morale, and intellectual caliber, was inferior to that of men in other branches of the service. ... the skilled, and presumably smarter, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and office clerks ended up in army desk jobs or other noncombat branches; the unskilled and, presumably, mentally inferior filled the infantry's ranks. First, define manhood. Second, think back to when you were eighteen years-old. At that stage of your life were you a plumber? a carpenter? electrician? office clerk?* Hmmmm. Apparently you could go on to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, pharmacist, teacher; you could grow up to be Al Effing Gore. But in the view of these authors, you would still be mentally inferior because you couldn't handle a coping saw. I heartily recommend this book to the shallow, to those comfortable with stereotypes, people who call into radio talk shows to voice an opinion on a topic they know nothing about, and to those who copied other kids' homework. Execrable. _____________________________ *Bartleby, remember, was an office clerk. Imagine him as a marine, preferring not to.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    When one thinks of the great World War II generals the names George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas Mac Arthur, and Bernard Montgomery seem to always enter the conversation. However, one of the most important military figures of the war never seems to be mentioned, that individual is George C. Marshall. The former Chief of Staff under Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of State and Defense under Harry Truman had a tremendous impact during and after the war, and even has his When one thinks of the great World War II generals the names George S. Patton, Omar Bradley, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas Mac Arthur, and Bernard Montgomery seem to always enter the conversation. However, one of the most important military figures of the war never seems to be mentioned, that individual is George C. Marshall. The former Chief of Staff under Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of State and Defense under Harry Truman had a tremendous impact during and after the war, and even has his name placed on one of the most important initiatives taken by the United States after 1945 to help rebuild Europe, the Marshall Plan. Marshall never did command troops on the battlefield but his impact on the military was substantial and his role has been the subject of a great deal of debate among historians. The latest effort is a new biography written by Debi and Irwin Unger with the assistance of Stanley Hirshson. The book, GEORGE MARSHALL is a comprehensive examination of Marshall’s career and a detailed analysis of Marshall’s role in history. In the January 3, 1944 issue of Time magazine, Marshall’s photo adorns the cover as “man of the year.” The article that accompanied the photo stated that George C. Marshall was the closest person in the United States to being the “indispensable man” for the American war effort. One must ask the question, was this hyperbole justified? According to the Ungers the answer is a qualified no. After analyzing Marshall’s policies they conclude that his shortcomings outweigh his successes ranging from his poor judgment of the individuals he placed in command positions to his underestimating the number of troops necessary to fight the war, particularly in providing replacements for men killed or wounded in combat. In addition, they criticize Marshall for his approach to training and preparing American soldiers for combat which was painfully obvious during the North African campaign and other major operations during the war. The authors argue their case carefully supporting their views with the available documentation, though there is an over reliance on secondary sources. Everyone who has written about Marshall and came in contact with him all agree that he epitomized the characteristics of a Virginia gentleman. He presented himself as aloof and honest, and though a rather humorless and direct person no one ever questioned his character. This persona remained with Marshall throughout his career and emerged during policy decisions, diplomatic negotiations, or his dealings with the divergent personalities that he had to work with. The narrative points out the importance of Marshall’s association with General John J. Pershing during World War I and the first major example of Marshall losing his temper over policy, and having the target of his tirade take him under their wing. The story follows Marshall’s career in the post-World I era and his association with men like Douglas Mac Arthur, Dwight Eisenhower and others who he would enter in his notebook as people to watch for in the future. The majority of the book deals with Marshall’s impact on American military planning. In the 1930s he worked to train National Guard units, but he also worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps which brought him to the attention of President Roosevelt. From this point on his career takes off. By 1938 he becomes Deputy Chief of Staff at the same time the situation in Europe continued to deteriorate. By 1939, after an overly honest conversation with Roosevelt about the state of US military preparedness, the president impressed with Marshall’s seriousness appointed him Chief of Staff. The author’s integrate the major events in Europe and the Far East up to and including the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but they do not mine any new ground. As the book analyzes the major components of Marshall’s career, the authors have a habit of presenting the negative, then produce some positives, and finally concluding their analysis with the mistakes that Marshall supposedly made. A number of examples come to mind. Roosevelt haters for years have tried to blame the president for the events of December 7, 1941 and the authors examine Marshall’s culpability for how unprepared the US was for the attack. The Ungers examine numerous investigations of the attack on Pearl Harbor and seem disappointed that more of the blame did not fall on Marshall. They seem to conclude as they comment on his appearance at a Congressional hearing that “Marshall’s demeanor may also reveal a degree of self-doubt-indeed pangs of conscience-at his own imperfect performance in the events leading to Pearl Harbor.” The Congressional investigation criticized Marshall and Admiral Harold Stark for “insufficient vigilance in overseeing their subordinates in Hawaii……[and] deplored Marshall’s failure on the morning of the attack to send a warning to Short on a priority basis.” (367) It is painfully obvious based on the author’s narrative that the United States was totally unprepared for war. They credit Marshall for doing his best to lobby Congress to expand the American military and institute a draft and then extend it. In 1942 Roosevelt wanted to strike at North Africa, but Marshall believed that the American needs in the Pacific and plans to assist the British in Iceland and Northern Ireland would create man power shortages if the strike in North Africa went forward. The authors criticize Marshall for not presenting his case forcefully enough to Roosevelt which would cause manpower issues later on in the war. In planning for the war Marshall argued that a force of 8,000,000 men and 90 divisions would be sufficient to win the war. Throughout the war there were constant worries that certain strategic decisions would not be successful for lack of manpower. The author’s point to the cross channel invasion of France, having enough troops to take on the Japanese once the Germans were defeated, and the landing at Sicily to make their case. They do praise Marshall for trying to reform the military command structure by always placing one general in charge in each war theater, be it D-Day, Torch, or other operations. They also praise Marshall for trying to reform the training of American troops, but at the same time they criticize him for the lack of morale of American soldiers and their supposed lack of commitment to defeat the enemy. Marshall would partly agree with the authors conclusions as he admitted that the soldiers sent to North Africa “were only partly trained and badly trained.” (168) As mentioned before, Marshall maintained a list of men he though would be invaluable in leading American troops during the war. The authors have difficulty with some of his choices and argue that he was a poor judge of character in others. “On the one hand we note the names of fighting generals George S. Patton, Robert Eichelberger, Courtney Hodges, J. Lawton Collins, and Lucian Truscott,” and administrators like Dwight Eisenhower and Brehon Somervell, but on the other hand we find the likes of Lloyd Fredendall and Mark Clark, which provoked a respected military correspondent like Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times to have written “the greatest American military problem was leadership, the army he concluded, had thus far failed to produce a fraction of the adequate officer leadership needed.” (208) Many of the criticisms that the authors offer have some basis, but their critique goes a bit too far by suggesting that Marshall was indirectly responsible for the death of his step son, Allen at Anzio as he had placed him in range of peril because he facilitated his transfer to North Africa after he completed Armored Force School at Fort Knox. The most effective historical writing is one of balance and objectivity, but at times the Ungers become too polemical as they try to downgrade Marshall’s reputation. Granted Marshall had never led troops in combat, but as a logistician, administrator, and diplomat he deserves to be praised. Marshall’s ability to deal with British generals and their egos was very important to the allied effort. His ability to work with Winston Churchill and argue against the English Prime Minister’s goals of a Mediterranean strategy and movement in the Balkans as part of retaining the British Empire merits commendation. His ability to navigate American politics and strong personalities was also a key to victory. Once the authors have completed their discussion of the war they turn to Marshall’s role as Secretary of State. They correctly point out that it took Marshall some time to realize that Stalin could not be trusted and had designs on Eastern Europe. They are also correct in pointing out that the European Recovery Program that bears his name was not developed by the Secretary of State but by a talented staff that included the likes of George Kennan, Chip Bohlen, Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk, and Robert Lovett. Marshall’s importance was lobbying Congress to gain funding for the program. The authors also give Marshall credit for trying to work out a rapprochement between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists after the war, a task that was almost impossible. The authors describe the heated debate over the creation of the state of Israel that Marshall vehemently opposed based on the national security needs of the United States and dismissed the political and humanitarian calculations of Clark Clifford and President Truman. A position the authors feel that when looked upon from today’s perspective was quite accurate. Finally, the authors give Marshall a significant amount of credit for the creation of NATO. If Marshall’s term as Secretary of State is deemed successful by the authors his one year stint as Secretary of Defense is seen as flawed. The main criticism of Marshall deals with Douglas MacArthur and the Korean War. After taking the reader through the North Korean attack on South Korea and the successful Inchon landing the authors describe in detail the dilemma of how far to pursue North Korean troops. The question was should United Nations forces cross the 38th parallel into the north and how close should American bombing come to the Yalu River that bordered on Communist China. According to the authors when the Communist Chinese troops entered the war it was not totally the fault of MacArthur because of the unclear orders that Marshall gave. According to the authors Marshall’s orders were “tentative and ambiguous,” thus confusing the American commander.(464) The limits on what the President allowed were very clear and when General Matthew Ridgeway, who replaced MacArthur as American commander was asked “why the chiefs did not give MacArthur categorical directions the general responded “what good would that do? He wouldn’t obey the orders.” (467) It appears the authors can never pass on an opportunity of presenting Marshall in a negative light. Overall, the book is well written and covers all the major components of the Second World War. It does less with Marshall’s role as Secretary of State and Defense, but if one is looking for a different approach to Marshall’s career this book can meet your needs as long as you realize that there are segments that are not very balanced. Even in the book’s last paragraph they feel the need to make one last negative comment, “all told, the performance of George Marshall in many of his roles was less than awe-inspiring.” (490)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    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 Mars 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 and 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. I read this as an audio book downloaded from Audible. Johnny Heller narrated the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    George Marshall by Irwin & Debi Unger (Harper, October 2014, 560 pages, $35.00/18.99) is a contemporary re-appraisal of George Marshall's life and career. Despite the fact that throughout his long military service, Marshall was always recognized for his character and ability, this biography seems to go out of its way to find fault with the man and his achievements. Whether the issue is the impossibility of any human achieving to the level Marshall's acclaim suggests or a need to find fault with George Marshall by Irwin & Debi Unger (Harper, October 2014, 560 pages, $35.00/18.99) is a contemporary re-appraisal of George Marshall's life and career. Despite the fact that throughout his long military service, Marshall was always recognized for his character and ability, this biography seems to go out of its way to find fault with the man and his achievements. Whether the issue is the impossibility of any human achieving to the level Marshall's acclaim suggests or a need to find fault with a general widely thought to be one of America's finest military examples, the Ungers seem to go out of their way to fault Marshall for not always getting it right. Never recognized for his brilliance in speech nor given the opportunity to command men in battle, George Marshall still managed to rise to the highest levels of the military and to serve as Army Chief of Staff under Roosevelt and both Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration. A person of seemingly modest ambition, he was named Time Magazine's Man of the Year twice and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was promoted to General of the Army, the highest possible rank in the U.S. Army. Despite his recognition, the Ungers are always careful to explore how Marshall falls short of absolute icon status when fully examined. How could he not? Marshall was born in1880 in Uniontown, PA, the son of a local businessman, but he early identified with the Virginia gentry from which his mother was descended. He attended Virginia Military Institute, where his career was acceptable, but not notable, perhaps spurred on by a denigrating remark made by his older brother. He was commissioned in the regular Army, and like so many of his age cohort serving in the peacetime Army, found promotion to be slow and rewards meager. Generally speaking, he was recognized for his organizational ability, his attention to detail, and his encouragement of his subordinates to take the initiative. He gained a reputation as an effective organizer and administrator, a role he functioned in throughout his career, never having the opportunity to command troops in battle, the usual path to top positions in the Army. Unlike his, perhaps, greatest rival, General Douglas MacArthur he neither came from a distinguished military background, nor gained recognition through his skill at commanding men or as a strategist. Marshall was a consummate bureaucrat, always keeping the spotlight on others as he rose through the ranks. Whenever the opportunity arose for him to take a command post, his superior officers much preferred to keep him in staff positions where his judgment and knowledge were seen as being indispensable. After impressing General John J. Pershing with his directness and honesty, Marshall often had the support of Pershing as he rose through the ranks after World War I. As Pershing's personal aide, Marshall came to know the people and the levers of power in Washington. After Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, his rise in the Army ranks became swifter. While not highly articulate or learned, Marshall was persuasive in both the counsels of the mighty and before Congressional hearings....The remainder of my review appears on my blog. Please read it there and then order the book through my Amazon portal. Thanks.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Stover

