As part of the continuing series from Things Have Changed Management Consulting LLC comes a story that reflects well on both employer and employee.
Shortly after the September 1938 Munich Agreement between Germany and Great Britain, President Franklin Roosevelt convened a White House meeting to discuss American military strategy. Attendees included cabinet members, the Army and Air Corps Chiefs of Staff and the head of the War Plans Division, General George C Marshall. At the meeting FDR proposed building 10,000 aircraft a year but with no increase in the army. Although the military branches had developed plans for a balanced build up of naval, air and army forces it felt necessary to combat growing threats from Japan and Germany all of the other meeting participants agreed with FDR's plan except that when he asked Marshall "Don't you think so, George?", he replied "I am sorry Mr President, but I don't agree with that at all".
As reported in Allies and Adversaries by Mark A Stoler (not that Mark Stoler, this Mark Stoler), Marshall later recalled that FDR "gave me a very startled look, and when I went out they [the other meeting participants] all bade me goodbye and said my tour in Washington was over".
Less than a year later, FDR handpicked George C Marshall over 34 more senior officers to become the new Army Chief of Staff, a role in which he became the chief military advisor to the President throughout the war.
FDR and Marshall were never friends or golfing buddies. After that first encounter, FDR never again called him George and Marshall always called him Mr President. Marshall continued to tell FDR exactly what he thought and, at times, they engaged in some heated arguments. The Chief of Staff reorganized and built the US army from 174,000 to 8 million soldiers and, just as the President handpicked him, Marshall reached into the ranks of junior officers to promote Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Omar Bradley, Lucien Truscott and others to lead America's armies and he was ruthless in weeding out officers who in the press of combat did not measure up.
Marshall was so important to FDR that he was denied his fondest wish, to command the Allied forces for the D-Day invasion. FDR told him that "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington". For his part, Marshall, who had his doubts about FDR during the 1930s, grew to greatly respect his leadership.
After the war ended, Marshall became Secretary of State under President Truman and initiated what later became known as the Marshall Plan for rebuilding Europe's economy. He also served as Secretary of Defense during the first year of the Korean War.
George C Marshall received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. He died in 1959 leaving instructions that he did not want a public funeral nor a eulogy. After a private service attended by President Eisenhower and former President Truman he was interred at Arlington Cemetery near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
FDR remains well known but memories of George C Marshall are fading. He deserves remembrance as one of the finest citizens in our history.