Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George C. Marshall (1947–1949): Secretary of State

George Marshall was born on December 31, 1880, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901 and joined the U.S. Army the following year. Marshall eventually became aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing and held this post from 1919 until 1924. In 1938, Marshall became chief of the War Department's War Plans Division. Soon thereafter, he rose to Army Chief of Staff and oversaw the U.S. military buildup prior to World War II.

Marshall retired from military service in 1945 and was immediately sent to China by President Harry S. Truman in an attempt to mediate the Chinese Civil War. The mission failed, but it prompted Truman to offer Marshall the office of secretary of state. In that capacity, Marshall oversaw the formation of the Policy Planning Staff, the Truman Doctrine, the European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan), the Rio Pact of 1948, and preliminary negotiations for NATO.

Marshall resigned as secretary of state in January 1949, due largely to his worsening health. Nevertheless, President Truman offered him the position of secretary of defense in July 1950. Marshall accepted and, as defense secretary, reorganized and revitalized the Defense Department, overseeing the war in Korea.

Marshall retired again in September 1951 due to health considerations. In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in for his work on the Marshall Plan. George Marshall died on October 16, 1959, in Washington, D.C.