    Although I enjoyed the information, I believe the book is unfairly critical of General Marshall. As a frequent reader of historical works, I have learned how easy it is to use the perspective of history to second-guess and criticize the lives of others in the past. I feel that the authors of this work went beyond historical accuracy to create a work that tears down much of General Marshall's hard-won and well-earned reputation as a great American patriot and servant of the people. I do not recom Although I enjoyed the information, I believe the book is unfairly critical of General Marshall. As a frequent reader of historical works, I have learned how easy it is to use the perspective of history to second-guess and criticize the lives of others in the past. I feel that the authors of this work went beyond historical accuracy to create a work that tears down much of General Marshall's hard-won and well-earned reputation as a great American patriot and servant of the people. I do not recommend this book to the honest reader. Rather, see the pivotal work done years earlier on General Marshall by biographer Forrest Pogue.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    This was a factual book revealing a serious, somber, industrious man who evolved into a major role in history. The book was informative but, for me, was not an exciting read - just steady and interesting. From the book that is what George Marshall was and he seemed to have conformed to many of the Boy Scout standards (not friendly, kind?, cheerful?,)and his manner doing this made him the favorite in some ways of General Pershing and Presidents FDR and Truman. The authors really explained to some e This was a factual book revealing a serious, somber, industrious man who evolved into a major role in history. The book was informative but, for me, was not an exciting read - just steady and interesting. From the book that is what George Marshall was and he seemed to have conformed to many of the Boy Scout standards (not friendly, kind?, cheerful?,)and his manner doing this made him the favorite in some ways of General Pershing and Presidents FDR and Truman. The authors really explained to some extent how he operated, delegation and support, and that he had often failed to have made the best decisions. That as a military man he served in so many civilian positions afterward, at a not young age, he was certainly trusted and patriotic. From other films and reports I have seen on Marshall I wonder if the Ungers missed something. I notice that like Dwight Eisenhower he never served in combat or led soldiers in the field. And both declined to take political positions through their military careers. (The Eisenhower part gleamed from other readings - not this book). Also I learned that he enabled others to make and get passed into law the European Recovery Program which is commonly referred to as the “Marshall Plan” and which likely somewhat succeeded to get necessary support both in the States and Europe due to the fastening for the Marshall name to it. This was a book worth reading and I am pleased that I did but it gets only three stars from me. I started this book before vacation and read it through a GOOD vacation so it took me eight weeks to finish and maybe it was my inertia that failed rather than the authors work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mikeshuler

