Marshall's Men

By Bunting, Josiah,, III | New Criterion, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Marshall's Men

Bunting, Josiah,, III, New Criterion

In 1960, Henry Steele Commager, a professor of history at Amherst, wrote an article that asked why America had failed to produce a generation of leaders to rival the country's founding generation. It's true that the Civil War had given rise to a great president and two generals of unusual military gifts, but Commager saw in his day no leaders of comparable distinction. I'd like to talk about a group of men in living memory whose leadership skills rivaled those of the makers of the Revolution and the architects of the Constitution. These were men who saw the country through the Second World War and especially through the early years of the Cold War--all of whom worked at one time or another for George Marshall. One duster in this cohort included the American Army's and Navy's most senior officers during the war. Their actions constituted a pillar of liberty during a time of world crisis.

From 1941 until 1945, the United States Army was led by the ablest cohort of military leaders in American history--the men who led the Greatest Generation, none of whom survives into the twenty-first century. With rare exceptions, they were men born between 1890 and 1900, and to the larger culture they were essentially unknown until the last year or two before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As a group, their achievements were by any measure extraordinary. The force they built and led grew from 190,000 (in 1939, the American Army ranked in size alongside Portugal's) to 8.3 million in the summer of 1945. Its deployments and campaigns were global. In aggregate, the combined naval and military establishments enrolled more than sixteen million men and women at one time or another during the period of active conflict: this from a national population averaging about 135 million.

In the realm of familiarity, the ranking generals still remain close to household names: MacArthur, Eisenhower, Marshall, Patton, Bradley, Stilwell, Truscott, Bedell Smith, Ridgway, Gavin. Immediately beneath them, colonels who would attain divisional commands or prominent positions in the Army Air Forces before war's end ate still remembered: Curtis LeMay, Leslie Groves, "Tooey" Spaatz. The list might be prolonged indefinitely. Whence had they come? How were they raised? How educated? How were they employed, as soldiers, during the long military silence in America during the interwar period? Who identified those with strong aptitudes for "active service," and by what evidences and criteria? For there is perhaps no profession in which aptitude for leading, in roles and positions of large authority, is less readily identifiable among its young associates than in the wartime military. Henry Stimson, the man FDR appointed Secretary of War, congratulated the uniformed head of the Army, George Marshall, on having selected "good war men" in the latter's list of recommended brigadier generals. The inference was plain: you have promoted those who will be good in the leading and management of campaigns and battles.

Some generalizations are safe. There has never been a military caste in the American Army, no tradition of sons following fathers and grandfathers into uniformed service, West Point, "smart" regiments, etc. Overwhelmingly, this cohort of prominent generals were children of the American outback; many were raised on farms; few were sons of successful professional men or socially prominent families. Most were children raised in stable families and most attended church. Many were read to at night, often from well-known volumes of imaginative literature or history (in which "ancient" history and the history of the United States--biography being a staple--were most prominent). Secondary education was implicitly rooted in notions of emulation and inculcation. The historical novels of G. A. Henty, for example, were a staple of evening readings in the Marshall household in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. And at school, boys born into late Victorian (American) families were taught by, or often in the company of, veterans of the Civil War, veterans who were still relatively young men themselves. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Marshall's Men


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.