    I appreciate it very much when the author provides good criticism of one of our national icons. A good many have been whitewashed to the point they have lost their humanity. No one will accuse Debi Unger of being soft on Marshall. The entire book is a constant harangue against Marshall without recognizing the delicate balancing act Marshall was forced to walk because of his civilian masters. I offer this not being a big fan of Marshall. He had a very poor work ethic, delegated far too much, and I appreciate it very much when the author provides good criticism of one of our national icons. A good many have been whitewashed to the point they have lost their humanity. No one will accuse Debi Unger of being soft on Marshall. The entire book is a constant harangue against Marshall without recognizing the delicate balancing act Marshall was forced to walk because of his civilian masters. I offer this not being a big fan of Marshall. He had a very poor work ethic, delegated far too much, and too high an opinion of himself--but these are personal characteristics and have nothing to do with his body of work which was immense and praiseworthy. There were many issues to find fault with--the poor training of US infantry, poor command choices, the Sherman!, the list goes on, but when you have the responsibility for so much it is going to be easy to pick it apart. Unger does expend too much ink on WW2 basic history. If one is willing to read a biography on Marshall, then the writer should assume that the time-worn stories can be dispensed with. The reader will know the basic flow of the war. The time should have been devoted to the inner working of Marshall and some explanation as to the decisions he made. I have not read other biographies on Marshall, but will do so, if only to gain a more balanced viewpoint.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    It's not often that you find biographers that hold their subject in such low regard. Also disappointed with the quality of the writing. Given to loose grammar, and frequent reversions to slang. How many serious biographies use the word "hooey" to dismiss, without much in the way of analysis, a position held by the subject of the book? Often challenged the subject's beliefs by posing a series of questions - pedantic and tedious. Final analysis - the quality of the writing did not do justice to th It's not often that you find biographers that hold their subject in such low regard. Also disappointed with the quality of the writing. Given to loose grammar, and frequent reversions to slang. How many serious biographies use the word "hooey" to dismiss, without much in the way of analysis, a position held by the subject of the book? Often challenged the subject's beliefs by posing a series of questions - pedantic and tedious. Final analysis - the quality of the writing did not do justice to the subject of this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave N

    So far, this book is written like a high school book report. There's no cadence or rhythm to the writing, and no even remotely salient points until the breakout of the Second World War. The authors spend half a page on the death of Marshall's first wife and another page on the meeting, courtship and marriage of his second. They spend 2 pages on his time in the First World War. And even once you get to WW2, it's just the same information you'd expect in any general history of the war; there's no So far, this book is written like a high school book report. There's no cadence or rhythm to the writing, and no even remotely salient points until the breakout of the Second World War. The authors spend half a page on the death of Marshall's first wife and another page on the meeting, courtship and marriage of his second. They spend 2 pages on his time in the First World War. And even once you get to WW2, it's just the same information you'd expect in any general history of the war; there's no insight or personal facts that could bring this biography or its subject to life. Roosevelt is played off as a tone deaf politician, with no real understanding of the military, trying desperately to march the US to its doom in the early years of the war, but Marshall doesn't come off as much better, seemingly at odds with everyone in some sort of passive aggressive form of what the authors describe as chivalry or moral uprightness or southern stoicism or something equally dumb. The authors also continuously re-use the same quotes and phrases, often only a few pages later on, leading to a feeling that a lot of the final manuscript was cobbled together. I'm dreading reading the rest of this book. "To what extent does Marshall’s role in the shortcomings of American fighting men in North Africa and in later theaters affect our estimate of his career? He was not a combat general; he never led troops in the battlefield against an enemy force. He once described his role as “pick[ing] the right man for the job and back[ing] him up with every resource at our disposal.” One historian has described him as “the epitome of the modern military manager,” whose “energy was devoted to training and logistics.” He had other important functions as well—as a skilled military diplomat and as a strategist, for example. But it is clear that much of his reputation rests on his achievements in creating an army out of virtually nothing and teaching it how to fight. And here, at his presumed forte, he proved at best mediocre."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Desimone

    Being very interested in WWII and the early cold war, I found this an engaging review of a man who was at the heart of those events. The author takes a very balanced approach in her review of his life. While he had a few seminal achievements (preparing the US for war, organizing the effort and selling the Marshall Plan to a skeptical public), the picture comes through of a very imperfect man. Marshall made many misjudgments throughout his career, regarding people and war and political strategy. Being very interested in WWII and the early cold war, I found this an engaging review of a man who was at the heart of those events. The author takes a very balanced approach in her review of his life. While he had a few seminal achievements (preparing the US for war, organizing the effort and selling the Marshall Plan to a skeptical public), the picture comes through of a very imperfect man. Marshall made many misjudgments throughout his career, regarding people and war and political strategy. But those can be forgotten in his achievements. Also, I think the author is a little too harsh on him regrading China. His was but a finger in a dike in the changes that were taking place there in the 30s and 40s. I was struck by his role as a Switzerland of sorts within the government. Everyone trusted his judgments and the respect he commanded allowed him to advocate for some critical programs at key times. The book might have been subtitled The Lobbyist because that is where he truly excelled in convincing Congress and our allies on various key points even if his initial judgments in some of those areas were not entirely correct. I also did not appreciate what it was like to be in the military from 1900-1940. Other than WWI, the military was not held in high esteem nor was it a fast track to anything. The posts where he served up until getting back to Washington were backwaters at best. Lastly, the interpersonal dynamic sticks with me as a leader. He worked very well with some but could never sort out the Pacific theater entirely with the admirals and MacArthur, nominally his inferior. He had the chance to make hard choices and overall I found his decisiveness lacking at many points.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Quist

    Marshall - Very shallow book, written with obvious bias and omission, rare praise or positive commentary for Marshall’s many achievements, very disappointing in the shallow treatment of one of America’s greatest soldier. The account of Marshall limiting the WWII Army to 90 divisions is pathetically false. Marshall - Very shallow, written with obvious bias and omission, rare praise or positive commentary for Marshall’s many achievements, disappointing in the shallow treatment of one of America’s Marshall - Very shallow book, written with obvious bias and omission, rare praise or positive commentary for Marshall’s many achievements, very disappointing in the shallow treatment of one of America’s greatest soldier. The account of Marshall limiting the WWII Army to 90 divisions is pathetically false. Marshall - Very shallow, written with obvious bias and omission, rare praise or positive commentary for Marshall’s many achievements, disappointing in the shallow treatment of one of America’s greatest soldiers and statesmen. The account of Marshall limiting the WWII Army to 90 divisions is pathetically shallow and false.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Al Berry

    A biography on a man with amazing personal integrity but flawed judgement, his favoriting a cross-Chanel attack in 1942 : Operation Sledgehammer being the most egregious, thankfully Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Alan Brooke had a better strategic grasp. Author does a good job at looking at Marshall objectively, while not necessarily agreeing with all the authors conclusions he puts the evidence out there. His 2nd Wife’s first husband was an attorney shot by a disgruntled client, that parti A biography on a man with amazing personal integrity but flawed judgement, his favoriting a cross-Chanel attack in 1942 : Operation Sledgehammer being the most egregious, thankfully Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Alan Brooke had a better strategic grasp. Author does a good job at looking at Marshall objectively, while not necessarily agreeing with all the authors conclusions he puts the evidence out there. His 2nd Wife’s first husband was an attorney shot by a disgruntled client, that particular anecdote resonated with me, Marshall seemed to be a good father to his step-children.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wm_goodreads

    I enjoyed this biography of General Marshall... A long but always interesting read of one of the major personalities of last century's war for the dominion of the world. This book was particularly interesting for its portrayal of a man of universally admired character: no one who worked with or under him was ever in doubt of his convictions. I knew nothing of General Marshall before taking up this book... Reading it has been well worth the trouble.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sigrid Fry-Revere

    This is the first biography of Marshall I've read. I think it is sad that the author's acknowledge Marshall's integrity and amazingly steady temperament, but then goes on to count against him all the things other people gave Marshall credit for which he himself didn't as if that was a character flaw on his part.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joe Oaster

    Great book about one of the greatest Soldiers whomever lived. He never led troops in combat was a genius organizer and administrator. Not without his faults as the author pointed out, this book is a great overview of this remarkable man. Great read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Weber

    This is a fair and reasonably detailed account of Marshall's life and the extraordinary times he lived in. The author particularly excels in explaining the context in which Marshall's most important decisions took place.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bret

    Biography of early years is good but after that is bad. Was interested in learning about General Marshall and this was a mistake choosing this book. Not much real insight and lots of quotes regarding what other historians think of Marshall... with no information supporting it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    An honest look at General Marshall's life & career. He had strengths & weaknesses like most of us deserves high praise for his contributions to hasten the end of WW II. An honest look at General Marshall's life & career. He had strengths & weaknesses like most of us deserves high praise for his contributions to hasten the end of WW II.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charles Collyer

    Readable and interesting background on Marshall, WWII, and the Marshall Plan.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian Bridgeforth

    A biography that is not afraid to show Marshall’s blemishes and short comings.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John DeRosa

    Seems less to be about Marshall and more about the historical events within which his life was set. Uninspiring work of a Pulitzer Prize winning author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Schwarzenberger

    My disclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. At first I was excited about receiving this book for a Goodreads review. It was a subject that I was interested in and, face it, it's always nice to get something for free even if there is a slight obligation attached to the prize--by receiving the book I was bound to provide a review of it. My first disappointment: this was an "uncorrected proof" and boy, did they mean that statement. No page numbers listed in the table of contents, just My disclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. At first I was excited about receiving this book for a Goodreads review. It was a subject that I was interested in and, face it, it's always nice to get something for free even if there is a slight obligation attached to the prize--by receiving the book I was bound to provide a review of it. My first disappointment: this was an "uncorrected proof" and boy, did they mean that statement. No page numbers listed in the table of contents, just place holder dummy zeros. No photographs, although I do not know whether there any in the finished edition. Most importantly, no index. One of my reading tricks when I go to library or bookstore and come across a new book is to look at the index. I find that a good index gives a lot of information about what to look for in the book in my hands. By the way, there were lots of little left out letters, strange punctuations and dropped spaces between words. I guess that they were really letting me know that this book was severely uncorrected. Most of my term papers in college many many years ago were far more corrected even in the first draft. On to the writing and the narrative uncorrected or not contained within... If I had found this book in the library or bookshop I certainly would have given it a more than quick glance. I was a tiny child when the Marshall Plan was executed to help the European nations lost in the almost total disorganization following the second world war. Now that I am older I wanted to get wiser in this area of recent history that none of my school classes had covered--all my primary and secondary history classes ended just prior to the start of WW2--that says a lot about the currency of all the history courses that I took at the time. Now that I am retired I am investigating more biographies of world leaders, doers and shakers of my youth in the early 1950s. The book only mentions the plan to help European recovery--the "Marshall Plan"--for a few short pages in almost a bare outline form. No, I did not want a country by country or year by year breakdown of who got what and how much for how long. But I did expect some more discussion about the contemporary reaction to its application, how it was received by the concerned parties and how the Eastern bloc reacted to it. Maybe the title should include the words "...an interpretative biography that refers a lot to other biographies..." I am really disappointed in the paucity of biographical substance in this book. It reads to me like it is not truly finished and polished. There are several times when I realize that a phrase I have just read I seemed to sound as if I had just read it a few pages before. This book refers to other biographies written about the subject so much so that I found myself wondering why was this particular biography even written. One of the nice things about this neighborhood in Brooklyn where I live is that folks often place a cardboard box outside on the sidewalk with any books they have finished and want to share with passers-by. I will not keep this book for myself but I will put it outside so someone else with some curiosity can have a try at it. If they are interested enough to pick it up they may find something of interest in it. Well. now I know a little bit more about George Marshall and I am glad that I do. But I will search around for some other sources with more information about him. The photograph on the cover is nice.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    This is a well balanced biography of the man who was US Chief of Staff during WWII, Secretary of State following that war, and Secretary of Defense during the Korean War. Never a combat general, Marshall's time as Chief was largely spent juggling the enormous egos of FDR, MacArthur, Patton, Churchill, Montgomery, and Stalin, focusing them on a common Allied goal. His time as Secretary of State is noted for his push for the European Recovery Act or Marshall Plan (which he never called it) to aid This is a well balanced biography of the man who was US Chief of Staff during WWII, Secretary of State following that war, and Secretary of Defense during the Korean War. Never a combat general, Marshall's time as Chief was largely spent juggling the enormous egos of FDR, MacArthur, Patton, Churchill, Montgomery, and Stalin, focusing them on a common Allied goal. His time as Secretary of State is noted for his push for the European Recovery Act or Marshall Plan (which he never called it) to aid Western Europe and halt Soviet westward expansion. As Secretary of Defense during the Korean War he had to balance the need to push back North Korea's forces with the likelihood of igniting WWIII. He alluded to the possible need of using "a little atom" on the North, but in the end agreed with Truman that MacArthur must be fired and an armistice signed that placed the N/S dividing almost exactly where it was before the war. This allowed the Red Baiting right wing Republicans led by the chief stooge Senator McCarthy to denounce him as being not only soft on Communism, but perhaps an enemy agent. This same crowd tried to find ways to blame Marshall for Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, this fever subsided in a few years except among the most stricken fringe. The Ungers do not depict Marshall as being perfect. He was at times slow at decision making and vague about his orders. His ideas for order of battle in Europe were most likely flawed and outvoted. Perhaps excused by ill health, he worked a relatively short day. His Allied contemporaries praised him for his character, being above politics and selfish ambition.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sparrenberger

    This one is a mixed review. I was looking for a one volume biography of general marshall so in that respect it was a success. Apparently there is a four volume work on the man but I don't know that I need that much of George Marshall. On the other side is the visceral hatred by some reviewers to the perceived dislike by the authors of the book towards George Marshall. There were many parts of the us book where the authors slipped in the word "dithering." I felt like the authors were trying to pa This one is a mixed review. I was looking for a one volume biography of general marshall so in that respect it was a success. Apparently there is a four volume work on the man but I don't know that I need that much of George Marshall. On the other side is the visceral hatred by some reviewers to the perceived dislike by the authors of the book towards George Marshall. There were many parts of the us book where the authors slipped in the word "dithering." I felt like the authors were trying to paint a picture and back it up. George Marshall had been immortalized in some quarters and I felt the authors were trying to bring down some Of the hero worship and that in turn irritated some people. I think George Marshall was a good manager and smoother of situations and people he had to deal with. That's a tough job. The authors also have the benefit of history to make judgements where Marshall did not. It's easy to make judgements from sixty of seventy years after the fact. Interesting read. I plan on visiting his home in leesburg since it is right down the road.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim Bowen

    I rather suspect that you shouldn't read books about your heroes I'll be honest, I didn't know a huge amount about Marshall, before I read this book. I knew he was attached to the plan that saved Western Europe, and that many western Europeans of a certain age were grateful to him for it, but beyond that, and the fact that he was unfairly treated during the American Red Scares, I'll admit I didn't know much about Marshall. This book fills in the gaps. Starting from his birth, we learn a great deal I rather suspect that you shouldn't read books about your heroes I'll be honest, I didn't know a huge amount about Marshall, before I read this book. I knew he was attached to the plan that saved Western Europe, and that many western Europeans of a certain age were grateful to him for it, but beyond that, and the fact that he was unfairly treated during the American Red Scares, I'll admit I didn't know much about Marshall. This book fills in the gaps. Starting from his birth, we learn a great deal about Marshall the military planner, who developed the careers for Omar Bradley, George MacArthur, and Ike Eisenhower, while he was Chief of the American army. It's just it's all rather depressing. He was a decent orgainser, but not as effective as those unfamiliar with him might think. As an example he had a self limiting ordinance about the size of the army during WWII, when it really could had done to be much bigger. Couple this with a surprising naivete about the Russians and Chinese after WWII, and you're left wondering if things could have been different if Marshall had been a little more assertive about his, often sound, opinions.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    George Marshall lived and served in an amazing series of crisis events, from the buildup of the Army and its use in World War Two to the onset and deepening of the Cold War. There is irony here, in that this great leader, organizer, and administrative general and appointed official lead a quiet personal life in noisome professional times. This fresh, brief biography covers early life and career well and briefly, centering upon the immense events and background of World War Two. This is an import George Marshall lived and served in an amazing series of crisis events, from the buildup of the Army and its use in World War Two to the onset and deepening of the Cold War. There is irony here, in that this great leader, organizer, and administrative general and appointed official lead a quiet personal life in noisome professional times. This fresh, brief biography covers early life and career well and briefly, centering upon the immense events and background of World War Two. This is an important life story, with some flaws in the telling. I think this team of authors a bit superficial in their even-handedness of point-of-view, much like Marshall himself. Reading the book makes me want to check the source material and earlier literature, particularly authorized biographer and interviewer Forrest Pogue. The book is scheduled for publication in the Fall, circa November 2014. I was given an advance reader, a galley, by a fine local bookseller, Eagle Eye Books, along with my purchase of another book. Mildly recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sanjay Varma

    This book fooled me. I thought I liked it initially because its prose is wonderfully easy to read. The pages fly by. The prose is so clear that I can read this book at the gym while on a bike and still follow the unfolding events. But the book is also limited. It's like reading a history book aimed at 8th graders. The narrative is kept at a high level and a simple interpretation is offered for everything. The book's biggest problem is that, after WW2 begins around page 100, George Marshall isn't This book fooled me. I thought I liked it initially because its prose is wonderfully easy to read. The pages fly by. The prose is so clear that I can read this book at the gym while on a bike and still follow the unfolding events. But the book is also limited. It's like reading a history book aimed at 8th graders. The narrative is kept at a high level and a simple interpretation is offered for everything. The book's biggest problem is that, after WW2 begins around page 100, George Marshall isn't the focus. The authors will summarize some episode from the war, and then almost as an afterthought they will circle back and devote a few lines to GM's contribution. Another problem is that the authors are bad at evoking personalities to make them live on the page. In fact, they don't even try! The episodes are all centered around decisions that must be made, and each character represents their viewpoint for that decision. So even someone like Douglas MacArthur seems colorless. I stopped reading after 200 pages. There are better books to read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beverly Hollandbeck

    I decided to read a biography of George Marshall after reading another book - I've read many - about Harry Truman. Marshall was one of Truman's heroes. It must be difficult to write a biography of Marshall, since he kept himself such a private person during his life. So this book is an acount of what Marshal said and did, and what others said about him, but it is weak in what made him such a person of great integrity, resolve, and patriotism. Like George Washington, whose personal papers were bur I decided to read a biography of George Marshall after reading another book - I've read many - about Harry Truman. Marshall was one of Truman's heroes. It must be difficult to write a biography of Marshall, since he kept himself such a private person during his life. So this book is an acount of what Marshal said and did, and what others said about him, but it is weak in what made him such a person of great integrity, resolve, and patriotism. Like George Washington, whose personal papers were burned by his widow after his death, we can put together the time period and the relationship of the subject to it, but it is difficutl to know the man himself. To see what I would wish for, read a biography of John Adams. Every day that he was absent from his wife, he wrote her a letter. These reveal his humanity of the man in a way that we will never get about Marshall.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    Wonderful biography of the former WWII general and Secretary of State. From his slow-moving early career to his high-rising late career, he was a fascinating and impressive soldier and statesman. Many of today's soldiers and foreign service officer have been influenced by his actions. He revamped the School of Infantry and Ft. Benning making it what it is today. He started the Policy and Planning department at the State Department, and much more. A must read for anybody interested in WWII histor Wonderful biography of the former WWII general and Secretary of State. From his slow-moving early career to his high-rising late career, he was a fascinating and impressive soldier and statesman. Many of today's soldiers and foreign service officer have been influenced by his actions. He revamped the School of Infantry and Ft. Benning making it what it is today. He started the Policy and Planning department at the State Department, and much more. A must read for anybody interested in WWII history and generals, or those that want to learn more. I won this book from the Goodreads Giveaway contest.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    A mediocre book about a great man. Worth the read to know the man but hopefully there's a better book. There is an obvious bias in the book against Marshall but even worse the writing is obfuscated often requiring re-reading not because the point was deep or complicated but rather because the prose was bad. In spite of it all though I went in liking Marshall (my tagline for a while when working was 'Amateurs talk tactic professionals talk Logistics') and came out seeing him as one of the greats A mediocre book about a great man. Worth the read to know the man but hopefully there's a better book. There is an obvious bias in the book against Marshall but even worse the writing is obfuscated often requiring re-reading not because the point was deep or complicated but rather because the prose was bad. In spite of it all though I went in liking Marshall (my tagline for a while when working was 'Amateurs talk tactic professionals talk Logistics') and came out seeing him as one of the greats who continues to positively affect my life. I wish there were leaders of this caliber today but fear our culture destroys them all raising the pretty TV icons who are screen deep.

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